Homily – Sunday, the 30th October 2022

Reading: Luke 19:1-10

Hannah Elizabeth Goslar passed away this weekend at the age of 94 in Jerusalem. She epitomised the Lost Train and was the survivor who told us firsthand stories of our own history. She was best known for her close friendship Ann Frank, the Haneli in the Diary of a Young Girl. They went to school together and were also together in the camp. Hannah managed to escape while Ann did not. Netflix brought this story back to the life of our younger generations when they aired the 2021 movie- My best friend Ann Frank- which was a depiction of this friendship. So when we hear the names Anne Frank and Haneli there are several images that come to our mind- of our own collective memory and the past.

Slightly different but same is the case with Zacchaeus

The Zacchaeus Story

When we hear the very name Zacchaeus what are the images that come to our mind?

We immediately think of a short man, peeping through the twigs of a tree, wanting to see Jesus.

On further probe into our Sunday school lessons we know that he was a rich tax collector, that Jesus went to his home and shared a meal, though the people around him did not like it , and Jesus proclaimed salvation to him when Zacchaeus promptly responded with a statement of transformation.

Elizabeth Joy in one of her articles in the book “The Journey in Servanthood”, points at the deciding factors of the route map of Jesus and she suggests that Jesus route was decided by Marginality as Priority- his first preference was always people in the margins.

If we look at the gospel of Luke the people in the margins were clearly the focus. The previous chapter, chapter 18, narrated the parables of the persistent widow, the tax collector, had the incident of little children and their access to Jesus and the healing of the blind man. Chapter 17 spoke of Jesus healing the ten persons with leprosy and the parable of the poor man Lazarus

In this particular case it is the story of Zacchaeus

There are certain things in life that would not necessarily change, in Zacchaeus case his stature could be one such reality- we need to learn to live with them. But there are certain aspects of life that can radically change if you have the right encounters and in this case is his entire attitude to life, wealth and grabbing.

Let us take a closer look at the story

The Route Map of Jesus- MAP- Marginality as Priority

  • Zacchaeus the rich man- We must specially note that the incident is recorded after the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and that of the rich man and the kingdom of God. In both the stories the rich are denied a space in the kingdom of God. That would not mean that there is no hope. Here is the story of a rich man who was able to appropriate salvation
    • Zacchaeus the short man- The stature of Zacchaeus hindered him from gaining a vantage point to see Jesus. The crowd was not helpful either. People pushed to the margins due to their physical challenges points at a sharp reality of exclusion. Marginality defined by disability. Now watch the route map of Jesus. There is a clear distinction between abled bodies people and people living with different kinds of disabilities. Fragility is not only physical- but it could also be mental, emotional, spiritual, social, moral, ethical, economic or even intellectual. But those in the margins were always a priority of Jesus. He had a preferential option for the margins and the marginalised.
    • Zacchaeus the tax collector. As we know tax collectors were loathed by the people because they worked for the colonial powers who subdued their people and charged exorbitant taxes. Terrains were auctioned off and the tax collectors who bid the region used the rulers stamp to squeeze all kinds of taxes from people and they were hated for the same. They were often friendless and branded as sinners. Note that when Jesus decided to eat with him the crowds were not happy. Being hated and sidelined is not an easy feeling. It is a difficult kind of marginalisation

Incidentally I am reminded that at the lay discipleship course there was an interesting question. If Jesus were in Europe today how would he die? Would we crucify him?

There was an interesting answer- he would die of exclusion and neglect. No one would be interested in Jesus. The church with all its ritual, pomp and glory would still not be interested in Christ. The priest would be busy with his sermon and the people with the cares of their daily lives that no one would take him seriously. Though it might sound like extending reality a bit too far- we cannot but see the under-pining engagement of Jesus- marginality was a priority for Jesus for his engagement.

The 7S Intervention of Jesus- Strategy of Mission

  • SPOT- Spotting People who need the touch of Christ most. I was at the Board meeting of AsiaCMS. The tagline of missional engagement was affirmed. Together in the edges of God’s Mission. There are several people groups pushed to the edges and it important we spot them. See them.
    • STOP- In a busy world stopping by the tree to wait on someone who probably want to hide is something missional engagement should study seriously. Mission is not only a journey from one place to the other- it is also everything that happens on the way. Zacchaeus desired to see Jesus. But he was hiding up the tree. Jesus stopped. One of the principles of mission is this- Stopping at the Right Place. The Zacchaeus of today could be in your home, in your workplace or somewhere on the way. Do we see them?
    • SUMMON- Jesus called him by name Zacchaeus and said Come Down! Do not stay far and up there. Come here, near me. The Invitation of Mission has been the same all the time- Come and See Jesus. Note that he did not refuse- he immediately came down.
    • STAY- To Stay with- is one of the most personal and intimate ways of mission engagement. We have missionaries who stay with people in the nooks and corners of the world, just to share to share the transforming life of Christ. The reverse hospitality wherein Jesus is walking into the house of Zacchaeus, inviting himself is exactly what pastoral visits are all about. Have we heard this gospel call of Jesus- Come down I want to stay in your house.
    • SUP- to eat with- is central to relationship building. Obviously not many people went to eat with Zacchaeus the tax collector, certainly not the rabbis and religious leaders. When Jesus decided to go and eat- there was quite a lot of eye brow raising. Yet he saw the potential of what a meal together would do. So when we talk of our meals together we must see the missional potential of each.

