HOMILY & IDEAS

Wis 11:22-12:2; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10.

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

There are so many wonderful preaching possibilities in the Zacchaeus passage from the Gospel of Luke that it is difficult to choose a particular angle.

This time around I have been reflecting upon how Zacchaeus undoubtedly bankrupted himself at the end of the story. In short, he put himself out of business by promising to give half of his possessions to the poor and especially by promising to repay anyone he extorted four times over the particular amount.

History tells us that the chief tax collector of such a prosperous place as Jericho would likely be the most hated man in the community. While Rome occupied the region, it profited from its commerce, and so did Zacchaeus. Whatever he could collect above and beyond what Rome demanded in taxes was pocketed as profit. Without question, the citizens of Jericho resentful viewed Zacchaeus as a chiseler and cheat.

All of this, of course, makes the decision of Jesus to stop, talk to, and plainly invite himself to the house of Zacchaeus remarkable. It reinforces the fifteenth chapter of Luke where lost sheep and lost coin is searched for and where the lost son is embraced. It reinforces the fact that nobody is beyond the possibility of conversion. Nobody is beyond the redemption. There is no past deed, behavior, or way of life, no matter how shameful, that can not be turned in a new pure direction.

However, it does require the cooperation and courage of the sinner and we see this cooperation and courage in Zacchaeus. In a real and concrete way he lets go of his sinful past. He does not only use words, but he intends to act upon his conviction. In effect, he bankrupts himself of sin. He puts that which leads him to sin out of business. He pulls the carpet out from under the walkway that leads to the slippery slope of sin and detours to higher and holy ground. Life will undoubtably still have its challenges and temptations but what an easier journey it will be for Zacchaeus now that he has put filed bankruptcy.

We are encouraged and challenged this weekend. We are encouraged by the fact that we can never be so lost, so low, so riddled with sin that we can not respond to the constant call of God for repentance, conversion and forgiveness. We are challenged to look at our own lives and determine what is fueling our capacity for sin and then to put it out of business. To file bankruptcy in that area and move on to greater, holier things.

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