Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes and Outline for the Sunday Message; Luke 19:1-10; 7 September 2014

Scripture for this week is Luke 19:1-10

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 and CEB

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 617 – I Come With Joy (use melody UMH 57)
UMH 393 – Spirit of the Living Lord
UMH 399 –Take My Life, and Let it Be

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other through our individual commitment to God. God is the common denominator in this relationship. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. Our commitment to God is what translates into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Our understanding of and our commitment to God translates into our interactions with the world around us, i.e. making disciples. That is why, As we continually try to reinvent ourselves, as we try to figure out what our churches (CUMC, FUMC and WUMC) will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

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Today I want to talk about Zacchaeus and how his commitment to God helped him to reinvent himself.

Zacchaeus intrigues me. He was a tax collector, an office that he had to purchase from the Romans. The way he made his living was to collect taxes from his neighbors, and whatever extra he could collect above and beyond what the Romans demanded he could keep for himself. But that is not all. The Bible explicitly states that Zacchaeus “was a chief tax collector and was wealthy” (Luke 19:2). Zacchaeus was good at “shaking” his neighbors for money and he had other tax collectors working for him as well. In a way he was the head of a pyramid scheme and in the center of a crime ring. Think about what his life was like.

{Illustration}

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When I think of Zacchaeus, I think of a modern day “Tony Soprano”: a man who knew that there was a different way to make a living but he was so stuck and mired in his environment that he could not even begin to imagine how to get there.

I suspect that when Zacchaeus heard of the rabbi who taught all around Galilee, and heard some of his teachings reiterated by others, Jesus came to represent that other way of life that Zacchaeus wanted but did not know how to attain.

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Albert Einstein said once that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I think that Jesus came to represent that new way of thinking for Zacchaeus. That is why Zacchaeus had to climb that tree; to get a glimpse of what his life could be, the life that he was dreaming about but did not know how to attain. Through the years he had built a certain kind of life, and he could not imagine the steps that needed to be taken to change his life.

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Jesus recognized that earnestness and hunger. Jesus recognized that tug-of-war going in Zacchaeus’ heart. Jesus recognized that honesty in Zacchaeus. Jesus recognized that willingness to be vulnerable and honest, if only inside Zacchaeus’ heart. Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today”.

Did you pick up on what happened next? The Bible tells us, ‘All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”’ Zacchaeus was the last man anyone expected Jesus would visit.

I suspect that Jesus stayed at the House of Zacchaeus for a couple of days.

{Illustration}

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Zacchaeus: “Journey from thug to saint

The result of that visit and time with Jesus was drastic. Zacchaeus was a changed man. Here is the change as described by Zacchaeus himself, “Look, [Jesus]! 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.” That statement was the outward sign of internal grace, change, and emotional growth in Zacchaeus’ life. Compare that to the story of a Rich Young Ruler found in Luke 18:18-30. Zacchaeus was willing to right the wrongs that he caused, and he was willing to turn his life around. The Young Rich Ruler on the other hand “became very sad, because he was very wealthy” (Luke 18:23). The Young Rich Ruler did not see the possibilities, he was not open to God’s guiding presence, he was not willing to experience the internal grace, change and emotional growth that Zacchaeus welcomed. The Young Rich Ruler could not imagine himself living a different life; Zacchaeus could. Zaccaheus had the vision, what he did not know was how to get “there”; how to change what he had to change, adjust what he had to adjust and adapt where he had to adapt…

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That is why Jesus gave us each other to be a church. As a community we can help each other tend the flames and energy of the Holy Spirit that help us to grow in grace and understanding of God. We do that by making disciples. We do that by helping each other grow emotionally and spiritually. We do that by helping each other to stay in love with Jesus and what Jesus represents in our lives. It is so easy to find ourselves in the shoes of the Young Rich Ruler who could not even imagine what life could be. It is also easy to find ourselves in Zacchaeus’ shoes, able to imagine what life could be but not knowing how to get there. Who among us has not said at one time or another, “I wish I could…” or “I wish I had…” or “I wish I was somewhere else…” and stopped there. That is the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus.

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Zacchaeus took that first step. Zacchaeus climbed the Sycamore tree, and as a result his life was changed. We come to the communion table.

{Transition to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.}

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