Matthew 9:9-13 NIV
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Martin Luther struggled with the issue of righteousness. His breakthrough came when he understood the insights received from the Holy Spirit in regards to the “righteousness of God”. When he read Paul's writings, he understood that it was not passive righteousness. In other words the righteousness by which God was righteous in himself.
The light of revelation came to him in the understanding that it was active righteousness. God Himself made sinners righteous for the sake of His son Jesus Christ. Through this righteousness we have forgiveness of sins and are justified. That was an amazing truth. It tore down the false gods and the false concepts of human religion which expressed themselves in if you do good then good things happen to you. He is a God of all seasons who loves us and accepts us because of who He is not because of who we are. Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy alone; we have been received into the family of God.
Getting back to our gospel reading, this is what Jesus is doing with Matthew the tax collector and his friends. The guest list for this banquet includes the notorious sinners. Those who for various reasons would never be accepted by the religious. Let our house of worship always express this value of inclusiveness of unrestrained welcome. Inclusiveness, that covers all our transgressions.