Monthly Archives: April 2017

Easter Sunday 16 April 2017: Eyes opened and hearts burning…

READING: Luke 24:1-12; 28-35.

MESSAGE

Friends of ours in Montana have new babies in the family. Seven in all. They are missionaries and have been for years – having once been part of the church family here.

Seven babies. Trying to catch up with a lady in our church who now has 16 great grandchildren? I think not. They are puppies.

I started off as a Methodist and became a Presbyterian along the road when my dad died. Years back I remember a joke about puppies that were born Presbyterian – and when their eyes opened they became Methodists. Or was it the other way around?

These days no-one cares what kind of Christian you are. As long as your eyes are opened – to the truth!

On the Emmaus road, the two followers of Jesus had listened to him explain what had happened in Jerusalem at that time. This is the bit we missed in the reading. It fits best here in the sermon:

15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.  (NRSV)

That’s where we picked it up in verse 28. It’s a powerful moment. It’s a moment that happens in our lives – or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t – then our eyes are still shut tight. Look at verse 28 and 29:

Luk 24:28  As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.Luk 24:29  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Why does he act as if he were going farther?

Come on – for an Easter egg – answer this one. It’s your test for the day. And that’s a hint for the answer. Yes – he’s testing them. How?

Think about it. What is their response when he pretends he is moving on into the night?

Yes! Hospitality! I think he was testing them to see if they had got the right idea from all his teachings and example. Listen again:

But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

If our eyes are still shut, it may well me that Jesus has given us that opportunity too. He’s been right there. And we’ve not invited him into our lives to carry on the conversation.

You see you don’t have to understand it all. You’ve just got to open the door of your life – your family – your world. Not just your heart. We limit Jesus if we only talk about him coming into our hearts. It’s very individualistic.

In fact the only scripture that makes sense when it come to having Jesus in our hearts is this one. It’s part of a prayer:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 2:16-19)

If your eyes are to be opened –  then it’s pretty close to having the eyes of your heart enlightened! The lights come on or at least shine brighter!

The one bible verse that people use when encouraging people to invite Jesus into their hearts is this one from Revelation 3 – written to the church in Laodicea who are being chastised for being lukewarm. Jesus says this to them:

Rev 3:19  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Rev 3:20  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 Open which door? Great question. It’s not their hearts – because when they open the door he says he will come in and eat with him and he with me.

That sounds like Jesus in the centre of their lives – at a meal table – like the two on the road to Emmaus who “strongly urge” Jesus to stay with them because of the approaching perils of the night.

The implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus for us far exceed our individual inner life – the matters of the heart.

Like Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:11-10) – he wants to get us off our tree branch (our perch if you like) and come talk with us about life.

The gift of Easter through the cross and resurrection of Jesus is not just a ticket into heaven or Jesus in my heart. It’s a new community of reconciliation and unity in Christ – even though we are so very different from one another (Jews, Gentiles and the rest).

It’s a new family and community seeking first the Kingdom – because Jesus is king – he has defeated the dark side, and rescued us from its consequences – bringing us into a kingdom of light. When you read the rest of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 2 it suddenly makes sense:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21)

When our eyes are opened, we find ourselves in a new relationship and power source.

It’s like changing electricity supplier from one which fails most days to the most reliable and consistent one.

Resurrection life – like eternal life – begins now. (Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 3 -“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”)

Paul says this in Romans 8:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:9-11)

HAVE YOUR EYES BEEN OPENED THIS EASTER?

  • Yes – you saw the yummy Easter eggs on the shelves.
  • Yes you knew about Jesus dying on the cross, and what happened on the 3rd day.

What matters most is that you have discovered the reality of the cross and resurrection’s power in your life now.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe

For the two on the road- they recognised him when he broke the bread. This wasn’t the institutionalised communion service we celebrate today.

It was the evening meal – in the context of hospitality – when despite their own disappointment and confusion they still urged this stranger to stay with them at the end of that long day.

He did for a bit. And was gone. But they were not to be the same. They realised that He was the one who through word and spirit transformed lives. Listen to what they said afterwards:

…”Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The reading today ends with this:

Luk 24:35  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

May you recognise him and have your heart burning within you as speaks into your life.

Amen.

 

 

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14 April 2017 – Good Friday: Windows on the cross of Jesus.

READING: Luke 23:32-47

MESSAGE 

We’re going to carry that cross after we’re done here today. It’s a fair weight, but not full size.

