Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Martin Elfert

Lessons:

Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Of all the stories that Jesus tells, there are few or maybe none that I find more confusing and more troubling than the one that we just heard. This is the story that is sometimes titled in Bibles: The Parable of the Talents. And I reckon that it troubles me so much because, here in the West, here in 2020, it is so, so easy to read it as an allegory – an allegory that functions as a celebration of individualism, of the wild accumulation of wealth, and of God’s love as something that you and I must earn. And indeed, an allegory for how God will punish us if we do not earn God’s love.[1]

In other words, it is so easy to read this story as an allegory for a very particular, very Western, and very modern way of living your life.

Within this allegorical understanding, the guy with the money is clearly God.

The story goes like this:

Once upon a time, a CEO went on going on a long business trip. And he summoned three senior managers into his corner office, high, high up the in sky. To one manager he gave five billion dollars, to another two billion dollars, to a third one billion dollars.

The first senior manager took the five billion and bought Amazon stock. And he doubled his money. The second took his two billion and bought Home Depot stock. And he doubled his money. The third took his one billion and bought a term deposit. And his investment didn’t even keep up with inflation.

The third senior manager was a total loser.

One day, the CEO came back – the managers knew the time and the hour when the CEO would come back because the CEO’s personal assistant texted them ahead of time – and the CEO summoned the senior managers into his corner office. The first senior manager said, You gave me five billion dollars and I made five billion dollars. Here is ten billion dollars. And he handed over the money. And the CEO said, Well done, good and faithful senior manager. You too shall have a corner office. The first senior manager said, You gave me two billion dollars and I made two billion dollars. Here is four billion dollars. And he handed over the money. And the CEO said, Well done, good and faithful senior manager. You too shall have a corner office. And then the third came forward. (Remember, in jokes and in parables, things happen three times: twice to establish the pattern, a third time to break it.)

Before the third senior manager handed over his money, he made a speech. He explained his actions. He said:

Boss, I know that you are a massive jerk. You take things that don’t belong to you. You’ll do anything to get rich, no matter how much your actions debase you and everyone around you. And because of that I am terrified of you. My knees knock when I am in your presence, I am actively working not to wet my pants right now.

Here’s your one billion dollars.

And the CEO replied:

You know that I take things that don’t belong to me, did you? You know that I will do anything to get rich, did you? Then you should have done like the other senior managers and invested my flipping money. I’m taking your one billion and giving it to the guy with ten billion!

Hey first senior manager! Hey second senior manager! Open the window of my corner office in the sky.

And they did so.

And now grab senior manager three’s legs! Let’s throw this senior manager three out and down, down, down onto the hard pavement below.

And they did so. And as the third manager’s screams receded and then abruptly ended, the CEO looked at senior manager one and senior manager two and he said:

Well. The rich get richer. And the poor get poorer.

The Word of the Lord.

What do we think about that? Via the CEO’s behavior, have we just witnessed the actions of God?

No. No, that cannot be the right reading of this story.

While God totally gives us gifts or talents and God delights when we live into them and we thrive, God does not make God’s love is in any way conditional on what we do with our gifts. God never responds to us by sending us to a place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. You know that from scripture and from your every encounter with God.

Here’s the good news. Jesus agrees with you.

Here are a few clues.

First, remember that Jesus is telling this story to a group of folks who are living under occupation, most of whom are of modest financial means, many of whom live in poverty. Few or none of the people listening have any firsthand experience with investing, least of all with investing at the scale that Jesus talks about in this story. (There is considerable debate, by the way, as to how much a talent is worth in modern dollars. Some scholars reckon that a talent is equivalent to as much as 20 years wages. Regardless, it is a staggering amount of money.) So, none of these three servants or slaves in the story are going to be someone with whom the listeners identify. This story isn’t a story about them, it isn’t about whether they are trying hard enough in life. Unless you are absurdly wealthy, it probably isn’t a story about you.

Second, notice who gives the moral of the story. Often Jesus will tell us a parable and then, at the end, he will share a moral with us. But that doesn’t happen here. The wealthy man pronounced judgment on the third slave. And then the parable continues. And it is the wealthy man who says, For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The wealthy man isn’t God. The wealthy man is a wealthy man.

