the community of the sick

Heather and I are leading worship this Sunday, and I think we'll use this story:
Jesus went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and Jesus said to him, "Follow me." And he left everything, and rose and followed him.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"

And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Lk 5.27-32)

I came across this again a few mornings ago and it made me think. The usual goal is to find a healthy, life-giving community and root yourself there. It seems like a tragedy to get stuck surrounded by people who are wounded or "dysfunctional" or just plain hard to live with. (Often communities try to cleanse themselves of such people.) But Jesus seems to suggest that the second option is closer to his example. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."

Not that we can always be the physician, of course. And it can be a hindrance when the sick do not know they are sick (which is perhaps the case for all who think they are well?). But those who are most broken down are usually closer to recognizing their sickness and more willing to change.

Among those seeking Christian community it seems to be the norm to expect some sort of better society, or attempt to create such a society, some sort of shelter from the world. But my experience is that we're always living intimately surrounded by the world (though maybe in varying intensities). And perhaps that's as it should be. As we try to hear and follow God's leading, we shouldn't expect to be led to the "promised land" community, but rather to the community of the sick. And we should interact with them as we see Jesus interacting with the sick of the world that were always all around him (including both the tax collectors and Pharisees in this story).