We had a volunteer up on it last Friday. A young girl. It was about her size.

No nails. No ropes. She was just standing on the top of her chair with her hands in the right place and her feet where they would be resting on a platform – so that she could push herself up to breathe.

I asked her how she was feeling at the end of the reflection on the cross – and she said – “tired”.

Jesus’ cross would have been a bit bigger. About 7 to 9 feet tall (2,1m to 2,7m), and would have weighed up to 300 pounds (136kg)

  • It had to bear his full weight – which would pull on those nails. (And you thought a thorn in your foot was bad.)
  • His thorns were pressed down into his head.

What is your response to seeing Jesus on the cross?

  • We heard a creative narrative describing Jesus’ Mother’s response.
  • And the thoughts of the centurion.

What about us?

The cross was a horrible symbol of Roman power and control. if you had a relative or friend nailed on one, it would have acted as a warning to you and your family to behave and submit.

It would have been enough to give you nightmares and probably post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • That horrible symbol of torture – we wear in shiny gold or silver.
  • And as Christians we look at it with gratitude and hope, praise and thanksgiving.

Why? What happened with this one crucifixion amongst many thousands more – that made this possible? That this Friday should be called “Good”?

There are many ways to see the cross.

Like an orchestra with many parts, they all combine together in an amazing declaration of the love of God. Perhaps today a quintet is enough – just five of them:

  • Perhaps foremost in our thinking is punishment for our sins. That Jesus did this in our place. Although this is understood better in cultures that favour crime and punishment. We sing songs these days about the wrath of God being satisfied. Some people struggle with this – trying to balance it with His love in John 3:16 and 17. Believing that His son being sent motivated by love and not vengeance. That he was sent to save the world (which means the people), and not to condemn them. Of course, we should not be surprised at God’s righteous anger. We share some of that at times, although our motives are not always clear.

Related to that is the broader question of justice. The difference in our human justice system is that the people who have been wronged are often angry about the outcome and often want convicted criminals to pay more. Whereas the judges are not emotional at all. They are all about the balance and proportion of justice. Parents have to be careful here that they don’t punish children out of anger. Our emotional anger is very different from God’s righteous anger.

  • Shame and honour are another window on the cross. For some cultures, shame and honour are a bigger issue than punishment and wrath. When it comes to concepts like honour, many of us don’t understand honour cultures at all. Sin brings dishonour on us. And only Jesus can pay that debt. It’s an old theory of satisfaction for sin developed by an archbishop of Canterbury a thousand years ago. Jesus took our shame – it was a shameful business being pinned up there, and often naked too.

He was shamed for us – he takes our shame – and he removes our shame. The scripture speaks of our cleansing from sin and with that shame is removed.  For example 1Peter 2:6 – For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 

  • Forgiveness is part of the package. It goes without saying. Our sins are dealt with because he dies for them. We are reconciled with God – the blood of Jesus cleansing us from our sins – and we experience this amazing mercy through faith in Jesus. We don’t have to feel guilty any longer. With forgiveness, we become friends of God. Paul reminds in his important summary in 1 Corinthians 15:

1Co 15:3  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture…

What scripture is he referring to here? Not just some proof texts, but the huge expectation in the Old Testament of someone coming who would deal with sin and bring forgiveness once and for all. Isaiah 53 gives us a glimpse of this:

Isa 53:5  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isa 53:6  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

  •  Then there is simply the change that happenswe are transformed. Paul talks about this whole process in Romans – our sin has consequences – how Jesus has dealt with those – how we are justified by faith – how there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus– and then in chapter 12 he uses that important word “therefore”

Rom 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Rom 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are transformed – changed to be like Jesus. And that is not just about us as individuals – it influences our community life.

  • And so amongst other benefits of the cross and resurrection of Jesus is the creation of a new people. Last but not least. This is about us being here together today.

 Most of us who are not Jewish, says Paul in Ephesians 2, were… without hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

He goes on:

Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, Eph 2:15  by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, Eph 2:16  and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 

When we live out all these benefits in a community of reconciliation, that community includes people that would have normally been separated from each other.

Paul also reminds us in Galatians 3:28 Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And Jesus’ prayer for unity reinforces this: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:2–21)

This is an essential part our witness today when we gather as one people.

