10312010 JUMC Hiding in the Pews to See Jesus Luke 19.1-10

19He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’ (-NRSV)

In the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning tells the story of a man who had sinned greatly. His church excommunicated him, and he was forbidden to ever come into the church again. He repented. He wanted healing, so he went to the Lord, as the story goes, and said, “Lord, they won’t let me in because I am a sinner.” To which the Lord replied, “What are you complaining about, they won’t let me in either.”

The point of the modern parable was a good one: Poor sinners never fare well in churches that refuse to admit that we are all sinners and in desperate need of a salvation that is out of this world.

The Jewish Rabbinical religion of the first century offered little to ragamuffins.
Church that bases faith on what we can do to get right with God, what customs and rules we must keep to earn God’s favor, never do welcome such sinners. Such religion is still popular. You can gather a crowd if you just go around telling folks they must do this and do that: making faith simple, ease, and comfortable.

Zacchaeus means Pure. The tax collector, who had all the money and none of the joy or peace he sought was named Pure.
1. You name does not save you.

Zacchaeus goes up to see Jesus, but not necessarily to be seen. If you climb up a tree, you would generally be hidden by leaves and branches.
2. Some people what to know about Jesus, but are afraid to know Jesus.

Zacchaeus receives a direct invitation of Christian Hospitality.
3. Church is for worship, home is where the heart is.
Make yourself at home with Christ.

When Zacchaues sees, understands, experience, that Jesus includes
Folks even like Zach.. When Zacchaues is SEEN by Jesus..

Zacchaeus responds as a witness of a transformed heart.
4. He gives out of his sinful abundance.

It is said of the old preacher, Sam Jones from nearly a century ago, should we take money from knowing it comes from the proceeds of gambling and whiskey? He reply, CERTAINLY! The devil has had it long enough.

There is a response of Justice when Zacchaeus has been justified by Christ…
That is made whole by Christ, Zach’s response is to look at the whole of his life in Christ.
I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.

My beloved, I want to lift up this Jesus to you. Some of you are seated in these pews today, but in reality you are in a Sycamore tree, looking, searching, hoping to catch a glimpse of mercy. He is here. Our Savior who came for us, who died in our place, and who rose again that we might have life, is here today. Why don’t you come on down? Why don’t you, in your heart of hearts, right now, accept His divine invitation? He sees you, He welcomes you, and He will transform you.

This is the ministry of the Church. This is your work as Christians. To go to the places where Zacchaeus’ hide, to look at them with the eyes of Christ, to welcome them, and to go where others refuse to go. For you see, Zachaeus’ Gospel is my Gospel and yours. It is the Gospel we need to be proclaiming in our world, in our nation, in our homes.

Father, we are all ragamuffins. We are all twisted in parts of our souls. But, we thank You that You see us, You welcome us, and You will change us. Some of us have experienced that years ago.

But today we have lost the luster of grace. Restore it to us today, Lord. Some of us are burdened in our sins, our past, and our shame. We are still twisted. I thank You, Lord Jesus, that today, You are still bending down in Your amazing grace to give us the kiss of forgiveness.

Help this church to announce the Gospel of Grace to this community and as they join with other churches, to publish this Good News to a world of Zacchaeus’ looking and searching for mercy. In Your Name. Amen.

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