Habakkuk 1.1-4, 2.1-4; Luke 19.1-10
Have you ever gone looking for something … a pair of glasses, a book for some nighttime reading … that favorite pen of yours … “It was right here,” you declare, so you keep on looking, going back to the same places you looked at 10 minutes ago, “It’s got to be here, I know it is.”
So you keep on looking, and lo and behold, all of sudden, there it is - on the shelf by the TV … as if by magic, it appears … but you know, we all know, it was always there … it was there when you started looking, it was there when you passed it by the third time … it was there waiting for you to see it.
We can look, but not always see …
We see what we want to see …
In the same field, a farmer will notice the crop, geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the coloring, hikers a pathway to adventure. We may all look at the same thing … but it does not follow we’ll all see the same things.
When my children traveled, I always told them:
Use all your senses ... use your eyes to really see the landscape ... use your nose to smell the food, the odors of the city, the aroma of a country field in the hot sun of an August afternoon …
Use your hands to feel the rough stones of an ancient wall ... use your ears to listen to the sounds of life - a bird in the early morning singing to greet the sun, a dog barking in the distance ... someone opening up their shop, getting ready for the day ...
And taste the food ... it's complexity, familiar flavors and strange seasonings ... things that you'll want to eat again, and things that you'd rather forget ... use all your senses ...
In the movie, “Avatar,” the indigenous people of Pandora say to one another, when it’s important, when it counts, “I see you!”
Today’s story is all about seeing …
Zacchaeus is out and about and notices the crowds … being a man of importance, he’d like to know
Being a man of short stature, the crowds were a bit too much for him … being a resourceful man, he spots a sycamore tree and finds just the right branch to stand upon, to see Jesus.
What's extraordinary in the story is not Zacchaeus climbing a tree to see Jesus … but Jesus who stops beneath the tree to see Zacchaeus.
If Jesus hadn't stopped, Zacchaeus might have gone home afterward with nary a thought about it ... just another "interesting" moment in Jericho ... which might have made a good sermon title, "An Interesting Moment in Jericho" ...
When Jesus stops, the situation changes dramatically ... Jesus takes command of the moment ... Jesus “sees” Zacchaeus, tells him to come down, and be quick about it.
What’s a tax collector to do?
I’m fond of this story for many reasons … Zacchaeus is a plucky fellow … he’s not likely to have many friends … as was noted last week, tax collectors are no one’s favorite - they’re grifters, so to speak … and he’s no ordinary tax collector; he’s a chief tax collector, and he’s rich.
Zaccaeus sits on top of a pyramid … other tax collectors working for him, with the armed might of Rome backing them up … if you owed $10.00 in taxes, you might be asked for $20 … the soldier beside the tax collector made sure there were no complaints …
A nifty arrangement, but one likely to create a lot of grudges and even some enemies.
Jesus stops at the foot of the tree and says, Hurry and come down.
Hurry … because Jesus doesn’t have a lot of time … he’s taking a break on a journey to Jerusalem, and says, I must stay at your house today.
To our eyes, it doesn’t make any sense.
Does Jesus know Zacchaeus?
Does Zacchaeus know Jesus?
It’s a happenstance moment … we might well call it “a moment of grace” … God seems to know things about us that are mostly shades and shadows to us … there is no darkness for God … the night is as light as day, says the Psalmist.
Zacchaeus hurries down, pleased as punch.
He doesn’t have friends in town …
No one invites him to their backyard parties …
No one comes to his home.
The crowd grows restless … What’s the big idea? Zacchaeus is a bum, a sinner. Don’t we have fine upstanding citizens here? Important people? Jesus needs to see them, not waste his time with this cheap little crook.
Jesus says to Zacchaeus, You are a child of God; lots of folks may not think so, but I know so …
All these people waiting to see if I’ll come to their home, so they can add me to their social register.
But I’m going to your home Zacchaeus.
I know I’ll be well received.
Several things happen now in quick order … Zacchaeus makes wild promises … about putting things right … repaying what he’s extorted … giving to the poor.
Wow … did he follow through on any of this?
We don’t know, but Jesus says to him, Today, salvation has come to your home.
Last week, I said, “I can’t tell anyone how to find God” because it’s not our business to find God; no one can; no one finds God … in the same way a child finds a toy under the bed.
If I told you today to get busy and find God, I’d be doing you a disservice … putting a burden on you, an impossible burden.
Truth be told, we don’t find God …
That’s God’s business … this is what God does, all the time … finds us, sees us … stops beneath the tree we’ve climbed … Jesus might have walked on by, and that would have been the end of the story.
But Jesus stops … this much can be said: Zacchaeus made an effort to see something … that’s a critical piece of the story … to be here today, is that kind of an effort … if you’re tuned in via YouTube, it’s that kind of an effort.
A prayer, a plea, a promise, a moan or groan - the smallest effort is noticed by God …
Don’t be surprised if God pays you a visit.
To God be the glory.
Amen and Amen!