Sermon for October 30,2022 Twenty-first after Pentecost “What would you do to see Jesus”
No matter what time period you look at, those with money always seem to stick out. Some for good reason and some for not so good reason. I can think of many that fit both categories in our day.
For Luke there is a steady stream of woes against those with money. Luke for some reason did not like the rich and in particular did not like the rich who got that way from the hard work of others. At the top of the list were tax collectors and in particular the chief tax collector. So as the story begins to unfold today we have a good idea that it is going to end badly for the chief tax collector.
But Luke surprises us with this story of Zacchaeus. We can see the images clearly in our mind…Zacchaeus in a tree, maybe because he was short but maybe because it was safe there from the pushing and prodding of the crowd who would take every and any opportunity to scorn him. Jesus comes to him and calls him to come down. You can see the gleam in the eyes of the people as they prepare for this man to get a verbal tongue lashing from Jesus. They all know it is coming and they are not sure if they want to be close enough to hear or far enough away to not get caught in the barrage.
The people hold their breath as Zacchaeus climbs down the tree…faces Jesus…
With gentle, compassionate eyes Jesus gazes at Zacchaeus and says ‘friend, I am coming to dine with you tonight’.
As they walk toward Zacchaeus’ home the echo of ‘what…huh…did I hear that right’ linger with the people. Once again Jesus takes long held ideas and stereotypes and turns them upside-down so all that is there is emptied out. Then he shakes it so that even the hangers on to ideas that do not serve the purpose of Jesus (which is about loving all people) are shaken out and end up in a place of potential transformation.
The story teaches two lessons: that we are worthy and those who we think are unworthy are also worthy. Yes, you are worthy. No matter what you have been told, what you look like or anything else…you are worthy. For Zacchaeus he just had to hear the words from this stranger for him to be in a place to transform and change his life. And before you think, ‘am I ever glad I’m not like Zacchaeus’ we all have a measure of Zacchaeus in us and today Jesus is calling us out of our high or hiding places, opening us to transformation and declaring in no uncertain terms…you are worthy. The Greek grammar used for will is both present and future. It means the action begins immediately and will continue into the future. We too are impacted in the same way by Jesus. Our statements of belief last longer than the front door of the church. Our belief stirs an action that is immediate and lasting. Therein lies the challenge and in living into that challenge the nudging and grace of God are present.
And now for the really hard part…coming to the understanding that those we think are unworthy are in fact worthy. It hurts when I come to realize that I have been wrong about someone or even a group of people. And yet we have this teaching that shows that what a whole community believes about a person is illusion, then new pathways to understanding begin to open, hearts open, and yes even though we stand with mouth agape, and even if the truth takes days or years to sink in, we begin anew or again the journey of transforming more completely into the people of God.
What would it be like to meet Jesus? Utterly scary, delightfully exhilarating, lost for words, selfie moment and life changing. The kind of change that begins in a moment and last a lifetime. The surprise is that Jesus sees you, calls you by name and asks; what’s for supper? We need to chat.