This week, at the Community chapel, I had a great conversation with M. He had just read about the calling of Levi the tax collector. He was amazed that a guy would just walk away from a profitable business and follow Jesus. M. is extremely excited about following Jesus. In his past he spent over 25 years behind bars. I explained to him that the Jews of that day saw the Romans much as an inmate sees the guards (the word we used was “Screws”) and that Levi would have been viewed like a “Rat” who collaborated with the oppressors. A “Rat” is not liked or respected by either group, in fact he would be despised by just about everyone. This was Levi’s lot. He was among the lowest of the low in that culture. So Jesus’ offer of a fresh start following him was the best offer Levi ever had heard. It is no wonder he left his old way to walk in a totally new way. This was an answer to the unspoken cry of Levi’s heart. M. teared up as he realised how much forgiveness and love Jesus had for Levi and by extension how much love he offered him.
For Levi (Matthew) and M. following Jesus is a radically wonderful thing. Wonderful because of the life and love that Jesus brings and radical because that love changes everything for the good! Jesus followers at our Chapel know that it is a radical thing to follow Jesus in a way that most of my “church” friends do not. We of “church world” are poorer for this lack. We can, we think, follow Jesus without abandoning all that much of our old life. Levi and my friend M. remind us that following Jesus is more wonderfully radical than that! “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
This week I went to Westmorland Institution and visited eight guys who hope to be released to our area sometime in future. It was good to make connections with them. I think it takes a bit of the fear out of it for them and we will connect again immediately upon their arrival.
Our Community Chaplaincy Board will be doing some fundraising for the ministry soon. I am starting to visit folks to chat about our financial need. This is not my favourite part of the ministry but I know it is necessary. A friend Ed Coleman is a well-known local artist (Google him!) and he has painted a cityscape with our Chapel in the foreground. In the near future we will be auctioning it off.