MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE

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TEXT

Matthew 9:1-17 NLT

Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Take heart, son! Your sins are forgiven.”

“Blasphemy! This man talks like he is God!” some of the teachers of religious law said among themselves.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why are you thinking such evil thoughts? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!” And the man jumped up and went home!

Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen right before their eyes. They praised God for sending a man with such great authority.

As Jesus was going down the road, he saw Matthew sitting at his tax-collection booth. “Come, be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

That night Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. The Pharisees were indignant. “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” they asked his disciples.

When he heard this, Jesus replied, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.’ For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.”

One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t fast?”

Jesus responded, “Should the wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Someday he will be taken from them, and then they will fast. “And who would patch an old garment with unshrunk cloth?  For the patch shrinks and pulls away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger hole than before.

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. That way both the wine and the wineskins are preserved.”

READ

Now, the reason you have a friend, or love someone, is not for them to do something for you. If that’s the reason you love them, so that they’ll give you some money, or some other worldly good, then it is not your friend you love, but the things you get out of it. Friends are to be loved freely, for their own sake, not for the sake of something else. And if you are encouraged, by this rule of friendship, to love human beings freely, for their own sakes, then how much more gratuitously should you love God?
—St. Augustine (354-430)
   Sermon 385

Prayer of Confession

Too often, Lord, our relationships are means to an end. Too often, we find ourselves using people. Too often, even, we’re more concerned about our own holiness, our own image, our own accountability. Too often we even use you this way. But you, Lord God, invite us to freely enjoy people for who they are, and to freely enjoy you for who you are. Transform us to be like you, to love like you do—freely, without strings, without reserve. We pray this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and our example of exuberantly generous love. Amen.

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