Archive for November, 2013

“What was I thinking?”

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

“What was I thinking?”

Matthew 24:36-44

When I was sixteen years old my dad said to me, enjoy your life because it goes quickly and in what will seem like no time, you’ll be my age and I remember my assessment at the time. Your age, goodness that’s so far away it will take me two life times to reach it, and that he was at the grand old age of forty years old at the time, I wonder now-just “what was I thinking?”

Time fly’s and in March 2012, shortly after arriving in Dubbo and some fifteen plus years after having played my last game of Aussie Rules Football I returned to the training track for the Dubbo Demons Aussie Rules Football Club ready to burn up the track and as we set off in the warm up laps I saw possibly the slowest runner I’ve ever seen and that I couldn’t keep up with him was somewhat a significant dent to the ego.

Funnily enough, that very night the president of the Lutheran Church at the time rang me up to see how I was settling in and after I had said that I had been to footy training but had to leave early because I had to attend a church meeting that night, laughed and made a suggestion that it might be wise to have a church meeting to attend every footy training night.

John Lennon once said that “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” and indeed It would seem that while I was distracted on other things during those fifteen or so years, something had happened to me that I didn’t realise until that fateful night and to say I was caught unawares is somewhat an understatement.

Distracted and caught unawares like to which Christ talks of in today’s Gospel reading where he warns of the dangers of getting so caught up in life’s daily activities like those of Noah’s time, that though Noah preached to them the coming flood and offered them a way out with free tickets aboard the Ark, they did not heed his warnings until it was too late. So too Jesus says will it be with His return. And that it will be at a time that we do not expect, whether in earthly death or still standing as we see Him coming in the clouds we must be always ready.

So how do we get ready?

What is interesting is that in our epistle reading two weeks ago, St. Paul after having through the Holy Spirit brought the Thessalonians to understand and believe in what awaits them in the return of Christ, has a crack at them because they’ve decided that’s all that matters and have decided to just kick back and smell the roses until that day.

Contrastingly, those of Noah’s time after seeing him build a boat for about seventy years in a place where it didn’t much rain and was nowhere near the sea seemingly get it in the neck for eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage and getting on with life.

That the Thessalonians certainly seemed ready but get hauled over the coals for being idle and Noahs mob miss the boat because they are not being idle begs the question of us and how we are too be ready to board the Ark to safety of our times in that of Jesus Christ.

But Jesus does not say to get ready, but to be ready and at this given point in time we either are ready or we are not ready to meet him because we either are already on the His ark or we are not.

Similar the question is not do you want to leave this earth yet or not because that is subjective as there have been times when I most certainly have and times like now when I wouldn’t mind sticking around for quite a while yet.

Thankfully knowing if you are ready or not is neither subjective nor undecided because Christ does not sit on the fence in such matters and to be ready is to believe in what he has told us in His Words of the Gospel. Being that it’s not what we think or do, but what He has done and knows.

I mentioned one other time that a noted theologian asked our class how do we grow as Christians and after we offered all these pious replies, simply told us that to grow as a Christian is too come to know daily of what it means to kneel before the cross and understand our cry of “Lord have mercy”.

To kneel at the cross, whether it be days where we are clinging to life with our fingernails or flying like an eagle we come before Christ not saved through good works and pious living nor discarded because of our ills and wayward ways. But kneel at the cross of Christ be it as Mother Theresa or the thief on the cross and are given mercy and eternal life in faith in what Christ has done alone.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that “two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other one left” just as with the two thieves of the cross next to Jesus, one taken and one left. Sets of twos not separated by what they were doing or what they had done, but separated by knowing Him and trusting in what he had done for them.

For one man from the field, one women grinding at the mill, a thief and I assume Mother Theresa, they no longer need to be concerned with any subjectivity of if they either are or are not good enough to reside with their Lord in paradise for they have now realised the promise given to them by Christ, that in Him and trusting in Him alone never again will they suffer hunger, tears or death.

So what of us? Should we knowing the truth of what awaits us sit around like the Thessalonians and unconcerned of life around us? Or get busy with life like those of Noah’s time and risk missing the boat?

Neither and both because kneeling at the cross of Christ you have been forgiven and like the Thessalonians most certainly that is all you need to do and know. Neither and both because like those of Noah’s time we are to be part of the community, but not through being separated from the Ark of Christ but because we know we are already on it.