OUR RESPONSE TODAY

There are many more consequences to this death on the cross. So many books written – so many aspects and angles. Like that huge pink diamond sold earlier this month in Hong Kong which took nearly two years to cut, it has many facets and surfaces.

Like Mary, the centurion, any other characters in that Easter event, and people through the ages – we all have to respond one way or the other.

There is no escaping the demands the cross of Christ makes on us – to take note and react – and to take action ourselves.

How amazing that this one death does all this.

What has made the difference?

Do we have to wait until Sunday to find out?

Well no. Had this been any other death, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Unless we were tracing our family tree and found a relative who had been crucified, or some DNA connection that would make us think about our forefathers.

This is different – because of Sunday. The third day. The empty tomb.

The many appearances of Jesus to people. His eating food.

The fish barbeque on the beach.

The appearance of Jesus in locked rooms.

The holes in his hands and feet.

This is different – because of His unique position as the very first person to genuinely be resurrected. Yes, Lazarus and others were raised from the dead. They would have died from natural causes – probably in old age.

This Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith – is the first in the family – and we will follow. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1Co 15:20) 

  • We can’t speak about the cross without rejoicing in the resurrection.
  • And we can’t think of new life, resurrection life, without marveling at the amazing love of Christ – shown on the cross.

Paul’s words in Romans 5 help us end today:  Rom 5:7  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. Rom 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV84)

We thank Him for the cross today. Words can barely express our gratitude for His love.

Amen.

 

Sunday Sermon 9 April 2017 – Coat Sunday, or the day of the King’s visitation

READING: Luke 19:28-44

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE:

Did you bring a coat today? What kind, you say. It doesn’t matter. Rain coat. Warm coat. Wind breaker coat. Trench coat. Detective’s coat.

If you read the bible reading today – people had coats when Jesus came riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey. O wait – let’s watch the little guys’ story about the donkey. Then we’ll go back to the coats.

Cool story. Three famous donkey’s hey. Yes. Dave. Dave’s grandad. And the other one. What? Two? Okay but the third one could really speak. (verse Numbers 22:28-31  Balaam’s donkey)

Okay no Palms. A donkey and coats. Coats are good. You could put them on the donkey of you didn’t have a saddle. You could lay them on the floor – if you didn’t have a red carpet. Like that famous man, Sir Walter Raleigh. He put his cloak over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. Cool hey!

I reckon you have to do that for Kings and queens. And Jesus was and is a King. Best listen to him when he speaks!

Or just be a donkey carrying Jesus around. So people can see how great he is.

(Prayer for children as they leave)

ADULT MESSAGE:

Talking about coats, I remember very clearly the picture of Sir Walter Raleigh laying his cloak down over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. There it was in our history notes – that picture has stuck with me.

Trouble is it probably never happened. Blame Historian Thomas Fuller who liked to embellish facts. Walter Raleigh did get his head chopped off after his second holiday in the tower of London. During his first stay in the tower he wrote his first volume of his “History of the world” which was 776 pages long. On the grisly side, his head was embalmed and his widow carried it around with her for the rest of her life.

Now you’re wondering if that’s true. The coat and puddle story sounds more believable.

So, if we didn’t have John’s gospel, we wouldn’t have Palm Sunday. Only coat Sunday at best.

The point is that the genuineness of the accounts of Easter by the four gospel writers supports the historicity of the event. There is no attempt like witnesses protecting each other to line up their versions of the story with each other.

Only Matthew mentions the fulfilment of the prophecy from Zechariah: This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Matthew 21:4-5)

Only Matthew has this dramatic line like a Greek chorus calling out:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:10-11)

Only Luke seems to hint that there were Pharisees in the crowd of disciples. It changes we see the way they try to tone things down. Perhaps they were really concerned that this procession declaring Jesus as King could have dangerous repercussions. Remember in Acts 15:5 that there were Pharisees who became Christians. (It would have been like Christians today belonging to the Green Party or New Zealand first!)

The two things that really stand out in the reading from Luke today are FIRSTLY the words of those calling out:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (v38)

And then the warning to Jerusalem that Jesus gives after weeping over the city:

They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44)

  1. The first one links the proclamation on Palm Sunday with the words of the angels at Jesus’ birth. We are reminded that this is all the same story of Jesus (God Saves) Emmanuel (God with us) Messiah (anointed one) who comes to rescue us. Luke alone spells it out here:

“Blessed is the KING who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

His readers would make the connection. Remember how Herod the Great responded to the wise men’s news about the birth of a king?

