Luke 19: Jesus entered Jericho….
The scriptures are set and the purpose of the scriptures is to teach us and to inform us and to help us grow in a Godly way, to grow individually and to grow churches. But I think there is also another purpose to the scriptures that we sometimes miss and that is to check us, to check us to see where we are in our spiritual life, where we have come, where we have come from, and where we need to be going and focusing. Now, I tell you I’ve noticed something in our church, and I want to be honest with you, I’ve noticed something that I was afraid was going to happen. My fear was, while we were pioneers we were moving, when we had no church we were moving, we were moving within, we were moving without. We were talking to people, we were bringing people in, we were loving each other, we were having problems and then we were getting over them, and we were moving on for the greater good. I have to say; this church did a splendid job in doing that, in moving forward and shedding off the things that would hold us up. My fear was that once we got a steeple things would start to change.
I want to tell you what has happened. I believe as we have become settlers we’ve now plopped down and I notice that we tend to sit back down and the luxury that we didn’t have early was to look at little insignificant things and argue about them. We didn’t have that luxury when we were in a store front. We didn’t have that luxury when we were in a school, but now that we’ve got a real church, get what I said; now that we’ve got a real church we have the luxury of being petty. Now we have the luxury of starting to mark off territory, now we have the luxury of beginning to argue with one another and then let it seethe. I’m not commending you. This is not something I’m saying is good, it’s not, because when you don’t know where you’re going, it’s just like the Israelites, you remember the Israelites walking and they’re following the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, as long as they were out there wandering around trying to figure out what was going on; what they were going to be able to do and what they weren’t going to be able to do, and how they were going to be fed they had to depend on God. Now they argued, sure, but as soon as they started getting close, as soon as they started building things and putting things together then all of a sudden they started acting like a church.
I want to tell you something, I have never had any interest in being the pastor of a church. In fact, the Bishop in his wisdom checked me on this, Bishop Lawrence, several years ago, because when I went down to talk to him there was some talk of me becoming the rector of another church, and so he called me down and I was going to make the move from being a college professor and counselor and part time priest, to being a full time priest and leave all the rest behind. I went down to talk to the Bishop, and those of you who know Bishop Lawrence, the man is a godly man. The spirit of God speaks to him and he utilizes those spiritual gifts and he knows how to do it. He sat back as we were talking and he leaned back in his chair, Jackie & I were sitting there, he leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling. The question had just been posed, “Is this the next move for me to go into the rectorship of the church?” He leaned back and he thought for a moment then he said, “Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to do that?” I thought well that’s an odd question. I said, “Well I really do want to follow God’s will in my life.” He said, “I just don’t see that.” He said, “Let me tell you why I don’t see it.” He said, “Because churches that are established have an expectation, churches that are established have a system and they want you to fit into that system. And you will become overnight an administrator. You will be forced to become an administrator, and that’s not you.” I said, “You’re absolutely right, I know that, that is not me, not an administrator.” And then he started laughing, “You know what, why don’t you start a church? And why don’t you just” and he laughed, “create it in your own image.” Then he laughed and he said “You know what I’m talking about, I’m not really talking about creating a church in your image but with your own personality, and move forward with this.” And that’s where we started talking about the possibility of starting a new church, with a new focus, a new emphasis. OK? Now I want to be honest with you, I never set out to be a church planter. OK? I really didn’t, this was not on my bucket list. It was not in my plan. This was something that God did, he dropped it in my lap, and I had learned by that time that when God drops things in your lap you’re much better off if you work with it, if you move with it. Because God knows what he’s doing even when you don’t know what he’s doing. God knows what he’s doing. And so I moved with it.
I want to be honest with you, I was in uncomfortable territory doing that because I really didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing but then I sat down with the Bishop later on about six months and we were talking about my life, and the things that had happened in my life, and all the things that led up to where we are and he began to show me all of the preparation in my life for that very moment. All the things that God had taken from years and years and years past and built on them, one after another to bring me to this point in time to do this thing, in this place. And I was amazed as I looked at it. The Bishop recognized it right off hand. He said, “You have been created for this hour.” Now if I had bumped against that, I would have lost what God had planned for me. I would have lost what God had desired for my life, I would have lost a tremendous amount of joy, I would have lost being in love with all you wonderful people. I’m serious about that, I’m serious about that. I look back now and the creation of this church, an act of God, something that God did, and I look at the people. I look at you, every one of you, in your place, what you have done here. And you are precious not only to God but your precious to me. And I wouldn’t have missed that for anything, and I would have if I had not moved out of my comfort zone and allowed God to do what God was gonna do.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and everybody knew what tax collectors were. They were traitors, they were friends of Rome. They extorted money from their own people, they were hated. The Romans were to be hated enough, but someone who is in collusion with the Romans that was even worse, a Jew, and a son of Abraham. And yet Jesus was walking along and Zacchaeus, little short guy, he climbs up in a tree so that he can see Jesus because he’s heard about him, he’s heard the things that he’s done. Zacchaeus knows nobody around likes him, everywhere he walks a big crevasse opens up for him to walk through because nobody wants to touch him or be near him. He climbs up in the tree and Jesus walks straight up to the tree and he says, “Zacchaeus, come down. I’m going to have lunch at your house.” Zacchaeus saw what God was dropping in his lap. He didn’t expect it. He did not climb the tree expecting Jesus to come up there. The only thing that would have been even better is if Jesus had climbed the tree with him, and sat down on a limb with him. But it was enough for Jesus just to walk up and say, “Zacchaeus, you. I’ve chosen you. I’ve chosen you to come to your house and dine today.” The people around did not understand because they had become church people. They had become used to the way they thought things ought to go. They had bought in to an acceptable level of misery, and they were happy with it. And so they began to grumble and complain among themselves. “He is going to eat with Zacchaeus.” “Did you hear that? Did you hear what he said?” “No, he didn’t say that. You misunderstood him.”
