Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Reverend John Smith: " All our striving to impress God and others, including most of our daily routine, means nothing. "

Stained glass rendition of Zacchaeus receiving Jesus into his house.
"Zacchaeus receives Jesus", Church of the Good Shepherd, Jericho
A House Call

          I hear that some Doctors still make house calls in Guatemala.  Those days are long gone in the States.  Today, in the gospel story of Zacchaeus, we have perhaps a story of the greatest house call ever made:  Jesus, the Divine Physician, visits and brings a cure!

          Here’s what happens in the story.  Zacchaeus is a very unpopular tax collector.  In stature, he’s very short, but he wields a lot of power because the Roman Empire and its soldiers stand with him as he extorts money from his own people every day.

          He hears a crowd forming and talking about a man called Jesus coming into Jericho.  Zacchaeus has no idea who Jesus is, but he’s curious and wants to get a glimpse of the guy.  Trouble is, he’s very short and can’t get through to the front of the crowd to see.  The people in the crowd know Zacchaeus and hate his guts.  No one will move over or make way for him.  So he takes some initiative and climbs a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of this Jesus fellow.

          The next thing you know, Jesus looks up at Zacchaeus and tells him to come down from the tree.  “I’m going to eat and stay at your house tonight.”  Zacchaeus is taken aback by Jesus’ call to him.  So are the crowd, who, are surprised and annoyed at Jesus’ choosing of Zacchaeus for hospitality.  “Doesn’t he know that Zaccaheus is a sinner?”  They, like most crowds are full of judgment, who is good, who is bad, who is in, who is out, who deserves this, and who doesn’t deserve it, etc. The most popular guy in town that day chooses hospitality from the most unpopular person in town.

          When the feast begins, Zacchaeus makes the toast.  He want Jesus to know that all the bad things people have been saying about him aren’t the whole story.  He’s really not a bad person.  He’ll pay back any one he’s defrauded four fold.  This proves he’s really a good person.  Jesus should be impressed and pleased, but he’s not.  Jesus, doesn’t say “Well done.  Good for you!”  Instead Jesus simply says “Salvation has come to this house.”

          What does this all mean to us?

          Most of the time we think that the whole religious enterprise is about us taking the initiative with God and doing things that we think God and other people around us will give us points for, but in this story, we see all the initiative is with Jesus.  Yes, Zacchaeus climbs the tree out of curiosity, but it is Jesus who sees him and asks for hospitality.  Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ house and when Zacchaeus makes a flattering toast to himself, Jesus deflates the whole experience by saying that He is the one bringing salvation and mercy to Zacchaeus who, by the way, really needs it.

          All our striving to impress God and others, including most of our daily routine, means nothing.  (To do a good work or reach out to the poor is truly wonderful and pleasing to God, but in the totality of the trivial pursuits of our daily life we remain completely in need of mercy.) Zacchaeus thinks, as we often do, he can win Jesus over by the promise of a quick turn-around conversion, but true conversion is a much longer process of learning to live in God’s mercy every day, letting God make a house call where we live.  Jesus has chosen to some among us right now and share a meal with us, we don’t have to do anything but receive God’s visitation and mercy in thanksgiving and love.  

St. Alban
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)


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