Speaking to the Soul: Let’s Party with Levi

Week of 1 Lent, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 40 (morning) // 54, 51 (evening)

Genesis 40:1-23

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Mark 2:13-22

There’s a lot we don’t know about Levi, whom we meet in today’s gospel. Levi is sitting in a tax booth, and when Jesus invites him to follow him, Levi doesn’t seem to hesitate. In fact, Levi immediately hosts a dinner part in his home for other tax collectors, sinners, and Jesus and his disciples. This dinner party provokes grumbling from scribes and Pharisees who ask the disciples why on earth their master would eat with tax collectors and sinners. Against these complaints, Levi’s party goes on.

There’s another wonderful tradition about Levi that survives in the second-century Gospel of Mary of Magdala. In a scene that takes place after a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, Mary Magdalene shares with the other disciples some teachings that Jesus had entrusted to her. Andrew and Peter instantly challenge Mary’s words, indignant that Jesus would have told such things to a woman. They ask in disbelief, “Are we to turn around and listen to her?” Levi, however, defends Mary Magdalene and asks, “if the Savior made her worthy, who are you then for your part to reject her?” (trans. Karen King). Who, indeed.

As early Christian communities began rejecting women as teachers and silencing them in worship, perspectives like Levi’s were neglected or suppressed. It seems that fewer disciples or male leaders were heard when they raised the question, “who are you then for your part to reject her?” But I hope that today we can respond to the gospel reading by reclaiming and celebrating traditions of Levi–the disciple who followed Jesus without hesitation, who enjoyed the company of Jesus with all of his friends, who tuned out the critical and self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, and who stood up to all those who would reject the leadership and fellowship of others.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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