November 3, 2019 -Sermon

All Saints Sunday November 3, 2019 Psalm 150, Revelation 7:7-9, 1 John 3:1-3,
Luke 19:1-10 Out on a limb

Last week (in Bourne) Richard Jensen, our liturgist, instead of saying the usual “Good morning” instead sang – “Good morning!” And – we all sang back– “Good morning!”
“Wow,” Richard said, “I didn’t quite expect that! Let’s do it again!” And he sang“Good morning! Good morning to you!…” And we all sang back again to him – Good morning, good morning to you!….
And I remember thinking – “Wow – didn’t know we could sing so well together, without any practice or warning…” (Of course it helps that Richard, our choir director for many years, has a gift for singing in ways that inspire responsive singing…)
Which is kind of how I’ve been thinking about the kingdom of heaven this week, based on our first reading from Revelation, where we hear we will all be “heartily singing” by the throne of God together… People from all tribes and nations, races and languages, singing the Lord’s song together to the Lord…and to each other…

Which is also how I’ve been hearing Luke’s gospel lately. Visualizing it as a biblical musical – the words of the gospel our script – the hymns and spiritual songs of the church our musical score… And by the time We all get to heaven… We’ll all know our parts in the gospel drama so well… That we’ll be ready, willing, and able to join in singing the gospel story together, responsively – anytime, anywhere… And…
Maybe it’s because we’ve just done the Halloween thing again (including hosting the town library’s costume party with the Toe Jam Band in Bourne) that I’m thinking of the characters in this gospel musical as all dressed up in slightly exaggerated gospel costumes… to help us better visualize and communicate all the ways each and every character helps tell the gospel story… And maybe I’m also thinking of children and halloween all the more because…
Just a little before our gospel reading today Jesus tells us – unless we receive the kingdom of God as a little child we won’t get in at all… So –
I’m remembering a children’s song about a short little guy in Luke’s gospel: Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he– he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree – and he said –
Zacchaeus – you come down! For I’m coming to your house today.
I love this little story of a wee little guy going out on a limb for Jesus, because… I remember, back when I was a small boy, I used to love to climb trees to get a view from higher ground, when the world below was getting me down. I can relate to little Zacchaeus – short in height and short-in-stature – low-down-on-the-social-spectrum, like the kid nobody wants to be seen with in school. As a chief tax collector, working for Rome, the evil empire of the day, Zacchaeus was probably filthy-rich from exploiting his neighbors – taxing them-to-the-maximum on behalf of the Roman colonial empire that ruled Israel with an iron hand. Imagine an American colonist working as a tax collector for King George – that’s how Zack would be seen by his neighbors – way over on the wrong end of the taxation-without-representation-spectrum. Some would call him a traitor.

Yet – here comes short little Zacchaeus, who nobody wants to be seen with – climbing a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. A study in contrasts with another rich man who we’ve met just a few paragraphs earlier in St Luke – who also wants to see Jesus. If this was a Hollywood movie this other rich guy (who comes on stage first) would be clean-cut-good-looking like Bing Crosby or Fred Astaire – while Zack, rich man #2 would be small and gnarly-looking.

Yet, as we know, looks can often be deceiving. And we see that other rich man in Luke who believes he’s kept all the commandments since he was a child (including ‘you shall not covet’) – and is probably now a respected leader in the community as a grown up – when Jesus lets him know he’s got a serious money problem – addiction to wealth and the lifestyle that come with it – and invites him to give it up, and come, follow him and be rich in heaven – rich man #1 goes away sadly, sorrowing…

While Zacchaeus – who may not be welcome anywhere, even in church – held, as he is, in such low community esteem – nobody’s willing to move an inch to help him see Jesus – wants to see Jesus so much that he’s willing to look very foolish – As he climbs a sycamore tree, like a little lost child – instinctively understanding – Jesus is the one who can help him find his way home out of the mess his life has become. Now here he is – up the tree – out on a limb – trying to get a look at Jesus – and see who Jesus really is.

But Jesus sees him first. Sees him as he really is. It’s Jesus who greets him and invites himself over to Zack’s house for lunch, saying, Zacchaeus, you come down! For I’m coming to your house today.

People grumble about Jesus having lunch with this notorious sinner. But Jesus knows we’re all sinners – and – all saints – potentially.

And lo and behold – now, when he sees and hears Jesus – here’s Zacchaeus saying, “Lord, I’ll give half of all I’ve got to the poor – and if I’ve wronged or robbed anyone, I’ll pay back four times over whatever I took.” (He knows the law of Moses calls for four-fold repayment for theft (in Exodus 22). Zacchaeus is willing to make reparations if he’s stolen – as he almost surely has. Over-charging comes with the turf of his day job…

Yet here’s Zacchaeus – out on a limb trying to see Jesus – and Jesus, out on another kind of limb – going out of his way to be seen with a despised tax collector – whom other see as too lost to ever be found.
And as Zacchaeus sees Jesus – stopping to look and see and speak to him – and see into his heart – Seeing Jesus see and hear and know him – is enough to convince little Zack of his need for big changes in his life… in response to the humongous grace he sees in Jesus.

Which has me thinking of our second reading today from First John, where we’re told we are already God’s children. We don’t know yet the whole story of who we will be – but we do know we will be like Jesus: Loving, serving, and trusting God.

And here we have St Luke’s sneak preview of how we become saintlier saints… as we see bad-boy Zacchaeus climbing a tree, looking for Jesus. And Jesus seeing Zacchaeus far better than Zacchaeus can ever see himself.
Zack goes out on a limb for Jesus. But Jesus goes much further out – on many a longer limb for us. Where the world sees only a low-life sinner and tax collector – Jesus sees right through the tax-collector-costume – to little saint Zacchaeus beneath – eager to know Jesus – practicing generosity already – promising to do reparative justice…

And the invitation Jesus gives Zacchaeus, he gives to us all – the invitation to seek, find and get to know Jesus – and respond to the love of God by showing love for neighbors – especially the poor and any we may have wronged.
Jesus invites us all to keep inviting him into our lives – our homes – our communities. Jesus invites us to be eager, like Zacchaeus, to keep getting to know Jesus better and better… (We don’t have to ask Jesus to get to know us better… He knows each of us perfectly… already.)

Jesus sees through all our sin, delusion and illusion – all costumes, masks, false faces – sees through all our stuff – to see the child of God within struggling to get out of costume and shine with the light of God’s love. Sees in each of us the child of God he calls each of us to be – already part way to heaven… And so, yes…

Because of Jesus – we are already children of God – saints of God – works of God in progress – looking more and more like Him – as we continue together – singing to God and all the world–

Learning from Jesus all our gospel script –
Singing the hymns and songs of God…
With all the saints on earth and heaven –
All the way to heaven…
With Jesus, singing –

Thanks be to God. Amen.