CALL TO WORSHIP
One: Jesus travelled many places.
All: Some made him welcome, others did not.
One: Yet in all places, Jesus made others feel welcome.
All: Jesus seldom missed a chance to tell someone they were beloved children of God.
One: And so in Jesus’ name I welcome you her
All: Beloved children of God, when we welcome one another, we welcome Jesus.
One: In the spirit of love, let us worship God.
New International Version (NIV)
1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
New International Version (NIV)
2 I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint
New International Version (NIV)
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
SERMON: THE PRESENCE OF ABSENCE
PRESENCE OF ABSENCE
Luke 19: 1-10
There was a little boy who got separated from his parents in a large shopping
center. The Security Department quickly located the child, and took him to an office while the frantic parents were paged over the public address. One of the security guards got a large ice cream cone for the boy, so when his parents arrived at the office, there was their little son happily eating his ice cream. Suddenly, as his parents embraced him, the child burst into tears. One of the security guards said, "Gosh, I guess he didn't know he was lost until he was found!"
Isn’t that like many people today who are lost, who need some help to find their way. Like that little boy we don’t always know we are lost until we are found and experience a wonderful home coming.
The story of Zacchaeaus is about people like you and me, who at times get LOST and need help finding our way back.
Often we assume stories in the New Testament are just for the people 2000 years ago, but the Bible relates to all generations-with stories and parables,-- teachings that have a message for us today. The story read this morning is no exception—its title “Zacchaeus meets Jesus.” And I’m sure there is a personal the message for each of us.
Traditionally Zacchaeus is a really despicable character, a sinner, He is a tax collector and lives a rich, lavish life-style. He was despised by everyone in the community, a real bad dude, and he needs to change and to turn his life around. He never met Jesus, but he seeks out Jesus by climbing a sycamore tree; Jesus sees him and goes to his house, there, he is transformed, turns his life around, he become a new man.
A wonderful story, this morning I would like to explore another possible interpretation to this story.
We must ask ourselves--WHY DID LUKE INCLUDE THIS STORY? The
story is not in the other gospels (Mark, Matthew or John.) I think Luke had problems with some wealthy members of his church community.
Maybe they complained about Luke’s invisible God while gentiles could see
and touch their gods, —the gentiles seemed to have little wooden or stone
statutes of their many gods in their homes--god of fertility—god of
harvest—god of weather—god of health, while Luke’s God couldn’t be
seen or touched or heard. And even when they search for God, it was all in
In an attempt to explain God’s constant love to these upstanding members of his congregation, Luke tells the story of Zacchaeus -- a person like them who had everything he could want—wealth—family-fine house yet his life was empty-- even with all his possessions -he felt empty and lost.
I noticed in the bible I was reading used the presence tense “I GIVE half my possessions to the poor. Other bibles use the future tense “I WILL GIVE half my possessions to the poor.
(New Revised Std.-Living Bible use the future tense “I will give.”
King James-Amplified-Revised Std. use the present tense “I give.”)
Reading in the present tense gave me a whole new interpretation to the story!! Listen to how the story might be told using the present tense. From New King James Bible.
Zacchaeus, had a family, lavish house and plenty of money, something was missing- he was LOST, felt alone and empty. He hears that his friend Jesus, who I think he had met before, will be passing through town and decides to discuss his problem with him--Jesus sees him and suggests they have dinner together.-so off they go to Zac’s house.
During the meal, Zacchaeus tell Jesus how frustrated he is, “let me tell you that I GIVE, not I will give, half my income to the poor, that’s more than the religious leaders asks of us. Furthermore, whenever I discover I made a mistake and cheated someone, I PAY, not I will pay, back far more then the law requires. He tells Jesus, “ I treat everyone fairly-- follow all the rules of the my Jewish faith; yet I’m miserable, unhappy, have no peace of mind. I spend half my time searching for God and yet GOD SEEMS ABSENT FROM MY LIFE.”
Jesus tells Zacchaeus to have FAITH, GOD’S LOVE IS ALWAYS PRESENT- Zacc. relishes hearing Jesus words and begins to understand God’s ways. Jesus restores Zacc faith in God and blesses his entire household. Jesus tells Zacc. to carry on being honest and fair in his dealing with the people knowing- God is with him.
I think Luke used the story as a way of helping his parishioners recognize although God is not seen, God is always present in their lives.
A natural question might be , “What does this have to do with us?”
A good question.
Maybe a lifelong dream has been crushed and we realize what was hoped will never come to pass. Or maybe it’s a crisis in our faith and have doubts. Or it could be some difficulty in our family situation, or problems in our personal relationships that drain the joy and enthusiasm out of life.
Outwardly we seem to have our lives all together- a job-- caring families--
a home—friends-abundant possessions, we seem to be enjoying the “good
life.” But inwardly, many of us feel lost, alone and empty. “GOD SEEMS
ABSENCE FROM OUR LIVES.” Sounds just like Zacc.
If there is someone who can help us , it’s Jesus, for he had similar
experiences of being alone.
Jesus experienced a lot of tension in his life as he followed God’s plan and he too, sometimes questioned “where was God!”
The bible tells us about the times “God seemed absence” from Jesus life.
--Jesus asked if the cup of the cross could be taken from him.
--Or remember on the cross he cried out “God why have you forsaken me.”
It seems to me we shouldn’t get upset because we don’t feel God’s presence, God didn’t abandon Jesus and God surely won’t abandon us.
An example of Christian faith was Mother Teresa,
this is a quotation from one of her letters. “In my heart there is no faith—no love –no trust—there is so much pain—the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul—and yet there is between us this terrible separation.”
Amazingly, through all her personal struggles, she continued to restore the hope of countless others with her radiant joy and serving others.
It didn’t matter HOW MOTHER TERESA FELT, JESUS GAVE HER COURAGE TO GO AND MEET GOD ON THE STREETS OF CALCUTTA
We, like Mother Teresa and Zaccheaus can get discouraged-- life seems empty because we do not “FEEL GOD’S PRESENCE” in our lives.
In the story Luke gives us a good starting place --WITH JESUS.
Jesus tells us God’s presence is not dependent on OUR FEELING OR LACKING OF FEELING; but if we look into the eyes of the men, women and children we meet each day—THERE WE WILL FIND GOD’S PRESENCE.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord we come to you this morning full of doubts and fear for this world. There are times we search for you, yet you seem absent, Help us to be aware of your presence- not found in our feelings but in our hearts. Give us the courage and the strength to continue to help bring justice and peace to your global village. Give us the faith to never doubt your presence in our lives and give us hope for a brighter future. AMEN