Sunday, September 26, 2010

God Longs to be with Us - A Homily for Back to Church Sunday, 2010

A Homily for Back to Church Sunday, 2010
Sunday, Sept 26th, 2010
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 19:1-10

“A man was there named Zacchaeus.”
-Luke 19:2

It was a new beginning for the man called Zacchaeus.

Now, this Zacchaeus was certainly not the most popular fellow in town; he was, after all, a tax collector. And if our present day tax man has a bad reputation, it was all the much worse in those ancient times when tax men earned their pay by either skimming as much as they could off the top of the tax bill, or extorting citizens for unjust fees. Is it any wonder then that when Jesus came through town and the crowds gathered round, that no one would let Zacchaeus through to the front of the crowd? Zacchaeus was an outcast. As folk pressed in around Jesus, perhaps to see him perform a miracle, perhaps to feel his healing touch, or perhaps to hear Good News spoken into the darkness of the moment, Zacchaeus was squeezed out.

You have to give him credit, though. As the crowds surrounded Jesus, Zacchaeus, who was short of stature, ran up ahead and found a tree to climb. Once above the crowd, he at last caught a glimpse of Jesus, and then, something remarkable happened. Jesus spotted him and called to him! Somehow, Jesus knew him and called to him and uttered the surprising words, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down; for I must stay at your house today!” One can only imagine the silence that fell upon the crowd, a crowd that was pressing in around Jesus, longing to be close to the Messiah. One can only imagine the looks old Zacchaeus received when the Lord spotted him in the tree and called to him. But in spite of what others might have thought, Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed Jesus into his home.

It was a new beginning.

I think all of us need new beginnings from time-to-time. Is there anyone amongst us who has never felt that they have not been included, or that they have been cast aside, or that they have been forgotten? Perhaps, like Zacchaeus, we might have a job to do for which we are disliked or outcast. Perhaps, we just don’t feel like we are as important as other people; maybe we just don’t have enough money, or enough status. Perhaps conflict or disappointments have made us feel as though even going to “catch a glimpse” of that parade everyone else is attending is not even worth the effort. Discouragement can enslave us to loneliness and despair. In all of this we, ourselves, are often outcasts.

But, by God’s grace, it is in those very moments that something stirs within us: perhaps we should just take a little look, maybe sneak a little glance, just to see what is happening on the other side of the crowd. As we move a little closer, we know something is happening, and our curiosity stirs us to peer above or through the crowd, and it is at that moment, as we catch a glimpse of him, that Jesus calls our name.

A new beginning.

When it seems that all is lost, Jesus calls our name. When we feel as though we have been abandoned, Jesus calls our name. When we feel that we are outcast and have nothing left to give, Jesus calls our name. And what does he say? Let me come home with you today. At our lowest ebb, when all others fall away, Jesus says, “I want to be with you!”

Let me come home with you today. I want to be with you. As these words penetrate our hearts and break through the disappointment and discouragement of our lives; as these words penetrate our loneliness, we begin to awaken to a startling reality, that we are not alone and never have been alone; that we are not lost and have never been lost! God has searched us out and found us. He has searched us out through all the changes and chances of this life. He has journeyed with us through all our winding roads, but it is only in our recognition that we need him that our eyes our opened to the reality of his divine and abiding presence. It the moment of our deepest longing, we push through that crowd, and our eyes meet his. Before we even get a chance to speak, he speaks to us, and calls to us by name: Let me come home with you today.

A new beginning.

When Jesus calls Zacchaeus’s name, he is changed; he is transformed. He no longer defrauds the poor, and he seeks to make reparation for his wrongs, but most importantly, Zacchaeus is turned from despair to hopefulness, and from sadness to joy. His encounter with Jesus, and his recognition that Jesus longs to be with him, empowers him to long to be with Jesus. Indeed, through this simple encounter, Christ is formed in Zacchaeus.

As we press forward to meet Jesus through the crowdedness of our lives, from our places of disappointment and our moments of brokenness, we can hear him call our names. As he calls to us with the words, “Let me come home with you today,” we realize that we have been found by God and indeed, that we have never been alone. My friends, God longs to be with us both as individuals and as a community, and with that realization comes for us a new beginning.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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