“Follow Me.. Fresh Wineskins” Let’s pray… Rev. Stuart C. Buisch Mark 2: 13-22

How do you go to work, make a decent living, and one day walk away from it all? What do you tell your spouse? But maybe we are misinterpreting “follow me”. Maybe Levi just intended to go along for a day or a week.
Nevertheless, the story turns, instead of Levi following Jesus, Jesus follows Levi home with lots of his colleagues from work. A Mennonite farmer is asked by a travelling preacher if he is saved. The farmer says ask my neighbor. Levi’s colleagues get introduced to Christ. Who have you introduced to Christ? Which of your neighbor’s would vouch for your salvation?

Mark goes on to tell us that not only is Jesus eating with them many of them have become followers too. However, one could guess that these newly minted Christians didn’t look like Christians when the legal experts saw them, they only saw sinners and tax collectors.

Why is Jesus eating with that group? That question puts our schedule under scrutiny. Who are we eating with? No conversions are necessary with those who already worship and serve God. But if we have had our lives changed by the simple words, ‘follow me’ we long for that experience to happen to those we love.

We can only imagine what had been happening in Levi’s life. Perhaps the tax gig was getting old. Maybe being an outcast in the community because you worked for the foreign government was wearying. Maybe money isn’t everything. Once you are at a living wage what can you do with excess money? We even have a name for it, disposable income. Some people give out of their disposable income. Some people pay a fee to the church. They have decided what they owe and they simply pay it. Tithing is understood in its Old Testament roots to be 10 % of income. In some Churches, synagogues, etc w2 forms are required and the individual or family is billed. Levi maybe had enough money and now he could follow Jesus. I am not sure I have ever met someone like that let alone a whole group of people like Mark describes. Perhaps it was so powerful being loved and being around Christ.

Something about Jesus’ call changed the world. Jesus calls them the sick. Not exactly a raging compliment. However, in the hospital, while there are many who want to get out there are only a few who believe they are not sick. Jesus was calling sinners to righteousness. The spiritually sick to spiritual health. Today we are still making that call.

But we always start where the person is. Elisha was going about his business until a poor woman came for help. Her sons were about to be taken from her because of her poverty and indebtedness. Fortunately, VISA and Master card no longer take children. Elisha, like Jesus, starts where she is. What do you have? She has a small jar of oil. Gathering all the jugs and containers her neighbors can loan her she fills them up from the tiny jar. Would our neighbors notice our faith as her neighbors did? What did they ask? What did she tell them? What did she tell the one she paid her debt in full to?

A new group asks Jesus a question. John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast but yours don’t, why?
It is an interesting observation. How did the common folk on the street know about fasting? Surely fasting was a public display in some way. No wonder Jesus commended his disciples to clean up, put on a look that doesn’t let out the secret of your fasting trust in God. God will meet you there. Jesus does reply to their question. He is present and there is more than enough faith in the room. You are in the presence of the Almighty God in the person of Christ. However a day will come when such certainty is not available. Then you will need to fast to be reminded of what God’s will is, how God works and one’s complete dependence on God.

Faith is a covering, a container if you will. God is more than able to fill that which is covered or empty. God’s work is always new. So it needs to always go into new wineskins. God’s plenty always fills more than the individual. We always have a better sense of God in the group than alone.
Levi’s friends came to meet Jesus because they saw a change in him. They were, like him, hungry for the contentment he displayed which had never been true all those years of collecting taxes.
Even more those old dried out believers who knew Genesis to Malachi but also could smell fasting a mile away they no longer were hungry for life in God. They were full of their routines. They were satisfied in their lack of fullness. They had a sorry description of enough that left them measuring everyone else. Any new wine from Christ would not only burst their images of God but would also mess up their routine. How about us? In the name of the Almighty, the All Giving and the All sustaining, amen.

God of all Holiness, praise your love which reaches us…
Christ, who bears our sins and offers us life….
Wind of God, blowing through each day and each situation…