Sermon for October 30, 2016 24 after Pentecost “You’re Kidding…Right”
The parable of Zacchaeus is well known and brings to our thinking issues of fairness and sin and you’ve got to be kidding moments. I am always amazed at how a single event can be viewed in a variety of ways. Without going into any detail let me by example say: the Denis Oland trial.
Luke, more than any other Gospel writer spends a lot of time on riches or rich people. Woe to you rich 6:24, a rich farmer who wants to build bigger barns 12, Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell 14 and the rich young ruler who walks away 18. Now on his way to Jerusalem Jesus faces this wee rich man and the people expect rebuke. But I am so glad that Jesus is full of surprises.
Of all the people along the street Jesus looks to Zacchaeus and says ‘I’m coming to your place for supper”. The gathered people say ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ and Zacchaeus says ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ and a gasp is heard from the crowd and a gulp from Zacchaeus.
The story points to realities that seem to be consistent over time. Most of the time we look out for ourselves, we wonder why others, even the notorious seem to get all the breaks, and we often do not think we are very worthy. These traits are all overshadowed by the overwhelming compassion and love of Jesus.
There is an ethical dilemma that if you could get away with: stealing, cheating, you name it, and were assured you would never ever be caught or found out. Would you do it? Zacchaeus in the story did not hide the fact that he cheated everyone that he was good at it and his reward was that he became the chief tax collector. He knows he is despised but he has all he wants and needs and can live apart from the people, under the protection of the Roman Imperial rule. That is of course until he meets Jesus.
It is no secret that about half the people in the USA wonder how Clinton got to be the Democratic nomination for president, and the other half wonder the same thing about Trump. How is it possible that of the 300 million people in the USA that these are the two vying to run the country. How is it possible that these two with so many skeletons are where they are? I and the rest of the world say…you’re kidding, right.
Are all the people who get ahead by cheating or stepping on the fingers of another to get another rung higher on the corporate ladder going to get their (by our accounts) just due at the end? Better yet, will we get our just due at the end?
The answers have entertained humanity for centuries. But it is not a race to see who gets the most and biggest toys, who gets the corner office or who sits in the velvet chair in a slightly less than round office. Actually it is not a race at all. Jesus reminds us it is all about unlocking the faith and generosity and gratitude that we have managed to lock away in our hearts and minds.
Zacchaeus, I am coming to your home for supper tonight. And with a few words a heart is cracked open, a conversion happens and generosity pours out where before there was only greed. Every moment of every day the invitation from Jesus to be a guest at our home is offered. We only need hear the invite and the word that is Jesus to open us to life, generosity and gratitude. It’s time we get past ‘you’re kidding…right’ and embrace phrase: Hi, come in, be welcome here.