We don’t get ready to meet Jesus as we either are or we are not and which of the two comes back to not focussing on ourselves but on Him. And in focussing on Christ alone and kneeling before Him and asking for His mercy and forgiveness you have been saved and most certainly will dwell with Him in paradise.

Kneeling at the cross of Christ is to know what awaits us when we meet him without any subjectivity or doubt. Yet as the day of that promise is still yet to come, for now we live our today’s in the here and know and though some days will bring storms and some fine weather, knowing in the truth we live opening our lives to those around us that they too will see the still open door to Christ that they too be taken. To open our lives not to only one man in the field, one lady grinding in the mill or one thief bearing his sin, but to the others as well that they come two by two as they hear Jesus Words beckoning they join Him on His Ark of Mercy to safety and life.

In faith in Jesus alone you are ready to meet Him today; pray that through us others may too become ready. Amen.

Shackled and drawn

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

“Shackled and drawn”

Luke 23:33-43

Billy Graham said “If ever you should doubt the love of God, take a long, deep look at the cross, for in the cross you find the expression of God’s love.” The word expression stands for the manifestation or materialisation and in today’s Gospel God’s love is shown for what it is without need for in-depth theological debate or discussion as we see two criminals of equal offenses and receiving equal earthly justice on either side of the sinless Son of God. Two sinners both out of time to fix their wrongs and out of time to ask for a stay of their sentence that they start again and walk a better road and yet under the sure shadow of death, one is given life as he looks to Jesus next to him and in knowing who he is and what he stands for and in asking simply for Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”, hears “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”.

A miracle performed. Not a miracle performed that Jesus brings forgiveness to one who has lived a life in all the wrong places, but the miracle that this criminal has come to see the truth of Jesus. The truth that in him that regardless of how far we have fallen, he offers forgiveness without question, and should we simply accept it in him alone we too “will be with him in paradise”.

When I was very, very young (about six years old) I remember thinking about the terrible pain Jesus must have suffered on the cross, but also remember that as horrific as it was, that if only I could know for sure like Jesus did that he was going to heaven, that if I knew for sure that I too would go to heaven it would be so life changing that I wouldn’t have to be sad or worry about things or to have to have toys like others, because why would I?

Unfortunately it took me another twenty years to kneel at the base of the cross and understand the grace of God like the forgiven criminal on his cross. Twenty years of nightclubs, pubs and all manner of ills and ways of clothing myself with shields to not think of just how lowly I stood before God only to find out what I had wished for right from the start, and that my road to Jesus is not one I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, it was the road that maybe I had to travel to understand the unconditional love and forgiveness of God and know his grace. That though I did not know it as I travelled through many dangers, toils and snares, it was the grace of God that brought me through it, and only in his grace can I reside as he leads me home.

Our journeys to know the grace of God like the criminal on the cross are different. That some have known the truth of His love early in life and some not so is of no consequence when we hear his words of grace in our lives. His grace that allows to live without need to fear or be anxious. His grace that allows us to really live and not need to keep up with the “jones’ or put up shields to protect ourselves from being hurt. His grace that brings freedom.

Unfortunately, I’m still learning and often these lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s seem a little too close for comfort:

“Great morning light splits through the chain
another day older and closer to the grave
I’m closer to the grave and come the dawn
I woke this morning shackled and drawn

Pick up the rock, son, and carry it on
Trudging through the dark in a world gone wrong
Woke up this morning shackled and drawn”.

We are free in Christ to live today as His children. Living to love and serve Christ and His children. To show charity and hospitality to all who come before us and to strive daily to live as God would wish us. Yet still shackled and drawn by knowing what we are as though we try, we fail. Though we only need Christ, we seek more and though we don’t doubt the Lord’s love for us, we doubt our love for him.

We live feeling torn between knowing the truth of Christ and the truth of our fallen selves and that fight can be fierce as the same powers of darkness that placed Jesus on the cross look to take the truth of Christ from us.

The truth that like two criminals separated by Jesus on His cross, one to His left dying in His sin, and one to His right given eternal life in Christ we see ourselves. Jesus on His cross between us with our sin and death to His left, and His righteousness with us on His right that in Him, we too will most surely be with Him in paradise.

And though the powers of darkness may endeavor that we trudge through the dark in a world gone wrong shackled and drawn” as sung by Bruce in his songs opening lyrics, truth is those shackles have been released and like how he finishes the same song so to can we when he sings that:

I want everybody to stand up and be counted tonight
you know we got to pray together
I want everybody to stand up and be counted tonight

Because in kneeling at the cross of Jesus you are forgiven. And forgiven He lifts you up to stand free from death and sin, to be alive in His righteousness in this world and the world to come. Amen.

