Welcome (Living Faith 7.3.1)
The church lives to praise God.
We have no higher calling
Than to offer the worship that belongs to God
Day by day, Sunday by Sunday.
Preparation Praise: As the deer
Call to Worship
Through the preaching of the Word
And the celebration of the Sacraments,
In praise, prayer, teaching and fellowship,
God sustains the life of the church.
We worship God as Lord
Offering ourselves in the serve of Christ,
Rejoicing that we have been brought from darkness to light.
Worship draws us into the work of Christ.
Even now he intercedes for the world
To which he came and for which he died.
In union with him, the church prays
For the healing and the salvation of the world.
Blessing and honour and glory and power
Be to our God for ever and ever!
Opening Praise: Here I am to worship
O Lord God,
You are our God. By your love we came into being. By your call, we are made your people. By your grace we walk each day to live the life of love and be known as Christians who love one another. Be glad of our presence here today. Receive this worship. As we praise your name, may our blessings glorify you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Scripture Reading Luke 19:1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Sermon: Jesus and Zacchaeus
Can we imagine him as one of those superheroes in comics who fight for justice? A small unassuming person whom people never really liked. Everyone knew Zacchaeus was up to no good. He was a Roman tax collector after all. He would not only collect tax for those enemies, but he would also collect more than the government in Rome wanted, pocketing the difference each time. He was small, evil, rich and was backed by Roman power. Can he be a hero? Nah! There’s no way he could be like the Hulk.raging against the evil enemies, the shy journalist Clark Kent flying all over to fight evil, or the batman who fights the evil powers, eh?
In older days, Zacchaeus was taught in Sunday School classes as one of children’s favourite Bible stories. It did not matter whether children thought otherwise. Sunday School teachers assumed that because Zacchaeus was small he was more like a child and children who heard this story would immediately see themselves in Zacchaeus. O how so many years later adults who were bigger than Zacchaeus did not pay him respect but used him as Sunday morning moral prop! He was small. He must have been like a child! I know the feeling. In the world of tall people, small people get no respect. You don’t know how many girls thought I was a good friend to whom they could share their true infatuation with that tall muscle in the school football team.
Yes, it is not too difficult to imagine how local Jews would have hated this little man. Under normal circumstances, they could have easily ignored him, but not when the time for tax came around. He’d be there with Roman soldiers counting out to the last penny, having spied on everyone as to how much each person had to pay. Everyone knew he was cheating, but no one could tell the Romans. Romans trusted this little man. He was good for the Romans because he knew everything about all those who had to pay taxes. He made it his business to know. That was how he could cheat and get rich so well. Only if he used his position and power for the good of the people instead of enriching his own pockets. O well. The world is full of these Zacchaeus types.
What is a Zacchaeus type? A small man who finds a way to support him and his family, no? A tiny man, who often amounts to nobody except that he has got this position in a government office with just enough power to make his neighbours uncomfortable, no? A little man of little importance that without his position as Roman lackey he would be shunned and ignored by others, no? A limited man without much hope of advancing in life eking out whatever he can out of his limited position, no? In whatever way we look at this little man who has to climb up a tree to see Jesus is an ultimate outcast who do not belong to his people because of what he has been doing to his own people.
In this part of Luke’s gospel, Zacchaeus is described as a man who is rich. He is also a powerful person as the chief tax-collector. He may be small in size, but he certainly has power and wealth. Our imagination of Zacchaeus as poor and outcast is not fitting. He was not a two bit corrupt tax collector. If there were to be any tax scams to benefit tax collectors, he is the mastermind. He is smart and very self-aware. He is given such an important responsibility because he is cunning and is able to serve Rome in very beneficial ways. He is not a pushover. He was known as a sinner by all. So the question is, why does Zacchaeus want to see Jesus?
