Archive for the ‘31st Sunday’ Category

A Conversation 10-31-2021

Monday, November 1st, 2021

One day God and Jesus were having a conversation with each
other…:
Jesus: “You know our book has been out a long time and we have never
made any revisions. Don’t you think we ought to consider some?”
God: “I’ve been rather pleased with it; why change a good thing?”
Jesus: “Well, we are in the age of computers and satellites. Lots of
things have happened since Moses and the commandments and my
sermon on the mountain. I’m not sure we’re communicating with
people the way we ought in this modern era.”
God: “What would you suggest? Starting over?”
Jesus: “No, just modernizing. People don’t read a lot anymore.
They’re TV watchers. The Bible scares them because it’s quite wordy,”
God: “Are you trying to tell me we ought to condense it?”
Jesus: “Reader’s Digest tried that already, but that didn’t help our
readership.”
God asked: “Well, what’s the solution then?” Jesus: “Brevity.”
God: “You mean like commercials?”
Jesus: ‘Yes, but not as boring as commercials. People stopped watching
commercials with the invention of remote control. They just switch
channels.”
God: “How brief can we get?”
Jesus: “‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbor.’”
God: “Then what?”
Jesus: “Rent advertising space and time.”
God: “That’s too expensive.”
Jesus: “Then re-do nature. Print the message on every cloud and on
every leaf.”
God: “That’s too time consuming. We’d have to re-do it with every
change of season.”
Jesus: “Print it on the hands of every newborn, ‘Love God’ on the right
and ‘Love neighbor’ on the left. They go Hand in Hand; you can’t have
one without the other.” God: “I already did something like that, but I wrote it on their hearts.” Jesus: “How were people supposed to read it hidden there?”
God: “I guess I was a little naïve, I didn’t expect it to remain hidden. I
thought it would be quite obvious in the way people loved me and one
another.”

Jesus came to See and to Save those who were Lost 11-3-2019

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

The first Sunday after All Saints Day we have saints fresh
on our minds. Today the Gospel lesson tells the story of one
such saint. He is curiously and obviously flawed. In fact, his sins
and failures are so plain that his acceptance by God is somewhat
a scandal. But in the end he becomes an example of Gods
gracious work. And his inclusion in the circle of God gives
ordinary people like us great hope. His name is Zacchaeus.
His is the story of a little, lonely, sinful man who has an
encounter with Jesus while Zacchaeus was hiding in a tree.
Quite a ridiculous place for a grown man, don’t you think? But
that encounter with Jesus changed his life in a very big way.
What lessons can this curious story teach us today?
FIRST, IF ZACCHAEUS CAN BE A SAINT, ANYONE
CAN. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Even worse, he was a chief tax collector. Do not think IRS here, think Mafia or drug dealer. In the world of the New Testament, tax collectors were local
Jews who purchased their tax collection job from the Romans,
and then collected the hated taxes for the hated Romans from
their neighbors, plus whatever extra they could squeeze on top
for themselves. Tax collectors had to be greedy enough to sell
their own soul for a shekel, and be willing to turn against their
own family and friends to turn a profit.
As you might imagine, tax collectors were invariably
wealthy, and invariably friendless. They were outcast from the
Jewish synagogue, and every other gathering of Jews in town.
So despised were tax collectors in the first century, that the
phrases “tax collector” and “sinner” were considered
synonymous. And yet Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. Like a
hunted animal hiding in a tree, Zacchaeus found himself trapped in the scope of grace. And when Jesus offered a kind word of
acceptance instead of a fire and brimstone sermon, Zacchaeus fell from the tree with wide-eyed amazement. How long had it
been since someone from the “good side of town” wanted to eat
with Zacchaeus?
The point for us is plain; Jesus has come to seek and to
save those who are lost. Even before sinners are seeking God,
God is seeking them. And sinners do not have to clean up their
act before God will love them; rather it is Gods love offered first
that causes a sinner to want to clean up his or her act. Every
saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. That is the hope
that keeps us all humble, and gives each of us the chance we do
not deserve to be acceptable by God.
SECOND, GOD USES THE LIVES OF SAINTS TO
SHOW THE WORLD GLIMPSES OF THE KINGDOM Of GOD. What makes Zacchaeus a saint if it is not his moral purity
or good deeds? It is the way God uses his story to instruct us all
in the way of the gospel. Zacchaeus gives us all hope, precisely because he is so unworthy. And this story reminds the Church of
our mission to embody the gracious initiative of Gods welcome.
Does it bother you that the sinners who were so drawn to
Jesus in the New Testament are often so uncomfortable today in
His Church? God does not only use lives that are pure and clean,
like unbroken shiny glass windows. Sure the light of Gospel can
shine through such clear lives, and thanks be to God for moral
and godly people today like that. But God can also use broken,
stained lives. Like odd shaped pieces of broken and stained
glass, God can assemble these into a beautiful picture of the
gospel too. The Church is a mosaic of stained glass lives,
assembled in a way that only God could conceive. Stained glass
can tell the story of the gospel too, can it not? Thanks be to God!
Zacchaeus was a new man after the meal with Jesus. He
lost his Midas touch, gave away half of his money to the poor,
and paid back every person he had cheated (which was the entire town!) four fold. He gave away his wealth, but gained a
community of faith and friendship. And what is more, he
foreshadowed the cross that would come only one week later for
Jesus, when he would be again in the presence of thieves up a
tree. And again, with his last breath, Jesus would be welcoming
every crook who would accept a chance to sit at the banquet
table of Paradise. Why? Because he had come to seek and to
save those who were lost. People like you and me. People who
call ourselves Church. If nothing else Church and Church
people like Zacchaeus must be about seeking and welcoming
those who are lost.
I close by asking that when you approach the table of the
Lord today, think about that. Come humbly. Come gratefully and leave walking a bit taller than before
assembled in a way that only God could conceive. Stained glass