“Minimum Chips”

Monday, November 18th, 2013

“Minimum Chips”

Isaiah 65:17-25, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

In the book of Genesis chapter 9, after the waters of the great flood had subsided we are told that “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. Yet only two chapters later we read that humankind has does just the opposite and have migrated back together as a united and single speaking community with the resolve to build a city with a tower “whose top may reach into the heavens so that they make a name for themselves lest they be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

God justifiably is less than impressed and with concern of the limitless self-interested and sinful pride of such a situation intervenes and confuses their languages making it impossible for effective communication within their society and in line with “birds of a feather flock together”, so too of those of the same tongue who formed groups and disbursed over the face of all the earth leaving behind a half built tower known to us Babel, coming from the Hebrew verb Balal which means “to confuse”.

Given that historians have dated these events at around the year 2,000 Before Christ it is some time later that we hear of the confusion of the apostles minds as while they are admiring the great temple of God with its dazzling white stones and shimmering gold finishes Jesus instructs them that “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another as all will be thrown down” to which did come about in the year 70 A.D. by way of the Roman army offensive against Jerusalem.

Fast forward another 2,000 odd years and we see nothing has changed as we the inhabitants of God’s world still look to find security and happiness in earthly structures, be they be big bank accounts and possessions, big promotions, big superannuation or the like as it would seem that even in the gathering of the faithful in a so called “Mega Church” that big is better, and if we could get a few more each Sunday what a blessing that would be and the more the better to hear the Word of God and receive his gifts. Yet Jesus also talks of how he works with the small:

-That where 2 or 3 are gathered he is present and of the benefits of having a faith the size of a mustard seed, and that a pastor and theologian once said to me that instead of one great congregation of a thousand members, he would prefer four congregations of two hundred and fifty seems to make some sense.

Don’t get me wrong, whether in numbers large or small any coming together of those to worship and receive from The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are being blessed and should we have the capacity in our earthly lives to fund a big holiday or my favorite, a big screen T.V. go for it. Yet the irony is that should the holiday be planned only around seeing as many countries and sights as possible-you see a lot but don’t get to understand much.

Similar with my fondness of big screen T.V.s in that its size has only managed me to see the same movie but at a further distance away underscores the problem of big, like where we may have a throng of “friends” that we communicate with through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, yet should the house catch fire the one who may come and help is neighbor that we live next to but were too busy to introduce ourselves.

There is a saying that ultimate power becomes ultimate corruption and while the gifts of our modern age are just that, gifts, it does give rise to scenarios like in my lounge sitting where I now sit afar from the contents of what is being displayed due the size of the object, the T.V. screen itself. So to with the smoke and mirrors of our age that we can become at a distance to the real substance of our lives-Jesus Christ, and then when our towers of Babel built on the changing sands of time come crashing down, so too would we if not for our neighbor who though we looked past, was waiting patiently to tame the flames with His waters of Baptism and love that we not only survive amongst the rubble, but rebuilt our temple not on sand, but on His unbreakable gifts to us. Our neigbour Jesus who we held at a distance  but comes to us and takes us in as His family, that in Him  we not perish, but flourish in the certainty of His life giving forgiveness and promise of eternal life.

To be sustained in His promise and forgiveness and endure in times of trouble and destruction, as those told of in today’s gospel.

To endure knowing in His promise and forgiveness as we await our last day and unite with those who have gone before as told to us in the “New heaven and new earth” as described today’s Old Testament reading where “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, the lion shall eat straw like an ox and there will be no longer any hurt or destruction”.

And to live now in His promise and forgiveness heeding His Word of the epistle reading that having been saved in faith by Christ and free from the ways of the world, we are free to serve him by being in the world but not of the world.

In his song Me and Bobby McGee Kris Kristofferson penned the famous lyric of “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose”, and having been saved Christ we have nothing that can be lost as we come to know John the Baptist words for ourselves and join with him in rejoicing that “therefore now this joy of ours in now complete, He must become greater and we must become less” for no longer do we need to ask like those in captivity in Babylon “how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” but trust in where He has placed us in our lives and trust that through the Lord that “the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts will be acceptable in His sight” as we make our way towards our grand and eternal reunion. And though we often fail and fall and doubt our abilities, we know that Jesus is with us and works in the small as well as the great for He has told us “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”.

