Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10

Reading this selection from Habakkuk reminded me of the clips on the news of the Stewart—Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear hoping to bring civility to our politics. The political campaigns of this season have been something else.

I want to cry ‘help’ when I get message after message about why I should vote for one and not for another. My mail box is filled with multiple copies of conflicting political ads and I come to another election wondering if it wouldn’t help America more if all that money for advertising went instead to poorer Americans and our elderly who are struggling to meet the ever-increasing tax levies.

But as this passage continues, the end, even of this campaign season, is surely coming; it has seemed to tarry but it is coming; it will not delay. So what should we do this Tuesday: vote; if you’re registered to vote; vote for the people you think will provide the best leadership at the state and national level. And pray that the legislative process will begin to work for the benefit of the people.

We are two weeks from our annual meeting and I feel like Paul as he dictates this letter to the Christians in Thessalonica. We are growing numerically and faithfully. Our love for one another is evident. We have continued to be an effective church through the difficulties of this economic downturn and the need to replace people key to our life and worship.

We are an important part of the vibrancy of this community and region so let us continue in the words of Paul to make every good resolve and do every work of faith so that the name of Jesus Christ may be glorified.

The story of Zacchaeus the vertically-challenged tax collector is very familiar. Zacchaeus believes he is taking the initiative to see Jesus but it is clear that Jesus has his own plan in mind.

That is often the mistake that we make. We think where God is concerned that we have the initiative and we believe it, but Scripture is clear that God takes the initiative and that our activity is in fact a reaction to the initiative of God.

In John’s gospel Jesus tells his core disciples, ‘You did not choose me; I chose you.’ God has chosen each of us and part of our spiritual journey is to discover how God would use us.

This past Thursday at the Hobart lecture, the speaker spoke of the ancient understanding that true happiness for the believer comes when we are useful to God, obedient to what God wants us to do.

So we should not overlook Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus. Not only did he welcome Jesus to stay at his home but spontaneously gives half his wealth to the poor and offers to compensate any whom he has defrauded 4 times over—over and above the stipulated amount required by Mosaic law.

And Jesus reminds those in earshot that the Son of Man has come to seek out and save the lost.

Faced with the reality of Jesus, Zacchaeus is no longer wedded to any status based on material things and Jesus rejoices that salvation has come to him for he is also a son of Abraham.

At the Progressive Dinner during the cocktails at the Richardson’s, I spoke with a member of the parish whose life that week had been particularly stressful. Car trouble had thrown a tight schedule a major curve ball and to compensate successfully was stressful and exhausting—all this with a sick child at home.

My heart went out to this person, for this area is filled with similar stories of people doing the very best they can for those they love on a margin which is way too thin.

We don’t want to deprive our children of every opportunity but somewhere along the way they need to learn that it is all right to say ‘no.’ It is certainly something that I struggle with—learning to live within my limits and making necessary space by declining some of the many opportunities that come my way.

I think that learning our limits and maintaining a margin for reflection is a critical component of a deepening spiritual life. It’s all right to say no when we’ve overbooked ourselves.

May we like the church of the Thessalonians experience an abundant growth of faith—helping each other to find the best path for us.