Pulpit to Page, Issue 1: Zacchaeus
Copyright 2013 by Scott J. Toney, Published by Breakwater Harbor Books
This is a sermon given by Rev. Lance King at Chestnut Grove and scribed by Scott J. Toney, so that it may be a blessing. Full permission to scribe this sermon is given by Lance King and 50% of all revenue is donated to Chestnut Grove so that it may be used toward Church ministries.
We pick up right where we left off…
And the story says that as Zacchaeus’ face emerged just a little bit apart from that crowd. It’s from that moment that he and Jesus connected and they found one another and Zacchaeus’ life changed in that moment. Now I tried to find this week some examples of what that looks like in the 21st century. How many of you have ever taken that kind of a step, taken that kind of daring step where you might do something socially uncustomary? I found a couple of examples this week. First I’d like you to meet Carlos. Carlos was the little boy who ignores the customs of the crowd.
(Video begins with Broadcaster’s voice)
‘The occasion was the meeting of the familys held at the Vatican this weekend. Pope Francis was about to give his speech when a small boy wandered across the stage, coming right up to the Pope. What happens next can only be described as something resembling a personal Papal playdate. Pope Francis pats his head and smiles in delight. The boy then continues to engage the pope in quiet conversation, kissing the papal cross hanging round his neck. He then looks to his ring and points to something in Saint Peter’s square. The young boy resists the efforts of a Vatican official gently trying to coax him off stage and for over 20 minutes stays at the Pontiff’s side, at times acting like a host. Watch as he leads a young girl up to meet the Pope. We’ve since learned he is a 6 year old orphan from Columbia given the pseudonym Carlos to protect his privacy. He was adopted less than a year ago by an Italian family. His parents say none of this was planned. Carlos did it all on his own.’
Carlos did it all on his own. He took a step up the stage in spite of the on looking children and his own parents who said ‘No you can’t do that Carlos.’ He said ‘No, I gotta do this because my soul longing is greater than my concern over what other people think. I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna take this step.’ Carlos did it and the Pope, according to this, he smiled in delight. He embraced the little kid that clung to his leg because the vibe the pope gave off was something better than the crowd vibe any way. Carlos found connection.
I’d like to you meet a second person who seems to have taken this step. This is Nathan Dabrito. Nathan appears to be a Brazilian soccer fan and there in his home city he climbs the fence and approaches the pope directly in spite of it.
(Video plays while Lance speaks)
This is the Pope Mobile and his security team, not unlike our secret service. Nathan Debrito climbs the fence away from the crowd, through security, and finds his way to the Pope. Now accounts report that Nathan, while he’s there in the Pope’s arms, he confesses to the pope that he wants to live his life by a different agenda. He wants to live for Jesus in everything he does. And even to become a priest. And the pope in that moment, he smiles, filled with delight, confirming Nathan’s response, and Nathan walks away a changed kid, with a taste of an embrace from God. It can be a little overwhelming.
In chapter 19:5 Zacchaeus finds Jesus much like the Pope, smiling in delight where Jesus says to Zacchaeus, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry down, I must be with you. I want to be with you.’ Can you imagine hearing that? Zacchaeus did. He was willing to take a step and when he got there the two met and he looked up and what a day that was? Now, Jesus made a duel invitation. He said, ‘Come be with me and lets go to your house and lets spend some time together. Let’s dine together.’ What do you think the crowd did? Look at verse 7. The crowd did what the crowd always does. They mocked and ridiculed and said ‘Naw, that can’t be. There’s Jesus going off with a symbol.’ In fact, Luke says the crowd grumbled.
What are some lessons from this story?
It seems like there might be a dozen or so, and I won’t share them all, but it seems to me that at least one of the lessons is that when Jesus is working he often works in ways that are not customary to the crowd. The things that the Lord does in the world, he’s not concerned with the crowd, and it’s only that when we become unconcerned maybe that we meet him where he is. Or maybe the lesson is that if we never respond to our souls’ longing to God, above our longing to be socially acceptable, then we’ll always be staring at the backs and the butts of the crowd.
I think there might be a third lesson here, one that’s really exciting. And I think Zacchaeus learned this too, and that is that Zacchaeus found that as his his face emerged just a little bit apart from the crowd, what he found was that Jesus was looking for him too. You see Jesus had come to town, and Zacchaeus, when he finally mustered what he needed to do to take that step, to make that move, he found that the Lord had been looking for him all along too, just waiting for Zacchaeus to make the move. And there they found this new kind of connection. And it was beautiful. And at that connection, this rich, prominent Zacchaeus, he made this enthusiastic profession not unlike a small Nathan where he says ‘I want to live by a new agenda. I want to be on your agenda, Jesus. I want to set aside the stuff that has been important and I want to adopt your agenda specifically. I want to recognize that the poor matter more than my prominence. I want to join you, Jesus, in recognizing that justice matters more than power. I want to live with you in this new kind of mindset. I want to live disconnected from group-think and connected to Jesus. And I can just see Jesus’ face going ‘Aha. Salvation. You’re saved. You’re free from crowd control, the power of the crowd.’ And Jesus’ pronouncement surely is that, that salvation has come to the unlikeliest place, to the unlikeliest person, the wee little power man.
Now for those of you who don’t resonate with the pope or Catholicism, or for those of you who are sports fans, let me see if I can offer you one final story. Major League Baseball’s 2013 World Series just finished. It included the St. Luis Cardinals and the Boston Red Socks. In game three it was a tie in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Red Socks are on field and there are runners up to bat and the ball is hit and Allen Craig, the Cardinals base runner, is rounding third. And then the Red Socks’ catcher throws the ball to third to tag him out and end the game. The problem is that the throw to the Redsocks third basemen, it misses his target and Middlebrooks falls down in the baseline and creates an obstacle, or what Major League Baseball calls an ‘obstruction to the base runner’. Middlebrooks obstructs Allen Craig from making his way home safely.
Allen Craig is held back. He’s tripped up. He’s obstructed. And when he does finally get home he’s clearly out by the whole standard of the crowd. But there’s this alternative call by the one in charge. In this surprising move that’s reminiscent of Jesus in Luke 19, the umpire, Joice, he says ‘You are safe. You are safe at home.’ And something like, ‘Even though, even though there’s obstruction, and even though you’re injured, and even though you’re hobbling awkwardly toward home plate, you are safe at home because you made the effort and I’m here to tell you, you are safe.’
Jesus says to Zacchaeus, salvation has come to your house. You are safe at home. You are safe from your sin and the tragedy of it. You are safe from your obstacles. You are safe from the snickering and clambering of the crowd. And I pray, Chestnut Grove, that we might be people who attend to that. I pray that whether you need to climb a tree, or you need to step over someone that is in your way, or whether you need to, like little Carlos, take the steps up on the stage that you’ve been afraid to take. I pray that Zacchaeus will inspire you, this wee little man, to do the thing that you need to do, that you might find the one who’s waiting to pronounce you safe at home.
Our prayer is that you find ‘Pulpit to Page’ to be full of warmth, welcome and challenge.
Service given by Rev. Lance King 11/10/2013. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Scott J. Toney: Singer, Father, Husband and Author, Scott J. Toney is a family man first and a great lover of the written word. With over 45,000 copies distributed he tackles Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Christian genres, using his Journalism and Public Relations background in constructing characters and worlds. Scott joins forces with other authors as a member of Breakwater Harbor Books and is enthusiastic about the worlds and stories to come! Visit his writing blog here.
Thank you for following this piece for the last few weeks. I hope you enjoyed it. Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a message below.