“Let’s get closer. What did he say?” And they hear Jesus saying, “Zacchaeus, come on down. I’m going to your house for lunch.” And the church people all said,”Not having anything to do with that. He is eating with sinners, not Godly people like us. I don’t know what he’s got up his sleeve, maybe he’s going to minister to Zacchaeus.” Well apparently the Holy Spirit had already ministered to Zacchaeus, and that’s why Zacchaeus was chosen. And Jesus goes to him and Zacchaeus is so overwhelmed and so willing to buy in to what God is dropping in his lap that he says; like Paul when Paul encounters Jesus; I’ve gone back to this several times over the past few weeks; Paul, his life changed so much by the encounter with Jesus that nothing else matters, nothing, nothing matters as much as his relationship with Jesus. Everything else can just fall by, he can have it or he cannot have it. It doesn’t matter. And Zacchaeus, with his encounter with Jesus, he is so overcome by the fact that Jesus can look at him and say, “Zacchaeus, I know you better than you know yourself. I know what will make you happy, and it’s not what you’re doing. These other people who don’t like me being here with you Zacchaeus, they’re not happy because they bought into a system and they are missing the encounter, they’re missing the encounter with the living Jesus and all they’re gonna to do is gripe and complain. These are the people that Jesus would later say, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You come and follow me.”
Zacchaeus is so over come he says, “Jesus, half of everything I’ve got I will give to the poor. All my possessions, half of them I’m going to give to the poor and I’m going to go back and if I’ve defrauded anyone I’m going to make it right. Four times I’m gonna make it right, because the wealth I’ve accumulated, there’s nothing in comparison to looking in your eyes and seeing the living God incarnate saying, “I have chosen you.”
I don’t know that Jesus had any great ministry for Zacchaeus; we don’t know exactly what became of Zacchaeus, after that, not for sure. I don’t know, but I guarantee you, his life was transformed because he had encountered the living Jesus. And Jesus recognizing that transformation and that willingness to let go of all his preconceived ideas. See that’s what Zacchaeus was doing, he was letting go of the way that things had always been. The people gripping, they were holding on to the way that things had always been. Zacchaeus let it go.
Letting go of my preconceived ideas, letting go of the way the world says things ought to operate, letting go of everything in the light of grabbing hold of Jesus, who is living. And when he saw that, what was Jesus’ response to him? Today salvation has come to this house, say that with me, today salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost.
What is lost in you today? Your souls not lost, not if you’ve given it to Jesus. But all of us have pieces of our soul, pieces of ourselves that are still lost that need redeeming. The rooms of your heart, which ones are you holding back? Which little places in your life are you keeping to yourself so you can do things the way they’ve always been done? So you can mark off your territory, so you can complain and gripe with your brothers and your sisters, so you can say, “Well we’ve never done it that way before,” or “We’ve tried it that way before and it didn’t work”, and ”I don’t like this and I don’t like that.” We all have those kingdoms in our heart that we have yet to let go.
Now, as Steve Irwin, you all know who Steve Irwin was, as Steve Irwin used to say, “Danger, danger, danger.” You are in danger of becoming a church. That is the last thing we want to happen in this congregation. The last thing we want to have is a building that restricts our growth, restricts our growing in Jesus Christ himself. We can’t relax. We got to keep moving. You can’t sit on your haunches and decide, “I’m here, here I am, it’s great. Now I’m gonna relax.” We came from where we came from, and we all got together and we fought and clawed our way, and we followed God, we followed the cloud and the pillar of fire, we followed it all and by God we made it here and now I’m sittin’ on my butt, because I deserve it.
It’s not the way the kingdom of God works. God, Jesus often called his disciples aside and said, “Come, rest for awhile. He didn’t say, “Lay down in a grave and let somebody cover you up.” He said, “Come, rest awhile because in a few days I’m going to tell you to get back up, and let’s go again. There are things to be done in the kingdom of heaven.
Many thanks to Mary Rife for her transcription.