He heard Jesus was going to pass by. He wanted to see who this Jesus was. He heard about him. He wanted to see in order to know. The strange thing is, how do you get to know who a person is by simply seeing? Yet, most of us get to know people better when we see with our own eyes. Our eyes pick up so many things about a person. So he runs ahead of the crowd. He figures out that to see Jesus who is moving with a large number of people, he needs to be on a higher spot. He sees a sycamore tree. He climbs up. Perched on the tree, now he can see Jesus unimpeded. There he sits and waits.
Soon the entourage approaches. Jesus comes right up to the tree and speaks directly to Zacchaeus. What a surprise! Zacchaeus never met Jesus before. Zacchaeus does not know Jesus. Yet, Jesus knows him. He calls Zacchaeus by name. It appears that Jesus knows everything about him. Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus is delighted. A sinner is hosting this very important person. A sinner who has done so many wrongs is able to provide hospitality to this holy one of God. He could not believe his ears. So many others could not believe their ears. They grumbled because a holy person like Jesus should not be sharing tables with sinners Zacchaeus.
Then, a transformation that no one expected. Zacchaeus wants to make right all the wrong things he did. He would offer half of his wealth to the poor and recompense 4 times the amount he defrauded. His riches were no longer his alone, but blessings that are to be shared with all God’s people. Zacchaeus is turning around. He is leaving the life of sinful tax-collection behind. He is changed by this encounter with Jesus. It appears as if it was God’s doing all along, the desire in Zacchaeus to see this Jesus and know him. It is not seeing him, however, that changed Zacchaeus. It was the calling by Jesus and Jesus’ invitation to enter into rest with him as Jesus rests in Zacchaeus’ house that changed him.
Zacchaeus is not a superhero type person. He is simply a sinner who finds redemption in his encounter with Jesus. He was lost to God as a sinner. By a simple call through Jesus, he repents and returns to God. It is a simple and straightforward story. This story is told by Luke in ways to challenge readers like us to ponder how great God’s generosity is. More than likely, if there is one whom we root for in order to see God’s justice done, we would pick people like Zacchaeus. Yes those who are rich and powerful who misuse their positions to enrich themselves by defrauding the poor and the weak.
It is an extraordinary story of redemption. The rich and powerful man who is a sinner is now repented and in God’s presence. If this man can be received into God’s presence how much more all of us will rejoice in God when we repent?
Prayer (from The PCC)
God who calls throughout the ages,
we give thanks that you have spoken to your people in every generation,
calling them into the light,
showing them the paths of justice,
guiding them out of the bondage into freedom.
In every age, you have called leaders to guide your people with courage and insight,
speaking through them to offer comfort and challenge.
We give you thanks for your Holy Spirit,
who offers the gift of faith to us,
and for the ways that those who came before us have handed that faith on to us.
As we give thanks for all that we have received,
remind us that we are but a small part of your creation, its history, life and love.
May such a reminder keep us humble in our mission,
even as you call us to take up our place
in the ongoing story of your love with courage and creativity.
Hear our prayers, O God, for your church in this place and around the world.
Sustain and support the work of the Gospel.
Where the church is in physical danger, protect it with your Spirit.
Where the church is facing division, unify it through your love.
Where the church lacks courage to stand up for justice,
embolden it with example of those saints who have gone before us.
Where the church lacks energy or vision,
renew its hope in the presence of Christ who is with us always.
God of the past, the present, and what is still to come
We thank you today for all those saints who have shown us how to love each other,
and for those who still touch people in trouble with tenderness,
caring for the sick, cheering the lonely, helping the poor.
In this quiet moment, we remember those around us who need a saint
to reach out to them in their need this day:
Give each of us the courage and compassion to be your saints alive today, touching the world in Jesus’ name, as we pray in the words he taught us:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, power and glory forever. Amen.
Cinnamon Bun Tuesday: every Tuesday at 10 am
Wine, Women, and Songs: Studies on the role of wine, women and praise in the Church, on three Thursdays starting on Thursday, November, 3
Next Sunday is Remembrance Sunday
Sunday 13th of November is our special music worship service at 2 pm and morning devotion at 10:30 am.
Hymn: Will you come and follow me