Infanticide. The murder of the innocents. Boys up to two years of age.

This time round, we can’t expect anything different. Herod’s descendants are ruling a carved up holy land. Pilate has replaced one of them in Judea.

The power play will unfold. The authorities do not approve. Like Walter Raleigh in the tower of London waiting for his execution for treason, Jesus would be a threat to the rulers of the day once more.

A new king could only mean civil unrest, and Pilate could not allow it if he wanted to keep his job. Yes, he sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, but Antipas has his own agenda. This encounter is portrayed very simply in the film “Jesus”. And in the Passion of the Christ we see a better portrayal of Antipas in my view. You’ll have to read the subtitles as they are speaking in Aramaic. Or Latin.

Perhaps you’d like to watch this extract. It’s actually quite well done.

The Passion of Christ – the events of holy week – are deeply political.

  1. The second unique passage in Luke about this Coat Day is his response to the city of Jerusalem and his prophetic word about its destruction:

We pick it up in verse 43:

The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.

They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44)

Again, its deeply political. The Romans would always put down revolts. You only had the peace of Rome as a privilege – safety, good roads, aqueducts, protection – if you towed the line.

It’s the rejection of the visitation that is fascinating. (v44) Jesus says this:

They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

The original text does not have the word “God” in it. It’s simply a visitation.

Of course, its Jesus who is visiting. Messiah has come.

And they reject him.

The Jewish historian Josephus blamed the nationalists, the Zealots for the demise of the Jewish nation.

Jesus gives another reason of course. By rejecting him, Israel has chosen the way of judgment. It has missed the day and the moment.

What was true of the Jewish nation can also be true of individuals. To miss Jesus is to miss the time of visitation and face accountability before God.

So – consider this. Jesus comes marching into your life today.

  • Riding on a donkey.
  • Or on a bus for that matter. He visits you either way.

What are you going to do?

  • Shout Hosanna?
  • Hail Him as king?
  • Try to go for a softer option – don’t shout too loudly, you might upset the authorities. Hush!
  • Or will you miss his visitation altogether?

The consequences of ignoring who he is and what that means for our lives, our priorities, our decisions, our relationships, our finances, are all challenging. This is a great time to reflect on where Jesus is in our list of priorities.

There are a whole series of opportunities this Holy Week to gather and reflect on what it means for us now, and in eternity.

  • We call it holy week. It must grab our attention.
  • Our Korean friends who pray every morning up in the lounge have asked to move to the church at 5.30am each morning this Easter week. They take it seriously.
  • We have options to reflect on Jesus’ coming on Tuesday morning, Thursday night, Friday morning, and Sunday at Sunrise.

I’m not a prophet, but each year I can predict who will be at which service.

His is my 7th Easter. Go on. Surprise me. Come to something different.

This is about Jesus’ visitation – riding into our lives and being welcomed as King.

How about it? How do we welcome Him? Or are we just not too fussed about it all.

Amen.

Sunday message 2 April 2017 – To see or not to see

Readings: Psalm 130;  Luke 18:31 – 19:10

MESSAGE

I love it that we are all so different. I’ve always remembered what my mum used to say – it would be terrible if everyone looked like me. She meant herself – not me of course.

The disciples are a mixed bag. So too are the different people Jesus encountered in his travels.

In the passage we heard today, he is still on his journey to Jerusalem. For the third time, he tells the disciples what would happen when they get to the city.

He speaks of himself in third person: “the Son of Man will be handed over to the Gentiles. He will be mocked, insulted, spat upon, and flogged. They will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again” (18:31-33 NRSV)

They understand none of it. Even though God the Son is speaking.

Contrast this with the openness of the two people Jesus encounters along the way. Both are outcastes in one way or another. A blind beggar and a rich tax collector.

People who teach on the church and its mission today often say this – we need to go out there and join in with what God is already doing in the community. To be honest, I used to find that a bit odd. My take on the world out there was that people are often totally disinterested in God – and more than likely will be hostile.

When Jim Wallace was here, and listening to his stories – I think I began to understand this better. Remember how he spoke about “loitering with intent” so that he could connect with people in the community?

I’ve been doing that. It’s fascinating. More about that some other time. God is at work in peoples’ lives and we need to be available to interact with those workings. Those events and stories.

What I realised when reading this passage through the week is that God was in fact working in the community there too before Jesus came along the road.

