by Tony Nester

Tony Nester
Luke 5:27-39

Let's be honest: we struggle with openness. Our theme of "open hearts, open minds, open doors" has a razor-like edge to it that cuts us open and causes some bleeding. Our human tendency is to protect our hearts, set our minds, and not open too many doors to change.
Jesus practiced openness.

We saw an instance of this last week when he healed a paralyzed man. He forgave the man's sins and healed him of his paralysis. "We have seen strange things today," the crowd said. They knew that Jesus had opened up a door to God's healing mercy on earth, and they wondered what might come next.

In today's Scripture we see Jesus opening up the circle of his fellowship to include tax collectors and others who had the reputation of sinners. Jesus calls Levi to become one of his disciples. Levi in turn puts on a house party for his friends so that he can introduce them to Jesus. A good rabbi of the day would have avoided such company, insisting on keeping his life pure and unstained by the world. Not Jesus. He opened himself to those around him, including sinners.

Today's Scripture also shows us Jesus opening people to the celebration of God's grace. He didn't practice fasting as did the Pharisees.

"You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?" he told them.

I think he was saying:

"There's too much grace going here to stop and fast. Fast later if you like, but the right thing to do now is celebrate, rejoice, and show that you have glad hearts because of what God is doing here and now through me."

Part of the struggle churches have with openness is their aversion to celebration. There are just too many Christians who are more at home with funeral-like worship services than with the party-like atmosphere Jesus enjoyed at Levi's banquet.

I heard about a church in Alberta, Canada, that needed to expand their facility. They bought a liquor store close to the church that was ...

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