There are stories that remain with us for years. This week’s text offers up one of them (though would I remember it so well without this sappy little song???).
Many chapters ago Luke told us that Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem. Surely we must be getting close by now right? On the other hand, there are some interesting things that happen on along the roadside…
This week we have three little vignette’s for our reading and sermonizing enjoyment. We have a Passion prediction (that yet again the disciples have trouble grasping) in 18:31-35, followed by a healing story in 18:36-43, and then the story of Zacchaeus in 19:1-10. You can read the whole passage here.
The folks at Working Preacher have offered us a commentary and a podcast. They focus on the last piece of the passage, the story of wee little Zacchaeus climbing a tree and then being called to repentance, and I think I would agree. That is the piece of this reading that is different from other things we have read so far on our journey through Luke.
And yet not so different. 2 weeks ago we had three parables about finding the lost, and here Jesus is again talking about seeking and saving the lost. The addition we have this week is the explicit piece about repentance, the explicit signs of how Zacchaeus is pledging to be changed in his future life.
Last week we were invited to consider the chasm between wealth and poverty, and how it might (or might not) be linked to salvation. This week we have the rich man, and a despised tax collector, being challenged not after death but during his life. It seems to be a much more efficient time to be challenged. The interesting piece is that Zacchaeus responds before the sermon (if indeed Jesus was planning a sermon). I had always understood the story to be the Jesus and Zacchaeus go to dinner and after some discussion Zacchaeus makes his grand announcement. But in fact it appears that he is changed simply by Jesus calling out to and including him. Is the simple act of reminding someone that they are still part of the community more important in changing lives than a sermon on their wicked ways?
That seems something the church needs to hear. Because historically (and in popular imagination) the church has seemed to be all about the preaching. Maybe we need to remind ourselves to act [and to be seen to act] as well?
But how do you include in a sermon that a sermon is not the way to change lives? Seems a bit counter intuitive doesn’t it?
We are almost to Jerusalem. In only 20 verses we will be watching the disciples liberate a colt for the parade into the city. Jesus has spent all this time trying to teach his friends, and through them us, what it means to be people of the Kingdom. How will we respond to the one who knows it is more important to seek the lost where they are than to preach about why they are lost? Will we keep looking or will we wait for them to come to themselves?
How do we prepare for the triumphant entry into the city which we celebrate next week?
Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings
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