Homily: October 30, 2016

October 30, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter How should we read this familiar story about Jesus and Zacchaeus?

Jesus,

near the end of his journey to Jerusalem,

is passing through the border town of Jericho.

In that town is a man named Zacchaeus

who is not just a tax collector but a CHIEF tax collector.

which means that he is rich.

He wants to see Jesus,

but because he is so short in stature Zacchaeus cannot see over the crowds,

so he climbs a tree.

When Jesus arrives at the place where Zacchaeus has perched himself,

Jesus calls him down

and invites himself to Zacchaeus' home

This simultaneously brings Zacchaeus joy

and scandalizes the crowd,

because they know that Zacchaeus the tax collector is a sinner.

If this scene were a movie-

I think that the part of Zacchaeus might be played by Danny DeVito.

Zacchaeus is short,

not just in physical stature,

but also in terms of his reputation and moral standing among his neighbors.

They no doubt despised him

because of his profession,

hence their reaction of horror

when Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus' home.

Zacchaeus is well acquainted with their disdain-

So he attempts to justify himself-

Talking to Jesus,

But really,

I think also to those neighbors of his.

"Look, half of my possessions, Lord,

I will give to the poor;

and if I have defrauded anyone of anything,

I will pay back four times as much.”

Is Zacchaeus playing to the crowd,

or even to Jesus himself,

is this little man trying to convince them of his goodness

by loudly announcing his generosity?

Probably- A little bit of both.

It’s a very human trait

to want to prove ourselves,

our worth,

Especially when we think all those around us doubt your worth and your integrity,

As much or more than we doubt ourselves.

During this time of Ingathering,

Let’s do ourselves a favor.

Let’s remind ourselves

that God wants us more than our money.

There is no possible way for us to buy our way into God’s good graces,

Whether that be through money,

doing the right thing,

or some religious activity such as coming to church

helping the poor.

Jesus reminds us of this fact when he

takes Zacchaeus by the hand and invites himself to dinner

At the chief tax collectors house.

Before Zacchaeus can do anything to prove himself-

Before he can distribute a penny of his vast wealth,

Jesus is already there with open arms and open heart for the little man-

In spite of the disapproval of the crowd.

This really is good theology-

But at first glance-

It’s not a very good incentive for giving and serving.

The open secret of Jesus’ Way

Is that no matter what you do-

Or don’t do-

God will not love you one iota more

Or one iota less.

That means,

In the abstract at least-

We could all walk away from here today

And never come back

And God would still love us,

Care for us,

….reach out the hand to spend time with us,

And dine with us,

And Christ did with Zacchaeus.

Martin Luther the German Reformer,

Understood this waaay back in 1517.

So 500 years ago tomorrow-

He stood up and lifted his voice

And endangered his career,

and his life itself

by daring to tell the religious authorities of HIS day

The very same thing.

We get to God,

Not by being good people,

Or by offering our money up,

Or by anything that we ourselves do.

God loves and accepts us

because God created us,

And Christ offered himself for us-

making up for all the things we could ever do wrong-

and filling up the cracks in our lives

where the good things

we failed to do are not.

We don’t celebrate Reformation Day in the Episcopal Church-

Its just not on our calendar.

But the Reformation is not just a Lutheran thing.

It’s a God thing-

And every time we accept the love of God

Which is always out there-

Every time we realize-

Hey gGd loves me anyway-

We are making our own reformation proclamation.

You’re not going to get this message of grace many other places.

Maybe you get it from your parents and family if you are fortunate enough-

“We will always love you.”

But generally I’d say

That out in life

We are judged strictly on a performance basis.

At work- we get performance reviews,

At school- we get report cards,

Durng political season-

We get polls and -

And judgements from others on our character

based on who we support for public office

Or who we don’t support.

How blessed we are to have a Savior God

Who turns to us today and says-

As he said to little Zacchaeus,

“Today, salvation has come to this house.

Come on,

Come dine with me,

I’m here for you-

No matter what!”

Such grace and love

Is worthy of every penny in our bank accounts

And worth every moment of our lives.

That Grace is the real motivation behind our Ingathering.

So,

Let’s give

and give generously of ourselves to others-

As Christ as given Himself for us and to us.

Amen.

 

SermonRev. Phil Boelter