The sure grace of our Lord that gives us the freedom from self-interest to become less, that He become more and the sure grace of our Lord that gives us freedom amongst the turbulence of our lives because in the sure promise of Christ that your sins are forgiven in faith in Him alone, and that you may have known His love right from the start or been born with a restless yearning heart is of no consequence because now His Words are your words-That Christ Died for you, and you are saved, and being saved you are free to serve him in the big and the seemingly small.

Christ died for you may seem like four small words, but in realising that it is me and you individually and collectively those words transform like four words said to me by a five year old child who while sitting next to me on a plane flight from Adelaide to Brisbane and noting that I was not a comfortable flyer, after teasing me for about ten minutes about wings and all sorts of parts of the plane either falling off or being damaged remarked “but you’re not meant to be scared, because you’re the dad”.

“Because you’re the dad”. Four small words struck me with the awakening of the silliness of my worry that not only changed my fear of flying but somehow, even though we still struck regular turbulence brought me the freedom to actually enjoy the ride.

“Christ died for you” and you are saved. Saved from not needing to aspire to riches, yet saved from them controlling you if they do come your way. Saved from needing fame or to be top of the rung, yet if achieved is given as a gift to serve both the Lord and those he places before you, be it in earthly needs, spiritual needs or both.

“Christ died for you” that you are saved and though you may have been born with a restless yearning heart, no longer do you need to search, because He has found you with His love he held from the start-and His love that He won’t let part that through you as you are-whether in the big or the small, in the pro-active or re-active, in the known or unknown, that in trusting in Him alone that the Words of our lips and actions from our hearts will be heard and give light to a better way of living to those still in the captivity of earthly entrapments, sin and self. The Words of our lips and actions from our heart that gives light not to human towers, but to His cross. The Words of our lips and actions from our heart that gives light not to ourselves, but to Him, our Saviour Jesus Christ. .

That was where the message ended. Then as chance would have it, not long after and waiting at the fish and chip shop to pick up our order. A lady and her young son came in and counted up their coins to purchase minimum chips. If they’d come up short I think I would have had enough left to fix it up, but in hindsight with the view to not insult their sense of self-worth I should have offered them the piece of fish we had ordered by suggesting that I got the order wrong and so didn’t need it and if they wanted it, better them than me throwing it away. The point is that it reminded me of why I actually became a pastor. Being that having seen and sometimes trying to help the poor and homeless, it always upset me knowing that they would still be hungry the next day then realised for them what I had come to know. That hope amongst the adversity, that survival amongst the pain and the strength to carry on when the load is heavy is through having to come to know the love of Jesus, and we as Christians having been given the means and the faith, that no much how little or how great is a gift to us that the strength of His gospel and love is made perfect in their weaknesses, as it is with ours. Amen.

Don’t be deceived.

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

“Brothers and sisters in arms-Christs”

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17

 

As the church year draws to a close, the readings begin to reflect themes of eschatology, that is, the ‘last things’ and in our reading today from 2nd Thessalonians it would appear that some of the congregation at Thessalonica had come to understand from reading a fake letter, as if from Paul, that the ‘day of the Lord’ had already begun and not just initiated. Paul seeing how unsettling this teaching could be, and fearing a lasting disturbance, he reminds them that before the second coming of Christ occurs the antichrist-here termed the man of lawlessness- must appear in the church. This figure, empowered by Satan, would lead a widespread rebellion against the truth of Christ before the end comes. He is doomed, though, for destruction by Christ when he comes. To add further to the importance of not being swept away, Paul stresses their need to stand firm in line with the truth they had been taught.

A parallel text is that spoken of by Jesus himself in Matthew Chapter 24: “(Then) if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ Or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

In short whether regionally or globally, teachings that do not adhere to the Holy scriptures as recorded are to be rejected and should someone arise in outback New South Wales or in the Holy seats of Rome or Jerusalem and announce them to be God or a Saviour, unless Jesus has returned on the clouds of the sky seen by all, they are to be rejected as charlatans, no matter how persuasive their words, actions, signs and wonders may be.

Sobering stuff that Jesus has told us beforehand that should we be still walking this earth at that time, that we be not deceived in this final display of trickery that Martin Luther makes note: “Paul is not speaking about heathen kings, but about someone ruling in the Church. (As) God’s temple is not the description for a pile of stones, but the whole community of Christians described as one in which the Anti-Christ is to reign proclaiming himself to be God.