One of our co-mission partners is engaged in rescuing children and women who are victims of human trafficking, To connect with them she had to open a boutique and offered going home for services and often ate with them in their vulnerable contexts. Mission takes varied forms.

  • SAVE- to announce the good news. He is also a son of Abraham and today Salvation has come to this house. Jesus is the salvation. He has come home. That is a life changing coming. Zacchaeus announced first that now Lord I share my wealth to the poor and recompense for all that I have wrongly acquired.
    • SHIFT-To affirm the Paradigm Shift and Identity Shift is but a natural response of having Jesus in. Half of my wealth I give to the poor and whatever I have defrauded I will return fourfold. I am no longer the greedy sinner and I am the saved child of God.

Where are we in our spiritual journey?

7 S strategy is a tool of geo-positioning each one of us by pinning us in the map.

  • Where are we in relationship to be spotted by Christ- Do we think we are actually spotted by Christ. It is good to be reminded once a while that the Church is the safest place to hide from God and like Jesus spotted the hiding Zacchaeus up in a tree- he would spot you anywhere too- including in the church.
    • Do we see Christ stopping by interested to engage with us. Zacchaeus would have expected that he could take a glimpse of Christ from afar and be satisfied and that Jesus would walk on but when Christ stops- He Stops for you.
    • Do we hear the soft simple voice of Christ summoning COME. Come Down from the tree. Come to Me. Yes, he calls by name and says Come Down and it is not always easy to say- It is not me- surely there could be some other Zacchaeus somewhere around. It could be him.
    • Do we realise that Jesus actually wants to stay with us. Are our homes ready to host him at unexpected moments in life? Or do we prefer to say- Not today- I am busy, I have made no arrangements. Are our homes future ready. Are our homes Jesus ready. Today is Remembrance Day where we remember all our dear departed. We specially thank them for the churching they offered us in many of our cases. But more than that we thank the Lord because they made us Jesus ready.
    • Do we see Jesus sharing a meal with us- Have we not heard several people saying- I opened my eyes to see that the stranger who shared my table was Christ himself. Luke concludes his gospel with the Emmaus narrative- the stranger walking with, staying with and sharing a meal. They opened their eyes to see that it was Jesus.
    • Do we truly manifest the paradigm shifts that come alongside choosing Jesus. Willing to share our riches with the poor and recompensing for all the defrauding that has happened in our lives?
    • DO we experience the saving act of God in Christ in our life. Today salvation has come to this home. Has salvation come to our homes?

Where do we think we are in our faith journeys? If we use the modern geo-positioning tool of pinning our location, where would we be,

The RESET and the new beginning

Most of us deal with electronic gadgets and it is natural that they at times mal-function. Before we call the technician most of us know of two secrets which in most cases would work. One is to restart and the other is to reset. In a normal computer if you use the reset option in most cases the entire memory is lost and cleared unless otherwise alternatively stored and the machine reboots to a fresh start. If we opt to save the system from viruses the option is to reset and start afresh.

In theological parlour RESET is similarly defined

RESET- Repentance Ensuring Social and Economic Transformation (Elizabeth Joy)

Like in the case of Zacchaeus there is repentance and that leads to social transformation and economic transformation.

As Jesus walked into him amidst the grumbling of the crowd Zacchaeus stood up and said- Look Lord- HERE and NOW I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anybody, I will pay four times.

It was at this declaration of repentance and intend to transform that Jesus announces- Today, salvation has come to this house- because this man too is a son of Abraham. For the son of Man came to seek and save the lost.

We as a church should note

Jesus comes and Repentance is the result of the genuine encounter

Repentance is all about transformation- there is a personal aspect to it, a social aspect to it, an economic aspect to it.

When greed makes way to sharing with the poor, when defrauding makes way to recompense salvation becomes manifest.

The Church should not forget the primary mission- the Son of Man is come to SEEK and SAVE the lost. The Lost Ones Are Everywhere

Vinod Victor

October 30, 2022

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