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Amy M. Ink Slingers

Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”
Luke 19:1-10

           How easy is it to say, “Oh this story.  I’ve heard this one” and begin tuning out, making a grocery list, thinking about what needs to be done for Monday?  How about if we look at it differently?
            Jesus goes to Jericho planning to pass through it.  Jericho was a place of sin.  We all have places of sin inside of us.  The chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, climbed a tree in order to see Jesus better.  Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, which probably means he was middle-aged.  I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting too old to climb any trees.  Climbing a tree was probably a very difficult feat for him.  
            Who was Zacchaeus?  A chief tax collector, a sinner.  He could be any one of us.  We are all sinners, all bedeviled by something, some power other than God.  We can identify with Zacchaeus.
           Despite his wickedness, something lured Zacchaeus in Jesus’ direction.  Maybe it was dissatisfaction with his life; maybe it was a growing realization that while he was richer, he was not happier.
           So he climbs that tree.  How about me?  Am I willing to go out on a limb to get a better look at Jesus?  All Jesus needs is the smallest move on our part.  As soon as we do, He’s ready.  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly.  I must stay at your house.”
           Jesus wants to stay in our soul.  He wants to move into our lives, our souls, all of us, public and private, friendships, marriage, job, relationships.
           What happens after Jesus moves in? Zacchaeus says he will give away half of his possessions and pay back four times anybody.  
           When Grace pours in, love pours out.  This is the very definition of salvation.  “Today salvation has come to this house.”
           Are you ready to go out on that limb? This Advent, are you going to climb that tree to see Jesus?  Are you going to invite Him to not just visit but move in and stay?  All it takes is that first step.

Zacchaeus Tree

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Ink Slingers

Our God is Here

our-god-is-here

The Mass three weekend’s ago was perfect. Of course, every Mass is technically perfect, but this one felt like the beginning when the liturgy was new to us and we were breathlessly aware of being part of the worship of the millenia with the cloud of witnesses both on earth and on the other side. Beautiful music not too high to sing, beloved Bible passages from Psalm 145 and Luke 19, and an expressive homily by a visiting Irish priest with a lovely accent. I’m sure it helped that my children were a little tired and droopy in the pews, without their usual boisterous participation. Even the seven year old shook hands sedately and murmured “Peace be with you” for the sign of peace instead of his usual hand-pumping “Howdy.” No one asked to leave to use the restroom, no one got tripped moving about and around for Holy Communion, and no one hung on my back while I was kneeling for prayer. It was a short mountaintop experience for this tired mother that rivaled any retreat from my younger days. Thank you, Lord, for such an oasis!

Sometimes it all comes together: the facts, the faith, and the feelings. Do you know this maxim? “Fact, faith, and feeling went walking on a wall. Feeling took a tumble and faith began to fall. Fact pulled them up again ’til all were walking tall.” It’s good to have the feelings perfectly in place with the facts and faith. But feelings make fickle masters because they are affected by everything. Or nothing. Much of the Christian life involves decisions based on the facts. Our “credo” – Latin for “I believe” – is a solid foundation upon which our faith rests. “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” calls the priest and the congregation sings, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again.”

Now that we know who our president and congressmen will be, I’m praying that my faith in the facts of salvation centered on Christ will keep a tight hold on my tenuous feelings. 

The Mass three weeks ago opened with, “Before the Lord, the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you spare all things because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls (Wisdom 11:22,26).” And we sang from Psalm 145, “I will extol you, my God and king; I will bless your name forever. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. All your works give you thanks, O Lord, and your faithful bless you. You are near to those who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth.” These inerrant words help me to breathe easier. Our time here is short. There is much we can do as civilized Americans and as Christians to be the hands of Jesus to ease pain and make our world a better place no matter who sits in our state capitols or Washington, D.C. 

Our Gospel reading that weekend was the story of Zaccheus. While the deacon was reading, I was mentally singing “Zaccheus was a wee little man; a wee little man was he…” from my Sunday school days! Whatever is happening; whatever good or bad place I may find myself; whether it’s my fault or not;  Jesus notices me. He notices everyone. When Zaccheus answered Jesus and let the Lord come in, he vowed to return what he’d taken and give away half of what he had. He was changed for the better and his sphere was changed for the better. It happens all the time when people listen to Jesus. Good things come from messes when Our Lord is involved, whether or not our chosen political candidates win.

The song that moved me to tears that weekend and that I’ve been humming ever since is called Our God is Here and it sounds like the song of the angels John saw in his revelation visions. “Here in this time, here in this place, our God is here. Here for the broken, here for the strong, here in this temple we belong. We are his body living as one, our God is here. And we cry holy, holy, holy are you. We cry holy, holy, holy and true. Amen we do believe our God is here.”

That’s my song. Whatever direction my beloved country may take, I will cry with the angels, Holy are you, holy and true; my God is here.

holy-holy-holy