On Friday we held a St Matthew's day service for our school – during which we thought alot about our priorities in life. In the grand tradition of reality television I invited half a dozen children to represent “lots of money” “lots of chocolate” “an iPhone 5” “friends and family” “Peace” “Happiness” - then explained that we couldn't keep all of them, só we voted them off one by one.
You'll be glad to hear that the children chose wisely – dispensing with the quick fixes – money, chocolate and all – and hanging on to Peace and Happiness – though they agreed that it can sometimes be hard to make the right decisions.
Then we heard the story of Levi – who became Matthew- and marvelled at how his priorities had changed when he had that watershed encounter with Jesus.
He became, it seems, a different person...one who set his past behind him só thoroughly that it might never have existed.
He literally dropped everything to follow Jesus
And, like other saints who found thimselves doing a U turn, he acquired a new name to represent his new life
Levi the sinner became Matthew the saint...Matthew the story teller....Matthew the evangelist....
In this church, of course, he is our patron – só how can his story become our own?
One thing I love about it is that it begins on just an ordinary day.
Levi has gone to work as usual
He isn't among the crowds following Jesus.
He isn't obviously on a Great Spiritual Quest.
He is just sitting there collecting taxes.
And there, in the midst of his everyday life, Jesus comes to find him and turns his life upside down with a two word invitation
That's what Jesus does again and again...
He comes to us in the daily muddle of our lives
Supremely, of course, he comes in the Incarnation – entering into our world in all its broken messy reality...but this is not a story of once and long ago but a story of today.
Today Jesus comes to you...He comes to me... and calls each of us by name.
He takes the initiative...”coming ready or not” he says.
And that's just as well – for we are very rarely ready.
Só he comes and finds as where we are.
We don't have to be wrestling with immortal longings.
We certainly don't have to be waiting in a state of expectant holiness – indeed, his call is specifically for we, who are far from holy
“I don't come to call the righteous but sinners...”
Jesus comes to us and we just have to respond.
Matthew got up and followed him.
That response may feel like a new birth – as we walk away from things that have confined us, made us less than the people God made us to be.
That's part of what we celebrate as we hear again the story of Matthew's call...the way Jesus sees our untapped potential and invites us to fulfill it...
But change and challenge can be too close for comfort.
Imagine, if you will, how hard it might be to walk away from a steady liveliehood, from all that is safe and familiar – the tax collector's booth, the life dedicated to our own satisfaction.
It can seem a costly choice for new beginnings aren't possible without some kind of an ending – that can feel very like death
We have to set aside our old way of being and try to re-order our lives and our priorities in line with that new intention to follow Christ – and that can be só very hard.
For myself, I've found that I need to renew my decision, confirm my intention again and again and again.
Sometimes it seems easier to stick with the old order – the world of selfish gain and short term pleasure – than to admit that I'm among the sick who needs a doctor, among the broken who depend on God's mercy.
But Jesus never tires of offering his invitation...He never gives up on us...and having called us, he celebrates with us – just as he shared that meal at Matthew's house
Jesus wants us to eat with him – that's why we're here this morning.
But having feasted with us, he will give each of us a new job to do.
It's the same job that he gave to Matthew...to become an evangelist – one who shares the good news that each one of us, whether we count ourselves successes or failures, is extravagantly loved by the One who calls us to follow Him to fresh possibilities, new beginnings and lives transformed by His grace.