Today we commemorate Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist. I will start this sermon with today’s reading from the Gospel. Let us remember who was Saint Matthew and how Lord’s calling of Matthew into holy service happened. We can read that in: Matthew 9:9-13.
”As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As we see in this paragraph Saint Matthew was the same ordinary human as we are. He was a sinner and he was sitting with tax collectors and other sinners. He was not super religious nor extra moral. However Jesus chose him to be one of His apostles. I remember the time when I was younger at my early 20ies when I was an orthodox novice. Many people in the local church are doing their best to maintain extra moral life. They don’t smoke cigarettes (or shisha), they don’t drink alcohol. Even not a single beer in the hot summer day. They wear clothes covering their entire body even in the summer. They try to represent themselves as super Christians. With no sin at all. But I remember that they were usually judging others who were not that super-visibly religious. After I grew a bit older and started attending local Protestant churches’ services I remember the same or similar situation. Many people were trying to show how Jesus acts in their life. They were trying to represent themselves physically as super-Christians. The biggest sin in their point of view was smoking cigarette or drinking alcohol. Other than that, going out or going to the party with your friends was another so called sin that people should hide in the church. As a result I remember that very small number of church members were youngsters. Usually older people were going to those churches. This people looks like modern Pharisees. They display so called righteousness. They don’t drink or go to the disco, they don’t smoke, and they dress up in a modest and humble way covering their entire body. Women do not use make up or not a lot of it considering that to be the sin but they are the first to judge people who do go to the disco, or smoke, or drink beer, or girls wearing short skirts, or Christians who do not talk about Jesus non-stop and as a result those people who are aware that we are ’sinners’, we feel unwanted in those churches. We do not feel love and acceptance. And what Jesus told Pharisees is the same that He is saying and today through The Bible –
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Through the example of Saint Matthew we can learn that there is not a stage ’good enough’ for Jesus that we have to reach in order to be Christian. He does not expect us to be super-sinless Christians who will by our own deeds show that we are saved. This is why we are saved by grace. Some Christians believe that they should earn their own salvation or justify it by doing deeds in their own effort. I advise them let us leave the Holly Spirit complete it in us. We are saved by grace as Jesus said and we cannot earn it.
Another story that we read on this day answers the question that Hypocrites would now probably ask: Does it mean that because we are saved by grace only we can now do what we want? The answer is NO! And we will take a look at Ephesians 4:1-7 and Ephesians 4:11-13. The first paragraph talks about the Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ.
”As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. ”
Here we can see that the emphasis is not on the way we look. If we dress up like this or like that, if we have a tattoo, if we smoke a cigar or drink vodka. If we don`t use make up, face cream, or even deodorant. Here the emphasis is on the way that we treat others. It was written ”Be gentile and humble, be patient, bearing with one another in love”. And these are the things that Christians should do. Look at the last sentence here, saying each one of us grace has been given. This was said in order to prevent what is happening in many churches today. It seems that people mistakenly interpret such paragraphs in a way that we must do some deeds to earn or justify our own salvation. What we actually need to do is –TO LOVE. The biggest commandment is Love God and Love people. I pray that today we all put our focus on love and rejoice in Salvation that we received as a gift by grace through Lord’s mercy. And remember that we are not all the same in the church. In addition to the paragraph mentioned above it is written:
”Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”