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11.03.13 Our Communion of Saints Luke 19.1-10 Sermon Summary

by on November 5, 2013

On All Saints’ Day we gather at Table with all who rest eternally in God. As we look around at who else is here, we may be surprised at what we see.

Summary Points

  • Some of the saints who are with us today
  • Why it’s hard to welcome Zacchaeus to the table
  • What Zacchaeus might say to us who want to see Jesus
  • Questions for Discussion and Reflection

Here at the Lord’s Table there are saints from the Memorial Board, from the first name of Raymond Ball who died in 1958 to Jessie DeLuca whose name was added just last month. Saints from the Tradition are here also, like Anthony the Anchorite who lived on a pillar and Benedict the patron saint of worship. Aquinas the Ox and Luther the potty-mouthed are here. And the anonymous author of the 1395 spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing is here.

There are saints from Scripture, including Ruth and her great grandchild David, Thomas the Twin AKA the Doubter after whom I am named—he and I are twins in our doubt—and Joseph and Mary are here.

Also here at this Table is . . . Zacchaeus. No, really. Even the “wee little man,” short in stature, both physically and socially. He was a tax-collector, a position you only get if you pay for it. So he was rich to begin with, and now he’s even richer because he exploits his position. He’s a collaborator with Rome and a traitor to our religion and our homeland. When Isaiah says God doesn’t listen to the prayers of people with blood on their hands, he’s talking about Zacchaeus.

Could Zacchaeus be at this Table? The people then felt about Zacchaeus the same way we feel when the insurance company inserts a loophole so they don’t pay our bill. They felt about him the way we feel about politicians rewarding contracts to their friends. They felt about him the way I feel about well-paid preachers who have bad theology.

Salvation doesn’t come to the houses of these people, does it? They grumbled in Zacchaeus’ day, and I can understand why.

All Zacchaeus wanted was a glimpse of Jesus. The crowd wasn’t letting him have it. When they saw him coming they squeezed a little closer together. “This seat is taken,” you can hear them saying. I wonder if Jesus saw all this going on, if he looked over the shoulders of the tall and privileged and saw the wee little man trying to get a glimpse.

I wonder what Zacchaeus was thinking. Why did he want to see Jesus? Was he curious about the celebrity of Christ? Had he heard Jesus’ preaching of the coming judgment and was he nervous about it? Had he perhaps heard the second half of that sermon, about the hope of deliverance, that maybe even he, Zacchaeus, could be redeemed?

Whatever the case, Zacchaeus runs ahead of Jesus and the crowds and climbs a tree. I wonder if he saw others doing this earlier or if it was his idea. Either way it was certainly undignified. Can you imagine your doctor doing this? Or your lawyer or accountant? Or your insurance person?

What might Zacchaeus say to us today about seeing Jesus? If we were to ask his advice on how to get a glimpse of Christ today, what would he say? The first thing he’d say is to look where Jesus is going, and go there too. Where would Jesus be today? Helping the poor and marginalized, no doubt. If we want to see Jesus, as he said, we can do so by helping the least of his brothers and sisters.

Zacchaeus would also say look with expectation. I think we might confidently say Zacchaeus was hopeful for his own deliverance in looking to Jesus. He may have feared God’s judgment, but I believe he hoped that at last someone had come who could undo all the damage he had done to and through his life. Christ might just be able to turn this around. Why else would Zacchaeus welcome Jesus gladly into his home if not out of hope for deliverance rather than fear of judgment.

The crowd grumbled that Zacchaeus is a sinner, and he doesn’t dispute it. So he might tell us to be honest about ourselves and confess our sins. And while he was partying with Jesus and his friends at his house later that afternoon, he might advise us not be among the judgmental crowd if we want to see Jesus.

Beyond confession, Zacchaeus would say make restitution. He paid back four times what he had stolen. Even beyond that, he gave half of his possessions to the poor. It’s safe to say that he was no longer a rich man after this. I am reminded of the 12 steps: Zacchaeus hoped in God (2), confessed his sins (5), and made amends (9). To give back four times was the law. To give half of his possessions was his heart transformed by Christ.

Certainly the last thing Zacchaeus would tell us is to never count ourselves out. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. You are never so lost that Jesus cannot find you. Run ahead, climb the tree, but never count yourself out.

Or start with the words of Isaiah. He judged the unfaithfulness of ancient Israel as worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. A lot of people think they know what THE sin was in Sodom and Gomorrah. There doesn’t have to be any speculation; Ezekiel 16:49-50 makes it pretty clear: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

Isaiah saw worse things among God’s chosen people. But he calls them to wash themselves and to make themselves clean. To cease to do evil and learn to do good. To seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow. And then he promises that even though their sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.

Ezekiel knew the same gracious God. He said that even the fortunes of Sodom will be restored. If God will restore the fortunes of Sodom whom he has not chosen, how much more will God restore those he has chosen? And so Jesus assured Zacchaeus and everyone around him, that he too was a son of Abraham. Even Zacchaeus is welcome at the Table. Jesus is the guest of sinners; come be among them.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • Where on the road with Zacchaeus are you? Curious? Hopeful? Seeking? Are there places where confession and restitution are in order? Are you inviting your other sinner friends over to party with the Savior?
  • Are you among the judgmental crowd that is scandalized that Jesus enjoys the company of sinners? What can you do to wash yourself of this sin so that you can see Jesus?
  • Are you more like Zacchaeus or more like the Sodom and the ancient Israelites as judged by Isaiah and Ezekiel? What can you do to become more like the person God has called you to be?

 

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