These are biblical lessons that we don’t talk of much these days which is fine because our lives lived under the grace of God are not to be concerned with past errors or anxieties of what awaits tomorrow, but lived in the here and now. Yet while we joyously live in the here and now in the sure knowledge of being saved in faith in Christ alone, today and on our last day, the Lord gives us these lessons so that we are prepared not only for the last great deception, but also for current time attacks on the Word of God and his people because to be forewarned is to be forearmed in opposition to being unaware and deceived.

The truth is that the end times started when Jesus won our battle on the cross. And knowing that to be the case, the powers of darkness have been “going down swinging” by attacking what they know to be true, the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The “unworldly” gospel of Jesus Christ which tells us that in him, and in faith in him alone are we saved. Not through good works are we saved and not through our failings and sin are we condemned. But faith in Jesus and what he has done for us are we lifted up.

As Christians blessed with faith we know this and sometimes wonder how others could not. Truth is Christ’s promise is counter-cultural and I remember a noted theologian once saying:

“That when you are in small struggling parish, do not be despondent but joyous that the few there believe because in the world we live in, it’s a miracle that any one believes”.

That miracle is faith. Faith not from our own desire or planning, but brought to us from outside of ourselves by the Holy Spirit while we didn’t know it, yet reverberating through every facet of our soul, body and life to be the most precious thing that we cling. Faith that when we approach God the Father, nothing in our hands do we bring, but in faith in the cross do we cling. And standing there beneath the cross we come to see the truth of God the Father. Not a vindictive God, but our God of mercy known through the comforting words of truth from Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Peace with God, not through ourselves but in knowing the truth of Christ, and accepting his righteousness for ourselves. His righteousness from Isaiah 32:17: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”.

The Word of God tells us the truth, and the Holy Spirit brings us the faith to believe it and our lives are changed forever to know the peace and assurance that lets us hold firm and fear not when the foundations of society are being shaken around us. The peace and assurance to stand firm in patient endurance and as a strong witness to the unchanging truth of God amongst the changing and challenging times as described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Peace and assurance given to us in Christ to not fall to what may seem, but to stand in and for what truth is. His truth that we are told in Romans 10:9-17 will not disappoint:

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame or disappointed.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

The Word of God is powerful and the fictional movie makes interesting point of such where a post-apocalyptic dictator has his Hench men try and track down the last remaining bible on earth so that he use its words of power for himself and create his own kingdom.

It is fiction but the power of God’s Word is not and a respected pastor once told me that it is the truth about the truth recorded in Isaiah 55:11 that allows him to continue in his vocation:

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

The Word of God through its hearing brings the miracle of faith to us through the Holy Spirit. That is a powerful Word. The Word that we ourselves must stand in and know its peace and assurance, and the Word that when attacked we must stand up for that others be not led astray.

The Word that gives us the power of humility should others be not. The Word that gives us the power to forgive those who forgive us not and the Word that gives us the strength and assurance to carry on in our vocations dwelling in peace and happiness knowing that in faith in Christ you are forgiven and saved today, and will be on your last day:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 838-39)

Amen.

 

What you see is what you get

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

“What you see is what you get”

Luke 19:1-10

On Monday I was reading an article written by a fashion journalist whose job ultimately led to regularly interviewing models and she said this of her experiences:

“I know it sounds terribly glamorous but if I’d gnawed off a finger every time a model told me her looks were due to water, sleep and whatever product she’s paid to spruik, I’d be digit-less. Honestly, in 20 years of asking – and I’ve had big names babble in to my voice recorder – not one has spoken the truth, namely: “I’m lucky to look like this. It’s all down to genes. Don’t let either of us pretend that it isn’t.”

But then she goes onto to talk of model Kate Moss who she says is a breath of fresh air because she just goes about her business, being herself in her chosen vocation allowed to her primarily through her gene pool. A “super model” with the eyes of the fashion world on her who’s made mistakes that she doesn’t deny or revel in. She quirky and flawed and in the street you’d barely know it was her which makes her more real. But mostly, it’s because she’s just like everyone else-just like us, and gives the whole of herself-just as she is.

It reminds me of a sports commentator who said that on nearly every occasion that he’s met a gifted athlete, he almost always has left stunned that besides that persons unassailable gift in their sporting field, they are just like us.

Today we are invited to look into the mirror of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Zacchaeus who we will see is pretty much just like us.

