January 27, 2019

Sermon-Fifteenth Sunday of Luke Zaccheaus 2019

The Fifteenth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig, January 27, 2019

Like in the days of Zacchaeus, today people of certain professions have a
stigma attached to their person. Zacchaeus, mentioned in this morning’s Gospel,
was a tax collector for the hated Roman state which practiced the oppressive
taxation during the times of Jesus. As a tax collector Zacchaeus was regarded by
his fellow Jews to be a great sinner and a man completely given over to worldly
values. He was a man of the harsh realities of the world—ruthless competition for
wealth, exploitation of every opportunity, the aggressive pursuit of selfish interests.
Religion was not for him.

Zacchaeus, for some reason, however, was curious and interested in Jesus. It
was not mere curiosity but the first stirrings of faith that made him risk
embarrassment by climbing a tree in order to see Jesus as he passed through
Jericho. Zacchaeus was in search of something.

There are people today, who one might think, are not in the least interested
in matters of faith and religion. From time to time I am remarkably surprised. I
think it has a lot to do with one’s ability to be open minded; to “think outside of the
box;” to recognize that “I really don’t have it together or “know it all.” It also
helps if Christians have that attitude in encountering others in matters of faith. The
older I get, the more I realize that people really have choices and that you and I are
really not in control or can be in control of others. What pains many parents is the
hard truth of this as their children become adults.

At the end of today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say to Zacchaeus, “…this man,
too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was
lost.” There was definitely something about Zacchaeus’ conscience that prompted
him to seek, to see and to hear Jesus. And because of this desire, God brought
about a wonderful change in Zacchaeus, an astonishing liberation from his old self,
his previous ways of thinking and the values and life pattern of a tax collector of
that time.

Notice that it was outside of the Synagogue and away from the temple where
the encounter took place. Zacchaeus probably did not even think of going to the
Synagogue or Temple, and even if he did, the religious custom of his time would
not have allowed him to enter. But the day that Jesus spoke in the city of Jericho (a
town that had a high population of priests); Zacchaeus went out of his way to be
amidst the crowd.

We, at St. Michael have begun introducing our teens to: “The Relationship
Project” – a new approach in Christian education produced by Faithtree Resources;
that is actually not “new,” but very Biblical. The “Relationship Project”
demonstrates by its engaging group discussions that the Church is not a monologue
and was never meant to be. The Gospel provides countless examples of how
Christ engaged others and met them where they were. Today’s Gospel lesson is a
perfect example among many others: The Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, the
adulterous woman, Simon Peter, and the list goes on and on. Just take time to read
all of the conversations recorded in the gospels and you will find that in each
instance it was a face-to-face conversation.

When you and I consider how many ways we communicate today, you will
understand why what Faithtree is doing is very important. There was a time when
all we had was a land-line telephone (and that was not very long ago!). Then came
computers and e-mails, then came smart phones, then, texting, twitter then,
FaceBook, even Skype and FaceTime. There are many more ways for you and I to
avoid a personal face-to-face conversation today. With every technological
advances there are advantages and disadvantages. The means by which we form,
develop and maintain relationships must be re-examined with honesty. We have
resorted to all of these avenues and devices because you and I are in need of real
relationships. God has always made Himself available to us. But we have
received all kinds of distorted images and messages of who He really is.

St. Kyril writes concerning today’s Gospel lesson: Zacchaeus was chief of
tax collectors, a man entirely (abandoned) given to covetousness [greed] … But he
did not continue among their number… He sought to see [Jesus], but the multitude
prevented him. St. Kyril goes on to say that it was not so much the people that had
prevented him from seeing Jesus, as it was his sins. He was of [small] stature, not
merely in a bodily point of view, but also spiritually. Zacchaeus could, in no other
say see him, unless he was raised up from the earth. St. Kyril then
comments: …for in no other way can a man see Christ and believe in Him, except
by mounting up into the sycamore [tree], by rendering foolish his members which
are upon earth, fornication, uncleanness, etc.

The same is true for any of us whose lives are so preoccupied with our
concerns of this world. The Divine Liturgy for us is a time for “laying aside all
worldly cares” as we are about to sing in the Cherubic Hymn. It is not for the
purpose of escaping the realities of our life, but to help us in gaining a clear
perspective on life – a life, that is for us eternal life.

The radical transformation in Zacchaeus’ life was the love of God working
through Christ. Christ through His personal presence and divine love touched
Zacchaeus and completed changed him. The conversion power of God’s love
flowing through Christ transformed Zacchaeus into a new, free and joyful man. I
again want to point out to us that it was not in the Synagogue or around the Temple
where Zacchaeus’ life was changed but by the personal encounter that Zacchaeus
had by seeking, and by Jesus’ personal visit to Zacchaeus’ home.

One of the reasons why my visitation with you in your home, and for each of
us to spend time with each other is so important is because there needs to be
kinonia [spiritual bond of fellowship] – something that extends our time together
from corporate worship, “social fellowship,” and even business meetings. It is
essential that we take the time to meet personally, to get to know each other, to
pray together, and to support one another beyond being together at church.

In addition our parish’s 50th Anniversary Planning Committee has initiated
neighborhood house gatherings this year. If you would like to host a two hour
evening gathering in your home to get to know the parishioners in your
neighborhood, please let us know by speaking with me or contacting Carolyn Sadd
at: mysittee@yahoo.com

O Christ, our God, visit us today, that we like Zacchaeus may be transformed in
mind, heart and soul. May we lay aside all worldly cares that we may receive You
– the King of all. For Thou art our help, our Stronghold, and our Salvation and
to Thee do we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father who is unoriginate, and
Thine All-Holy, good, and Life-giving Spirit; now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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