Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church go to local schools, roadways or libraries. Their hard earned money
7430 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33411-3312 paid to make sure a hardened Roman soldier was there to beat them
Rev. Jon Enter down and to occupy their Promised Land. Everyone traveling from
Church office: (561) 684-0691 Pastor’s home: (561) 471-9015 point A to point B was taxed. Anyone who had “freight” with them
www.hopelutheranwpb.com (chickens or jugs of oil, or whatever) had to pay a tax as they passed
on the road. Not only did they pay the Roman tax, but they also had to
Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 1, 2008
pay a little extra (often a lot extra) for the traitor Jewish person behind
Sermon Theme: “Following Christ Starts with a Single Step” the tax collector’s booth. Working as a tax collector was basically
Text: Matthew 9:9-13. Please read the text in your Bible. legalized extortion. They were crooks and traitors.
That was Matthew’s profession and he thrived at it. More than
After a horrible day at the office, a corporate executive decided to likely, Matthew taxed the roadway in Capernaum. He sat in his cushy
take a hot bath. Just as he’d become comfortable, the doorbell rang. booth along a major trade route between Ptolemais and Damascus
The frustrated man got out of the tub, put on his bathrobe and slippers raking in dishonest money. As the money flowed in, his reputation
and went to the door. A salesman wanted to know if he would buy a flushed out. Tax collectors had little or no social standing. Their word
magazine subscription. Annoyed, the man returned to the bath. The was not accepted in a Jewish court of law. Their money was
doorbell rang again. On went the bathrobe and slippers, and he started considered tainted and would not be accepted by the synagogue. In
for the door again. This time, however, he took one step, slipped on a fact, in Jesus’ day the title “tax collector” was a swear word. Whether
wet spot, fell, and hit his back against the hard porcelain on the tub. Matthew realized it or not, it was time for a change in occupation.
The bruised man struggled into his street clothes and, with every One day, Jesus came by his tiny booth and changed his life.
move a stab of pain, drove to the doctor. After examining him, the Whether Ron Bronski realized it or not, it was a time for a change
doctor said, “Nothing’s broken. But you need to relax. Why don’t in his life. Ron Bronski was a hardened gang member who was
you go home and take a hot bath?” serving time for crimes he most certainly committed. One day,
I doubt that a hot bath was very appealing at that particular someone in prison walked by Ron’s tiny cell and introduced him to
moment! There are some problems even a hot bath can’t solve. Have Jesus and Ron Bronski’s life was changed forever.
you ever had one of those horrible, rotten days that gets worse by the An atheistic journalist named Lee Strobel didn’t buy Ron
minute? Everywhere you go, something goes wrong. And it seems Bronski’s story. Much like many of us didn’t buy Paris Hilton’s story
like the whole world is out to get you. that she found Christ in prison. This journalist went to the prison to
Matthew didn’t have an “occasional” day like that. Everyday, expose Bronski as a fraud. After all, this was the young man that
people despised him. If they could spit on him and get away with it, police officers referred to as a “sociopath” or as “garbage”.
they would! And some even tried. But they paid. They paid severely However, Lee heard a different story when he spoke to a pastor
by having their backs ripped open by a Roman whip. The reason the who met Bronski after his conversion. Christ had so changed this
mighty Roman army cared at all about insignificant Matthew is former gang member’s heart that the pastor referred to him as “one of
because he became a tax collector for the hated Romans. the most beautiful, loving people I know.” In fact, when Ron Bronski
Now days paying taxes is usually done automatically – the taxes was brought to trial for his crimes, the police officers, prosecutors, and
get taken out of your check or added to your order at Taco Bell. Once judge who had gotten to know him were so convinced that the former
a year you need to settle up with Uncle Sam, but with the exception of gang member was a new man that they set him free. Today, Ron
preparing for April 15th, you probably don’t think much about taxes. Bronski runs an inner-city ministry for street kids. What a change!
