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Oct 4, 2015

“Who Are You?” 10-4-15

Hosea 6:1-6, Matthew 9:1-13
October 4, 2015

Today is the first Sunday in October and therefore World Communion Sunday, a day to remember that we are a part of the world-wide church of Jesus Christ.  But last Sunday was the day of the final episode of a TV program entitled CSI.  Last Sunday that program ended its 15 year long run. 
Some of you may remember that CSI used an old Rock and Roll standard as its theme-song.  It was “Who Are You?” by The Who.
Perhaps it was still playing in my head as I began to think about the sermon for this week, but it occurred to me that the question “Who Are You” would be appropriate to ask as we celebrate the       world-wide church.  We know where we are, but who are we?
I think that our Scripture Lessons for this day can help us answer that question.
Our passage from Matthew begins by describing some folks who were carrying a paralyzed man to Jesus so Jesus could heal him.  These are the men who other gospels tell us took their paralyzed friend up onto the roof and let him down in front of Jesus on ropes.
Matthew wrote that when Jesus saw THEIR faith, he said, to the paralyzed man that His sins were forgiven. 
So we are reminded by these folks that we, like them have faith in Jesus.  We are also reminded that we have brought each other to Jesus.  There are parents here who have brought their children to this room for baptism, there are people here who have invited their neighbors to come here, and there are some here who have been invited by others to come.  And as we come, we bring each other in our prayers asking God to heal and forgive us and our brothers and sisters. 
We are also reminded that when we come to Jesus we believe that He has the power to forgive sins.  Jesus made a specific point in this event that he did and does have the power to forgive sins, which is the prerogative of God, so when we worship Jesus, we worship God.
There were some present who doubted that Jesus could forgive sins and felt that he was a blasphemer for having said that he could.  But Jesus could read their minds, or see their thoughts, and he responded to them.  We are those who believe that Jesus can read our minds, see our thoughts.  When we believe in Jesus, we live our lives before God.  He sees and knows all about us.
After Jesus made his statements about his ability to forgive sins, Jesus healed that man of his paralysis.  We are those who have been healed.  Some of us have been healed of specific illnesses or injuries; some of us have been healed or are in the process of being healed of our addictions, some of us have been relieved of curses that plagued our families for generations.  Some of us have been healed of attitudes that had caused trouble for us.
After Jesus healed that man, he walked down a street in Capernaum and found Matthew sitting at a tax booth.  He was there to collect the tolls that those who traveled that road had to pay for traveling, and for carrying goods and materials through or around the town on the way from or to other towns.  Palestinian Jews hated those who collected tolls or taxes for the Roman Government.  They considered their occupation to be sinful and they excluded tax and toll collectors from worship in the Synagogue and did not accept their testimony in trials.
The way the Roman Government collected taxes and tolls, did involve most of its collectors in lying and cheating. 
But Jesus not only paused at the toll booth to speak to this hated man, he also asked him to follow him.  Interestingly enough, Jesus did not make use of Matthew’s financial management skills, he chose Judas to be his treasurer, but Jesus would choose Matthew to write His Story, the very Gospel we are studying.
As we come to this table, we acknowledge that some of us were outcasts of various kinds, who have now found love and acceptance and been entrusted with important tasks in Christ's church.
Having been called to follow Jesus, Matthew gave himself a going away party and Invited Jesus to meet with his fellow outcast friends.  This caused the self-righteous Pharisees to criticize him for eating with and fraternizing with sinners, crooks, and those who collaborated with corrupt and oppressive governments.
Jesus replied in 3 sentences.  He said that those who are well have no need of a physician; it is those who are sick who need a doctor.  We are those who have acknowledged our spiritual malaise, who know that we need help from the doctor of souls.  We needed to be put right with God. 
Jesus also said, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire Mercy and not sacrifice.’” Now if that sounds familiar, that is because it is a quote from our first lesson today, from Hosea 6:6. The quotation is not exact because the NT Church quoted from the Septuagint or Greek translation of the OT while the OT passages in our bibles are translated directly from the Hebrew.
In Hosea's day, the sacrificial system of Judaism was being abused.  It was not used as a way for a person to become aware of his sins and to atone for them but it was being used as a pay as you go system.  It did not really cause people to pause and express sorrow about their sins, it was used as a way to appease God for doing the things that people wanted to do. 
So God told Hosea that what God really wanted from his people was not animal sacrifices, but to treat each other with mercy and love and to love and try to please God.
Jesus was not pleased with those who judged and condemned sinners, but with those who loved and forgave sinners.
And that is who we are called to be.
In his third sentence, Jesus said that he came not to call those who thought they were righteous, but those who admitted that they were sinners.
And that is who we are as Christians, we are sinners who are forgiven by God and who demonstrate His love and mercy to others.

Pastor David L. Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906