Today we commemorate the life and ministry of Saint Matthew the Apostle. And, tonight we are celebrating the addition of two new officiants to the ranks of those already charged with leading the Daily Office in Seibels Chapel. “The Lord taketh away and the Lord giveth back!”
I hold a special place in my heart for Saint Matthew. His role as a tax collector and publican put him beyond the reaches of polite Jewish society and made him an “outcast” but along comes Jesus and bade him to “come follow me”. And, he did and his logia (his sayings of Jesus) became the basis for a book of the “New Testament”. This was an exposition of an order not based on rank or position but one based on the redeeming power of God’s love.
My trainees tonight do not come from the socially unacceptable by a long shot but they may meet some of those who do as they assume their new duties as officiants. We have many visitors from the street who look to us as a sort of sanctuary from the material world of Uncle Screwtape. They come to us from a world which has ground them into the dust and tried to rob them of their dignity and self-respect. Can there be any greater sin? And can there be any greater redemption than to offer them a glimpse of what Christ is all about. We are fortunate indeed to have this as our task.
And they may meet Jesus in the least of these untouchables in a way they have never imagined him before. That is as he presented himself to Saint Matthew healer and restorer of souls whose blatant disregard of the law as practiced by the Jewish hierarchy of the day was not its destruction but rather its eternal fulfillment. And in this sacred work the redeemers may well become those redeemed.
On this occasion the words of the Breastplate are called to mind:
“I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to harken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
Th word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.