Things were different in Matthew’s day. His people, the Jews, What a change was in store for unsuspecting Matthew! As he
needed to pay taxes to Uncle Caesar in Rome. Their tax money didn’t contemplated the way to extort more money out of his next victim, up
walks Christ. Matthew, at first, probably thought to himself, If you walked by Matthew’s tax collector booth, you would have
“Another sucker! What can I get out of him?” But as Christ spoke, passed by Matthew and refused the gospel to him because he was a
Matthew realized that Christ was different; Christ was blessed; and scoundrel, a low-life, a traitor, a cheat. You would have wished one of
Matthew intently listened. the most famous gospel writers to hell! You and I struggle…no, we
Did you notice there is no record of Christ detailing to Matthew his fail at looking past outward circumstances and past our own comfort
new job description? There is no unique calling, “I will make you a levels…we struggle to invite outsiders to our table to partake of our
fisher of men.” This is no debate, no begging and no hesitation from love in Christ.
Matthew. Jesus approached Matthew and simply said, “Follow me”. But Christ does not hesitate to invite you to his table. He did not
Matthew immediately left his post. He walked out on the Roman pass by Matthew leaving him in his sin and he won’t pass by us.
government. That would have carried a severe punishment. He didn’t Christ has called you, “Follow me”. Christ has called you from a life
care; Christ was more important. Matthew left a lucrative, “six figure” of sin to a life of service, “Follow me”. Christ has called you out of
job. He didn’t care; Christ was more important. Matthew blew out his darkness and into his marvelous light, “Follow me.” Christ has called
savings account on a bon voyage party from his former life. He you to faith in baptism and moved you to righteousness, “Follow me.”
invited all his friends, associates and fellow swindlers to his “Ta-Ta to And Christ has called you to follow him to his bloodied and sin stained
Tax Collecting Celebration.” Christ knew that if he attended this bash, cross to check and see that your sins and mine are hanging dead upon
the Pharisees would in turn bash Christ’s reputation for eating and that accursed tree. They were and they are. Our sinfulness has been
coercing with “tax collectors and sinners”. But Christ didn’t care slain. Our reluctance to serve Christ by inviting others to the banquet
because Matthew’s soul was more important than impressing the feast of victory in Christ has been replaced with a resilience to call
proud Pharisees. everyone and anyone we know to join us in joy with Jesus. We have
What’s important to you? What are you willing to give up in order been recommission to a life of service.
to faithfully serve your master? Would you be willing to share you There is an interesting story about the Queen Mary, one of the
table at McDonald’s with a dirty, smelly and starving homeless man most luxurious ocean liners in the world back in the 1930s and ‘40s.
and give him your super-sized order of food? Are you willing to invite The tables of this great liner bore the finest china and silver. Its
him to your table? Would you be willing to share your income to private berths were spacious and well-decorated. But during World
adopt a child from a third world country through a reputable Christian War II, the Queen Mary was commissioned to serve as a troop
organization? Are you willing to invite a possible AIDS ridden child transport ship. All of its luxuries were stripped away to prepare it for
to your table? Would you be willing to share of your time by war. The fine china was replaced by dented metal dinner trays. The
volunteering at a hospital or as a Big Brother or Sister to a troubled spacious compartments were crammed to the ceiling with bunk beds.
teen? Are you willing to invite that gang banging, pill popping teen to Today, the Queen Mary serves as a floating museum. One half of the
your table? Would you be willing to go out of your way to invite to ship is decorated to look exactly like a luxury liner of the 1930s. The
church the prostitute, the drunk or the neighborhood grouch? other half of the ships is decorated to look like a World War II troop
Judging by the actions of your past, I’d have to say, “No! No you ship. Visitors to the ship confront the radical difference between a life
would not reach out to help modern day “tax collectors and sinners”. of luxury and a life of service.
We steer clear of those around us who don’t fit in or whom we don’t There is a radical difference between living on earth a life of
care to dirty ourselves with. Don’t you remember that Christ died for selfish luxury and living a life of unselfish service. Christ has called
ALL? How horrible a sin it is for us to decide who is worthy enough you to live for others and not for yourself. He has called you to reach
to receive the gift of forgiveness on the basis of looks, social status or out to the lost of society with the hope of the gospel. He has called
our own personal preferences. you to step out of your comfort zone telling others: “Follow me to