March 27 Luke 19:1-10
This passage is a story familiar to most folks who grew up in the church; I even remember singing a song about it. Zacchaeus, the diminutive chief tax collector, climbed up into a tree so he could see Jesus as He passed by. Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, told him to come down, and invited Himself to stay at Zacchaeus’s house. As Jesus was prone to do, He caused quite an uproar by doing this, since tax collectors – particularly the chief among them – were not exactly considered the “in” crowd.
For me, the key message for living a defiant life is in the last verse. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” It is so easy, especially living in the seat of power for our nation and the world, to get lost in the fevered pursuit of the often misguided values of society. Money, power, privilege, influence…in spite of having set very different goals for myself, I still feel the pull of the world’s definition of success every day. Maybe Zacchaeus experienced something similar. He was certainly rich, and by virtue of his position had certain privileges and power. I imagine he didn’t get to be the chief tax collector by acting benevolently on behalf of the citizens of Jericho. Still, something made him climb up that tree, even though that probably wasn’t the proper or professional thing to do.
Maybe what drove Zacchaeus up into that tree was a desire to get on track, to live differently, to seek something he felt was missing from his life. Climbing that tree put him into a position where he could see and hear Jesus. He was ready for whatever came next, though I suspect he didn’t have a clue what that was going to be. I think it’s significant that Zacchaeus didn’t rush up to Jesus to invite Him over for dinner; Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’s house, after He called and Zacchaeus answered Him by coming down from the tree. This bold move of answering Jesus’ call was the first step toward the transformation in Zacchaeus’ life that we read about in verse 8.
Our Epiphany commitment was to answer the call. How appropriate that the liturgical season that follows is Lent, a time when we identify and give up those things that prevent us from following our call. A former minister of mine said that Lent isn’t so much about giving something up, but about taking something on. Years later, I think I finally understand what she meant: answering God’s call involves taking on new disciplines. Having the capacity to do this often requires us to give something up first. But defying the impulse to seek notoriety, political position, financial security, or other worldly comforts is a tall order. What is our first step in allowing Christ to seek and save something of higher value deep within us?
One of Pastor Amy’s recent sermons emphasized that our personal call is part of God’s overall plan for reconciliation and transformation of this world. Maybe when we begin to realize how our specific gifts contribute to this overall plan it will become a little easier to take on those new disciplines we practice during Lent. And maybe, in so doing, we ourselves will be reconciled and transformed in the process.
Lord, help me rise above the crowd, to see and pursue those things that are of real value.