Sermon preached from Blue Mountains Franciscan Church by Revd. R Suttie (Br Simeon EFO)
Sunday 30th October 2016:
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. YR C.
Gospel: Luke 19:1-10
“Open your heart to Christ’s love; He loves you, and longs for a relationship with you that will change you forever.”
A Catholic Priest and a Rabbi were chatting one day when the conversation turned to a discussion of job descriptions and promotion. “What do you have to look forward to in way of a promotion in your job?” asked the Rabbi.
“Well, I’m next in line for the Monsignor’s job.” replied the Priest.
“Yes, and then what?” asked the Rabbi. “Well, next I can become Archbishop.” said the Priest.
“Yes, and then?” asked the Rabbi.
“If I work real hard and do a good job as Arch-Bishop, it’s possible for me to become a full Bishop.” said the Priest.
“O.K., then what?” asked the Rabbi.
The Priest, beginning to get a bit exasperated replied, “With some luck and real hard work, maybe I can become a Cardinal.”
“And then?” asked the Rabbi.
The Priest is really starting to get mad now and replies, “With lots and lots of luck and some real difficult work and if I’m in the right places at the right times and play my political games just right, maybe, just maybe, I can get elected Pope.”
“Yes, and then what?” asked the Rabbi.
“Good grief!” shouted the Priest. “What do you expect me to become, GOD?”
“Well,” said the Rabbi, “One of our boys made it!”
In the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
When I was growing up in Church, the story of Zacchaeus it was one of my favourite childhood stories. I suspect it still is a favourite with every kid who has ever felt small or out of it and ends up instead, being the centre of attention. It tells of Jesus inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ house. It is much more, as it reveals the response of Zacchaeus who accepts Jesus into his life. Jesus longs to share His life with us. We like Zacchaeus are longing for the deepest experience of love. Like Zaccheaus we are often using substitutes of – in Zacchaeus’s case it was riches.
This is an interesting story because Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, and passes through Jericho. People by now have heard all about this Jesus and it is no different when he passes through Jericho. He could have avoided entering Jericho, but no he comes there because he has one last bit of ministering to do before he goes to Jerusalem where he will be handed over to death. There in this town of Jericho is one person whom Jesus has intentions of seeing; that is Zacchaeus. If you are familiar with this story, you may well know that this man was a tax collector and high up in rank; through greed had enriched himself; he was truly not liked by the people of the town, as he was a collaborator with the Romans.
As Jesus enters Jericho, he is pressed by a crowd of people, Zacchaeus being short, and is unable to see what is going on, being curious he climbs up into a tree so that he can see. It is here that Jesus looks up sees Zacchaeus. It is at this point that I am inclined to say he was stirred, for Jesus calls him down and tells him that he is coming to his house to stay.
What we don’t know is whether Jesus stayed 1hr or a day or overnight. I can well imagine that Jesus must have spent a good few hours with him at least. The moment that Jesus called him down, he responded, for the power of Christ’s love was truly too much to resist, he touched Zacchaeus’ heart and it showed by his response in welcoming Jesus into his house and heart. When he calls, we all need to listen, for we need to open our hearts to Christ’s love. He loves us and longs for a relationship with us that truly would change us forever.
Jesus did not condemn Zacchaeus for what he’d been doing, by enriching himself, and impoverishing his heart. Through love Jesus could reveal to Zacchaeus the wrongs he had done. Zacchaeus responded: He says to Jesus…
“Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”.
Zacchaeus has truly come to the place where he sees not just with physical eyes, but he sees too with his Spiritual eyes. He sees that he can have no place in Jesus if he continues to live from being materialistic. With spiritual eyes, he can see that he can have everything and more in accepting Jesus into his life. For he sees that in Jesus there is life to be spent in eternity.
“Jesus responds to those who are negative about his willingness to be with Zacchaeus by saying Today salvation has come to this house, because this man is a son of Abraham. For the son of man came to seek and save what was lost”
Today my friends, my brothers and sisters; we need only look around us to see that there are many like Zacchaeus today in the world of which we live. Many in the world today, are like Zacchaeus in being materialistic – the attitude being “I must store up for myself treasure”. In doing this we can lose the sight of what it means to have life in all its fullness in Christ. We read in the papers, on TV news, so and so was arrested for fraud. But if you look at the person or persons that have committed these things; we can see Zacchaeus in them.
We as Disciples of Christ are his hands, his feet, and his mouth; if Christ truly lives and works and shines through us, then we have a responsibility to love them, and show them the way to generous living and of non-judgemental, unconditional love.
What Christ did for Zacchaeus He wants to do for us too. He came to “seek and to save what was lost” – including all of us here. With His shepherd’s rod and staff, he wants to pull us unto Him so that we all become true “children of Abraham”.
As we come to celebrate the Holy Eucharist today, even though you’ve been coming to Church for a long time, but perhaps have never truly and completely opened your heart to Jesus, now is the time to do so. You need not climb a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus come walking by. He is here present in the breaking of bread and wine. As you receive of this sacrament, let His love draw you to Him. Open your heart to Christ’s love; He loves you, and longs for a relationship with you that will change you forever.
May salvation that is the healing power of Christ’s love be with you today and always. Christ wants to be with you as he wanted to be with Zacchaeus. Jesus says to us now; “I must stay at the house of your heart”!