We are being invited to participate in a new world order of mercy made possible by faith. This is the message to us on this second Sunday in the season after Pentecost, the season in which we especially look for how and where the Holy Spirit is seeking to guide us forward for our lives and the world.

And right out of the gates, as we enter this Holy Spirit season, we see Jesus is re-ordering the ways of the world, inviting mercy and faith. Sometimes I wonder if our focus on Jesus’ birth – Messiah born in the backwaters of Judea to an unwed teenage mother, and on Jesus’ death – murdered in the most degrading way possible by Roman officials through crucifixion; sometimes I wonder if our Christian focus on the beginning and end of Jesus’ life sometimes causes us to miss the radical work of God right in the middle of Jesus’ life, when Jesus was present as a force for radical compassion and mercy on this earth that was quite upsetting (at least to some of those around him).

Here in our gospel lesson today Jesus calls Matthew the tax collector to be his disciple - a tax collector, for goodness sake! A person in a government position known for cheating the people from whom they collected taxes. To be among Jesus’ first disciples. Then Jesus gathers Matthew the tax collector and other sinners, we hear, to eat a meal together. The folks that other folks would leave off their dinner invite list. Jesus invites them to a meal that is mercy embodied by virtue of the invite list itself.

Imagine any one of us gathering a cross-section of people for a meal together – groups of people who believe that others at the table and certainly those looking on from the outside believe are more sinful than they are - maybe some modern-day tax collectors from the IRS and some government folks from the extreme left and from the extreme right who usually throw insults at each other being brought together to pass the salt and share the potatoes and veggies and pour each other more ice water. And imagine that at this table there are also sex workers and people who have stolen and cheated and even killed. But imagine …that we are sitting there, too, because all we like sheep have gone astray, and none of us is without sin, no one’s sins better or worse than the other.

And there’s Jesus, because Jesus is sitting there with us, even though we often forget about him. Oh, that Jesus. He just looks around the table where we are sitting with a love and compassion and declares, as he does in today’s gospel, that he desires mercy. And this is what our current world order lacks, doesn’t it? Mercy.

Mercy for the poor, and the widow, and the needy, for those affected by the wildfires in Canada and other natural and human-made disasters around the world. Mercy for the people of Ukraine and also for the people of Russia, tossed about by the war created by those who seek, not a world-order of mercy, but of power and self-aggrandizement. Mercy for the people fleeing wars and oppression not being allowed to cross into countries where life is a bit safer. Mercy for drag queens and mercy for the people who wrongly vilify them. Mercy for those who look different than we might, act different than we might, have different religious and cultural beliefs and practices than we have.


And no sooner does Jesus declare that mercy is his top-most priority than we see this mercy put into practice as Jesus heads off to heal the daughter of synagogue leader and along the way heals a women afflicted by hemorrhages for twelve years – all she had to do was touch the hem of his cloak to be healed – such was the mercy that Jesus walked with on this earth. And by this coupling of Jesus’ declaring mercy with the healing from Jesus that follows it, we know that God desires mercy and that mercy is intended to heal.

Heal in body, but also in spirit. “Is it easier to forgive sins or tell this person to stand up and walk?” Jesus will ask elsewhere in this gospel of Matthew. And while Jesus is on earth, he will do both – declare God’s healing power over sin and demonstrate God’s healing power over bodily afflictions as a sign of the Reign of God that will for eternity bring us beyond our worldly struggles, but which even now seeks to break in upon the brokenness that can afflict us in body, heart, mind, and soul.

Good people, Jesus is calling us as disciples to follow in his footsteps, to individually and collectively become bearers of mercy and signs of God’s mercy here on earth. The world is dramatically changing around us, to be sure, but a sad constant throughout human history is that this world is desperately short on mercy. It was short on mercy in Jesus’ day and it is still short on mercy in our day. So, although receiving a call from Jesus to be bearers of mercy might feel overwhelming, we know in the deepest parts of us that this is a true calling, to this work of mercy and healing for the world because this world so desperately needs mercy and those of us who have heard and seen that truth can’t unsee it.

And if we feel overwhelmed by this calling to be bearers of healing and mercy, overwhelmed to try and answer God’s calling to us, we are in good company, if we feel overwhelmed by Jesus’ call. Do we think that Abraham and Sarah were not overwhelmed when God called them to be the mother and father of generations more numerous than the stars? How did they manage to answer this call? Through faith, of course. And the apostle Paul reminds us of this fact in his letter to the Romans, even as he reminded the Christian community at Rome long ago. Abraham and Sarah did not succeed because they were so good at following all the rules, or because they were perfect in how they lived their lives. Abraham and Sarah succeeded because God called them and gave them the faith to persevere against all the odds of the world in which they lived. To live lives ordered differently than the world ordered things.

We do not, with God’s help through the power of Christ in the Holy Spirit, build a new world order, or live within the ordering of our lives by Jesus because of our own strength, or because we deserve a place at the table with Jesus. We participate in God’s creation of a new world order of mercy because God in Christ calls us to be a part of this endeavor, and God in Christ invites us to the table – perhaps with a whole host of people we might think are unworthy – in order that our lives might be changed in the healing presence of Jesus.

The beginning and end of Jesus’ life were remarkable, but so was the work of mercy Jesus demonstrated while he walked this earth. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the power of Christ’s resurrection work we too, can be bearers of mercy, and healers for the world.