The blind man had to ask what the commotion was – after all he was dependant on the sight of others. They tell him its Jesus of Nazareth passing by – and he starts calling out to Him:

Luk 18:38  He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Luk 18:39  Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus son of David. He uses another of his titles. Why? And why would he ask Jesus to have mercy on him in such a persistent way? What did he know about this man from Nazareth. The word had got out –  the news had travelled and had got his attention to the extent that he sees Jesus as a solution, someone who can change things.

And of course Zacchaeus would have heard something too about this man. Why else does he do the undignified thing and climb a tree to see him?

The scene is prepared. And then there’s Jesus. What can we learn from him today? Perhaps for men – who when they are on the road travelling tend to get irritated when the family wants to stop along the way. You know how we are – focussed on the destination. (Apparently I have improved in this department.)

Jesus doesn’t seem to mind stopping. He sees the interruptions as central ministry times.

It’s a bit like working here at the church through the week. Don’t plan too much – something will come along that takes its place. Because people matter more than programs and schedules.

So have a look at this:

Zacchaues_0000_Three-Sections

Divide this passage into three sections. The disciples, the blind man, and Zaccheus:

Zacchaues_0001_the-disciples

The disciples – despite being told three times – don’t understand what Jesus is saying.

On the other hand, the blind man does understand that Jesus is more than just a rabbi – a teacher. He asks for more than others would.

Zacchaues_0002_the-blind-man

He is saved – healed literally – by his faith in Jesus.

And Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus. He makes the effort because he knows that this is more than just a teacher.

Zacchaues_0003_he-was-trying-to-see

And the encounter with Zacchaeus also compares peoples’ ability to see or not to see what is happening.

I love Steve Thomason’s artwork. And that he is happy for anyone to use his drawings:

Zacchaues_0004_opening-scene-in-Jericho

The religious people are shown here as having no eyes at all. And I love Zacchaeus – we used to sing about him as a wee little man. He really is tiny in this picture.

But tax collectors – they really did not like them at all. And a chief tax collector would have made money out of the other tax collectors.

Zacchaues_0005_DANGER

Jesus sees more in Zacchaeus than the others do. People in the crowd had tried to silence the blind man. Here they can’t stop this little guy going ahead to get a good viewing spot to see Jesus. And Jesus sees him too! And does the unthinkable.

Zacchaues_0006_i-must-stay-at-your-house

Here the crowds would be muttering and murmuring about the scandal:

Zacchaues_0007_guest-of-a-sinner

The idea that Jesus would go to his home cuts across everything that their religion stood for – it stood for separation. Purity. Holiness. And tax collectors stood for the opposite.

You heard the rest of the story. This little man becomes big hearted.

Zacchaues_0009_zacchaeus-defense

Okay it doesn’t happen in the tree – it happens over a meal.

There’s something to be said for hospitality – whether we extend it or whether we invite ourselves into peoples’ lives. When we take the risk to get to know the marginalised and rejected ones.

The disciples in their inability to see are holding on to Jesus. Their minds could not get around the idea that he may deliberately go on a journey to this holy city only to be killed.

The blind man is calling out to Jesus. For mercy. He gets to see. Literally.

The little tax collector wants to see Jesus. Probably because he knew deep down that he needed whatever this Jesus offered.

And importantly – God was at work before Jesus came down the road to Jericho.

And he is at work before we go down our roads and paths to encounter people. The Mission people teach this:

Zacchaues_0014_A-Missional-Vision

As you go out this week – remember this. That God prepares the way before you bump into people – or meet them as you loiter with intent.

I found hanging around in the carpark and on the pavement that all kinds of people pass by.

And they are surprised when I greet them and ask them how they are – or direct them to a car park if they are coming in here for mainly music for example. The next time they come they are all smiles.

I discovered some who were German speaking, one who only knows Spanish. I’ve tried both languages – maybe there’s a reason for that – at least I can greet people in their mother tongue.

If we are to build bridges into peoples’ lives – so that it becomes easy to share with them – it helps to know that we are part of a bigger plan.

In the meantime, the story carries on. Jesus is happy to interrupt the journey on the way to His ultimate mission.

We will journey with him next week as we remember Palm Sunday – the crowds welcoming Him into Jerusalem – as he moves inevitably to his death.

I wonder what we will see – perhaps something new or different this Easter.

2 April seeing or not

Amen.