Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: What to do with Uncle Zac?

SCRIPTURE: Luke 19.1-10

Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.

Zacchaeus too, is family.  But which family?

Maybe he’s the rich uncle everybody loves for the lavish presents he brings, but don’t want to see out in public because of all the suspicions about exactly how he has all that money – the guy we love as kids but cringe to know as adults.

He’s the one who never comes to church with us when he visits, always vaguely saying maybe some other time . . . I’ve really got to be going now . . .

Good ol’ Uncle Zac knows even more than we do as to why the likes of him should never darken the doors of the church . . . he already knows why he won’t be welcome there.

Yeah, he’s that guy.  His gospel is not good news.  It’s no gospel at all.  And no wonder, for he is who he is. . . and we are not.

So it is that the family crowd gathers on the streets leaving Uncle Zac behind sitting alone in the living room, no one bothering to explain to him all the fuss . . . but he’s listening – Uncle Zac always hears . . . and he wants to see as much as we do.

He runs outside, but forgetting him, we press in tighter together, leaving no room for Uncle Zac.

So he does a strange thing – something he’s never done before – something he probably can’t even explain to himself – he climbs a tree so that he too can see.

This grown man, known to us all our lives, climbs a tree and still we do not see him.

But Jesus does.

And in seeing Uncle Zac, Jesus changes him.

Uncle Zac didn’t get sorry to climb that tree – he got curious.  Even his meager curiosity was enough for Jesus, who takes the slightest crumb of our being and changes us into something spectacular:  he makes us beloved . . . he makes us welcome.

Jesus went to Zaccheaus’ house to stay – it’s worth remembering that hospitality is as much about receiving as it is about giving – we do no favors to another by having them to our home when we refuse to enter theirs.

Jesus was known not for who he invited to supper, but who invited him.  He makes them special simply by saying yes.  Accepting their invitations, he accepts them.

They are exactly who we think they are.  Uncle Zac was everything we thought he was.

But he was something else too: he was a child of Abraham.  Family matters.  He didn’t stop being family because he was bad, but we treated him as if he wasn’t family anymore.  We treated him like a stranger – like someone you have to be nice to because hospitality requires it.  We grudgingly let him come to our house, but we would never, never, never, darken the door of his.

Jesus’ answer to that kind of piety is the unspoken but sure reprimand:  shame on you.

Jesus is in the eye-opening business.

All he’s ever wanted from his followers when it comes to others is for us to see them as the family they are – beloved children . . .  just like us.

Is that so much to ask?

Uncle Zac, come on down now.  Let’s go to your house, okay?  Let’s hang out there on the porch.  Maybe that Jesus fellow will come and join us.  What do you say, Uncle Zac?  Won’t you come down, now?

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