St. Matthew’s Sermon 11-03-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 11-03-2019

Who’s Looking for Whom

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, Psalm 32:1-7, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

(Sung)

Zacchaeus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in that tree
And He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today
For I’m going to your house today”

In the section of Luke’s Gospel that we’ve been working through over the past several weeks we’ve heard a series of stories that deal with people coming to God or Jesus and receiving positive responses to their requests.

At the beginning of chapter 18 we heard of the unjust judge and the widow who kept coming back to ask for justice, wearing him down until he finally granted her request for no other reason than to get her off his back.

Jesus concluded that parable with the words “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

Next, he told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee, a bit too full of himself, thanked God that he wasn’t like ‘thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector [over here]. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector humbled himself praying simply ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

This time Jesus concludes with the words “I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

A third story; the one about the people bringing children to Jesus for a blessing concludes with “…Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Another is the ruler who asks “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This man proves to be on the right path, abiding by the law his whole life long. But then Jesus tells him that he should do just one more thing; sell all he has, give to the poor, and follow him. (That is a positive response, just not one the wealthy man could accept).

When the man walks away Jesus reminds the others that “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Yet it’s not impossible as he adds “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”

And the last before today’s reading; we hear of the blind beggar outside Jericho who, when he hears the commotion and learns that it is Jesus passing by cries out “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He regained his sight and, unlike the rich man, followed Jesus, glorifying God!

That makes 5 stories in a row of people coming to God or Jesus who, by faith received what they were looking for, and of the 5, only one, the rich man seeking the promise of eternal life, rejected the gift when it was offered.

Now Zacchaeus comes into the scene to round things up to an even 6.

Suddenly, all the other up-side-down stories of unjust judges serving justice, a confessed sinner being held above a righteous man, children being used as examples of right-living, a man putting wealth ahead of eternal life, and a blind man being healed by his own faith are stirred up again by a chance encounter. Or was it a chance encounter?

Unlike those in the previous stories, Zacchaeus isn’t looking for a favor; he’s not trying to connect with Jesus to be granted justice or receive mercy, a blessing, enlightenment, healing… or to be made taller. He just wants to see Jesus; and he does!

And also unlike the other stories, it’s not the mortal that calls out to the divine but the divine who calls to the mortal.”Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

“I must stay at your house today…” it is imperative; Jesus has to be with Zacchaeus!

Even though there is no indication that he was a sinner, that he got his wealth by cheating or extorting those he collected taxes from, and even though he isn’t in need of healing, Zacchaeus still needs Jesus in his life to bridge the void, to fill the emptiness of living as an outcast of a society that presumes his guilt and disrespects his size.

And Jesus needs Zacchaeus; he needs his help in making the Kingdom of God reality on earth, he needs Zacchaeus to be an example of using wealth to benefit the poor, an example of the harm done when guilt is assumed and the good that is done when he is freed of those assumptions, and an example of God’s saving grace being available to all people, sinners or not, regardless of the attitudes of the scoffers.

It was a mutually benefiting encounter; Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus, but in reality Jesus was also seeking Zacchaeus. And it’s a new way for us to look at our relationship with Jesus; are we seeking him, or is he seeking us? Are we looking for the Christ who is looking for us?

We are assured that no matter where we stand in any point in our faith journey; if we’re on the right path or not, if we’re strong or in a moment weakness, we need not fear “…For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Amen

 

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
1:1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
1:3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
1:4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous– therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
2:2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
2:3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

 

Psalm 32:1-7
32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

 

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1:3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.
1:4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.
1:11 To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith,
1:12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 19:1-10
19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
19:5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”
19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.”
19:9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.
19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”