A lot has been written about Zacchaeus pondering and developing a background for him politically, socially, emotionally, religiously and psychologically. Truth is we don’t know much about him and why he was up the tree other than what we are told, that “he was a rich tax collector and being short in stature he climbed a sycamore tree so he could “see who Jesus was”.

All this makes logical non-ground breaking stuff when we know from scripture and history that while on His current journey to Jerusalem. Jesus just previously had an interesting encounter with a rich man in Galilee who was saddened when Jesus told him to give his possessions to the poor and follow him, to which Jesus replied that it was easier to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, and those around Jesus hearing this were amazed at His statement and asked “who then can be saved?” And we remember Jesus answering “what is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Then Jesus, in healing a blind man as he approaches Zacchaeus’ home city of Jericho it is understandable that he has attracted quite a crowd. Such a crowd that Zacchaeus needed to gain some higher ground to get a view and with Jericho being one of the wealthiest cities in Palestine with tightly packed-yet spacious villas and many parks, it easier to gain a height advantage by climbing a tree in the park than trying to commandeer  someone’s roof top.

Hardly ground breaking material and if the Annual Dubbo Autobahn V8 supercar race wound its way down Macquarie Street and up Ronald Street, a few of us would find ourselves trying to get the best vantage point available. Be it as a guest in the sponsors corporate box or hanging from one of the branches out the front of the manse. And afterwards like going to the movies or an AFL game, enjoy the entertainment, go home and life carries on as normal.

Well not for the tree hugging Zacchaeus whose life’s climate is about to change dramatically when the star of the show Jesus turns to him and tells him to hurry and come down as he wants to stay with him, and thankfully Zacchaeus response is not like that of the gentleman who by chance happened to be sitting next to Tony Abbott on a plane flight from Canberra to Sydney and after sharing an enjoyable flight together he asked if when they exit the plane, that when Tony sees that the man’s friends have welcomed him, it would give them a kick if Tony approached him like an old friend. Agreeing, Tony approached the man and with his friends present said: “George it’s great to see you again, what have you been up too” only to hear: “Oh not now Tony, give me a break I’m with my friends”.

Zacchaeus, being scorned by those religious in the crowd as a sinner does not fall to such a temptation of responding to Jesus with any big noting or look at me gestures. He just simply says yes and in doing so His life will never be the same again and we see he is no different to us.

Because Zacchaeus story is our story, we did not find Jesus, he found us. We did not invite Jesus in, He invites himself in and our lives are changed to know hope, peace and life.

We could stop right there but there still are a few loose ends that need answering.

Zacchaeus is a man of some means. He’s rich and we know that “just” prior Jesus told another rich man that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. So how did Zacchaeus manage it? Well he didn’t, God did, because “what is impossible for men is possible for God.”

Maybe Zacchaeus at least played a part in it after all he did decide to give away half of his money and to pay back four times what he may have cheated anyone, surely that counted for something towards Jesus announcing that salvation had come to him and his house. No. Jesus words of salvation within this scenario as it plays out were directed to some of the bystanders who could not understand why he would stay in the house of Zacchaeus, a sinner. Jesus’ response is to tell them that Zacchaeus also belongs to God’s family, and on this day blessing and trust have come to him and only after that does Zacchaeus come through with his commitment to share his money and change his life.

Zacchaeus is just like us. Jesus found us. He invited himself in and forgave us and we see and know for ourselves, that in Jesus Christ “what was impossible for us, was possible for God”, and our lives as we knew them have changed.

Not changed that we look different. Not changed that we need to change the pattern of our lives in where we work, play or live. But changed because we now see ourselves and our lives through the forgiven eyes of He who came to us. Ourselves, quirky and flawed yet cherished by the Lord who does demand we be anything else. Our quirks and flaws that bring the light of his love to this world through those we meet in our normal lives, by being normal. By being ourselves and while that may not wash with some people, it will with those who we accept into our lives as they are, and realise not the chains of religion, but the freedom of Christ as they see, they are just like us-that in God’s love for us, that while we were still sinners he sent his Son to die for us, and for them.

Be we a supermodel, a tax collector up a tree, pastor, banker, mechanic, auto detailer, husband, wife, son, daughter, rich or poor-because Jesus Christ came to us and invited himself in, we need not be something we are not, but revel in what we are-and that is a saved Son and daughter of the one who gave everything and demanded nothing and in the fleeting time left to us, pray we too demand nothing of others, but give the whole of ourselves to them, just as we are to those just as they are that the light of Christ and his message of acceptance and forgiveness shines bright  to those in the crowd who know him not. Amen.