CHILDREN’S SUNDAY – INVITATION TO THE PARTY
Good morning! Who’s ready to go with me to Levi’s house! There’s going to be a big party there and we’re all invited! Come on! You mean Levi, the Tax Collector? Are you sure I’m invited? Absolutely! Everyone is invited to Levi’s house. Including you, especially you! Come on! OK, then, I’ll go with you to Levi’s house. I love parties! Will there be lots of food to eat? Should I bring something to share? No, there’s nothing to bring. Levi has everything we need. But if you must bring something, please bring a friend. Because everyone is welcome at Levi’s house! Amen!
THE STORY OF LEVI’S HOUSE Mark 2:13-17
Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And Levi got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples–for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Here are some questions you can be thinking about as you hear the story of the party at Levi’s house. Please write down your answers!
Who was Levi? A tax collector! Look at him on the front cover of our bulletin. What is he doing? He’s got his hand out, waiting for you to pay your taxes. Most people don’t really like to pay taxes, but we do it because our taxes pay for schools, and hospitals, and good roads and many other things that help people. But where Jesus lived the money you paid did not go to schools, hospitals or good roads, your taxes went to the roman Emperor whose soldiers had captured Israel. And on top of that, the taxes had to be paid in coins that had the emperor’s face on them. So in those days no one liked to pay taxes. And it gets worse, with tax collectors like Levi if you owed a dollar, they would tell you that you had to pay five dollars, and they would keep the extra four dollars for themselves. No one liked Levi. In fact many people hated him! And I think that Levi didn’t even like himself.
Who came to dinner at Levi’s house? Well, if no one liked Levi, who would go to his house for dinner? Simple, other tax collectors, and even worse people, like liars, cheaters, thieves, pick-pockets, scoundrels, mean and nasty people. Levi said, anyone can come to my house, everyone is welcome. People were amazed. And there it was, Levi’s door was oepn, and people went in to eat.
Was there anything unusual about Levi’s guests? Sure, these were people that no one liked, and they probably didn’t even like each other. Think of it this was, if you were a pick-pocket would you ever sit next to another pick-pocket? These were people who probably never ever got invited to dinner at anyone’s house. But that night, Levi said, “everyone come on in!” “Me?” “Yes, you!” Why, because when Levi heard Jesus share stories about the love of God, he finally understood that God loved him, a tax collector, too. If God loves even a tax collector like me, I’ve got to show the same love to the people around me. And to everyone’s surprise Levi put out the very best food and lots of it so all of his guests would have plenty to eat.
What foods do you think were on the table at Levi’s house? Well, cupcakes for sure. But what else?
During the party there was an argument; what was the disagreement about? Some important religious people, we call them Pharisees, and some smart lawyers who worked for them, we call them scribes, saw all of the tax collectors and sinners at Levi’s table and they grumbled, because Jesus was sitting right there in the middle of all of those sinners. Jesus, who claimed to be a good teacher, was eating dinner with the worst people in the world. They didn’t just grumble they complained right to his face. And they were going to go tell everyone they knew that Jesus was not a good teacher at all, because of the bad people he chose to eat dinner with.
What did Jesus say during the argument? Jesus wanted to tell them that he loved having dinner at Levi’s house. If there were liars and cheaters and thieves, perfect, these were the people he wanted to meet and talk to. And he said it this way: people go to the doctor when they are sick, it makes no sense for healthy people to see the doctor. So Jesus tells us that he wants to meet and share dinner with the people who have the biggest problems and the biggest needs. When the Pharisees hard this they were upset and angry. But the people at Levi’s table had a wonderful meal and they hadn’t felt so happy in a very long time.
If you were having a party at your house, who would you invite to come? Friends, relatives, neighbors, because God loves everyone!
PRAYERS FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE AT LEVI’S HOUSE
Some of the people at Levi’s house are not feeling well today. They might be feeling lost, they might be feeling confused, they might be feeling hungry, they might be feeling guilty, they might have a lot of worries, they might not have enough food or money, they might be feeling sad, or they might be feeling scared. When we pray we’re going to think about all of the people sitting around Levi’s table, and doing what we can to help each other. The food at Levi’s table is delicious, but the best part of being at the table is how we help each other and share with each other. Come on, let’s pray!
Where did all of the food on Levi’s table come from? From Levi, of course! He paid for it; he bought it! That’s a lot of food. Look at it all! I bet it’s delicious. Mmmmm. I bet it cost Levi a lot of money to feed everyone! Levi didn’t mind. He was very generous. Why? Because Levi realized that God had been very generous with him. Levi was a tax collector; most people didn’t like Levi at all! But God liked Levi. When Levi realized that, he felt better than he had felt in a long time. When Levi had the chance he wanted to throw a big party and invite everyone, especially the people who never get invited to big parties! Should we give Levi some of our money to pay for this? You could, but, better yet, throw your own party, and be as generous as Levi! Amen!
Dear God, thank you for Levi who invited all of his friends to the big party! I was worried that I wouldn’t be on the invitation list. I was worried that I would be left out. I was worried that there would not be a seat for me. But, now, here I am, one of Levi’s guests! And I have a seat at the head table. Imagine that! Me! I really don’t deserve to be here. I haven’t always been the best person, I’ve hurt people, neglected people, and sometimes I’m greedy. So it’s amazing that I’m here! It’s an invitation that changes many lives. Thank you, Lord! We are all blessed at this table! In Jesus’ name. Amen.