Track 2: Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32:1-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10
Don’t you just love the changing seasons! I think the annuals are most beautiful in the fall before the first hard freeze. My Dragon Leaf Begonia and Chenille plant are still beautiful with red flowers and the flaming red bushes are gorgeous. It feels like the leaves started turning late this year, but there were some stunning red leaves on Eaton Street last week and I have been enjoying the show of colors as I travel back and forth between St Joseph and Albion. I can’t help but smile when watching the fluffy tailed squirrels busy gathering acorns and black walnuts for the winter or when I crunch through the fallen leaves breathing in the aroma of new fallen leaves. Looking to the sky, it is great to see the V-shaped formation of the Canada Geese and hear their honking voices, to watch the graceful swarms of black birds, to hear the bugle of a Sandhill Crane, to watch for the full harvest moon and see Orion high in the southwest sky. I believe in a creator God! If you doubt the existence of a creator God, introduce yourself to Benjamin Everett. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful or perfect except a child of your own, breath in that new baby innocence? Isn’t it amazing how someone so small can grow into a handsome teenager like Ihaja, into a middle-aged man like Gard, into a father and a grandfather? And look at your hands, isn’t it still a wonder how they work picking up a spoon, playing a piano, stroking a loved ones cheek, hammering a nail, pushing a lawn mower? We just need to look around us to see the handiwork of our creator God.
This morning’s gospel story is full of action. Jesus is travelling through the town of Jericho and is surrounded by a crowd. Zacchaeus wants to see who Jesus is, so he runs ahead and climbs a tree so that he can see over the crowd. When Jesus comes to the tree, Jesus stops and tells Zacchaeus to hurry down as he is going to dine with him today and Zacchaeus comes down and is happy to welcome Jesus to his home. In this story Zacchaeus is actively looking for Jesus and Jesus is there looking for Zacchaeus. Jesus could have just as easily passed by Zacchaeus without a word, but he didn’t. Jesus stopped and acknowledged Zacchaeus and built a relationship with Zacchaeus, willing to eat with him even though many would have considered Zacchaeus a thief and a traitor to his own people. Zacchaeus was curious about who Jesus was and proactively positioned himself to learn more about Jesus and Zacchaeus found himself face-to-face with Jesus with an invitation to get to know Jesus personally and Zacchaeus was willing and able to immediately take Jesus up on his offer.
So what does this story have to do with us today? Are you curious as to who Jesus is or who God is? Do you ever feel that you are too sinful or too ignorant or too young or too old or too short to see Jesus? Or do you act like Zacchaeus and position yourself to get a better view of Jesus, reading the Bible, attending worship, talking about God with friends or sitting quietly in a tree waiting and watching and listening for Jesus. And when you do this are you ready for an actual encounter with Jesus, are you willing to welcome him home for dinner with your family?
I have had people tell me that they were about to make a bad decision and that I texted, or that they were praying for help and then I called. Was I an answer to prayer? And why did I send that text or make that phone call? Did I respond to a unconscious message from God?
Someone sent me a story last week. I don’t know if it actually happened, but the story is true. A man prayed to God for a sign that God really was there. Then the man felt an urge to go buy a gallon of milk. He tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away so he went and bought a gallon of milk. He could always use some more milk. On the way home he again felt an urge to take a detour and go down a different street. He resisted the urge and passed the street, but at the next intersection he felt compelled to turn around and go back and down that street. Now what? He felt directed to knock on the door of a dark house and to take the milk with him. Was anyone home? Were they asleep in bed and would they be angry to be awakened? While he was thinking this, a man opened the door. On seeing the stranger holding a gallon of milk, he broke down crying. He had been praying to God for help. There had been many bills, the money was gone, it would be several days before the next pay check and they had no money to buy milk for their baby. What was he to do? And then here was the answer to his pray standing on his door step offering a gallon of milk.
Is this a true story? I don’t know, but the point is that when the father ran into trouble he prayed to God for help, he sought God. When the first man doubted God’s existence, he prayed and opened himself to hear God’s response and in hearing and obeying God’s voice he became the answer to the second man’s prayer. Do you search for God? Do you open yourself; make yourself vulnerable to see God in the other, to hear God’s voice and to obey God’s voice.
The Good News is that when you search for God you will find that God has been searching for you, that God is there seeking a relationship with you. When others question your encounter with God be prepared to be transformed. When the crowd grumbled about Jesus choosing to have a meal with a notorious sinner, a despised tax collector, Zacchaeus answered with a promise to give half of his possessions to the poor and to make it right with anyone he had cheated. Jesus replied that today salvation has come to this house.
Look for Jesus’ face in the crowd. See and hear and smell the handiwork of God in the beauty of nature. Behold and be enthralled with the wonder of new life. Marvel at the intricacy and complexity of your own hand and see God. Seek God and God will find you. Listen for and respond to God’s voice, give to the poor, make right any wrong that you have done to another and trust that salvation is yours, a gift from God. Amen.