Third, Jesus constantly contrasts the Kingdom of God with violent human kingdoms. Jesus consistently says: God’s Kingdom isn’t like Caesar’s. Be not afraid. Do not worry. You don’t have to earn your way in. You aren’t going to get punished if you do it wrong. Remember just a few weeks ago the Parable of the Vineyard. The laggards, the latecomers get paid the same. Jesus tells us this persistently through his teaching. And he tells us most emphatically via the cross, whereby he refuses to respond to Empire’s violence with violence of his own. And notwithstanding his refusal to pick up a sword or a gun or to drop a bomb, he wins anyway. Love wins anyway.

In the resurrection, the Kingdom is victorious. And the only blood that is spilt is that of God’s.

The cross tells us this story ain’t an allegory, that it cannot be an allegory. And I wonder if what I talked about earlier – how this story leaves me confused and troubled – isn’t actually a deliberate choice by Jesus. I wonder if he is saying, through this tale, the same thing that he says when he declares that the love of money is the root of all evil. If you love money, this story says, you will end up doing evil things, things that leave you confused and troubled, things that leave you ashamed and hurt and that leave people around you ashamed and hurt.

Don’t be the sort of person who loves money so much that people fear you: don’t be like the boss. Don’t be the sort of person who loves money so much that you need to be afraid of your boss: don’t be like the servants.

Money’s a tool, sometimes a necessary one. But money is totally unworthy of your heart, of your fidelity, of your worship. So choose the Kingdom. Choose love. Be not afraid. Instead, be free.


[1] This sermon draws on the work of Sarah Dylan Breuer and Paul Nuechterlein.

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost by the Rev. Martin Elfert

November 19 2017 image

Lessons:

Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

 

*

When I was ten or twelve, a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure were a pretty big deal with my classmates and me. The Choose Your Own Adventure books were paperback thrillers: the “Adventure” part of the title referred to the spies and the astronauts and the explorers who were wading their way through peril and discovery and excitement therein; the “Your” part referred to the convention whereby the books were written in the second person, thus making explicit what is implicit in every adventure story, that the hero and the reader are one and the same; and “The Choose” part referred to the introduction of a rudimentary amount of roleplaying.

Throughout the book you, the lead character would be confronted with a choice: would you look through the keyhole of the door behind which you heard sinister noises, or would you throw it wide open, confronting whatever lay behind? Would you drink the contents of the strange vial bubbling on the mad scientist’s table, or would you leave it alone? Depending on your choice, the book instructed you to turn to different pages. Usually there were two or three choice: if you opened the door, you turned to page 56. If you were more cautious and looked through the keyhole, you turned to page 103. If you chose another door altogether, you turned to page 151.

And there you learned your fate.

Page 56 would tell you that you were captured and thrown into a dungeon – the end – whereas page 103 would tell your door-listening prudence was going to yield more life and adventure. All of the books, in other words, had multiple possible plot trajectories, or at least variations on the plot. All of them had multiple possible endings. For those of you into trivia, the Choose Your Own Adventure book with the greatest number of conclusions, of the ends, allowed the book to end in 44 different ways.

A couple of decades went by without me thinking much about the Choose Your Own Adventure books. But then I got introduced into the world of Biblical studies and Biblical criticism, of – to borrow the language of today’s opening collect, today’s opening payer – the world of reading, marking, and inwardly digesting scripture. And I noticed something familiar.

Here in the Bible was a single story or saying or proverb. And here, in the works of scholars and interpreters, were a heap of possible understandings of it. Depending on the lens that you brought to a given passage, you would end up in a very different place.

I went to the library leafed through one commentary after another with one understanding after another and I said:

Oh!

This is choose your own Biblical adventure.

Today we listen as Jesus tells us a folk tale. Let a lot of folk tales, it features hyperbolic violence. Also like a lot of folk tales, it features the characters, all of whom report to a master. Three is a classic number of characters in storytelling (think of the Three Little Pigs, the Three Bears, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff) as well as in jokes. The first two characters have the job of establishing a pattern, and the third has the job of breaking it. The moment in which the pattern breaks is, depending on the nature of the tale or the joke, variously funny, tense, morally instructive, or maybe all three.

So.

A Wealthy Man is going away on a trip. He has three slaves. And he gives each of them a large sum of money for safekeeping, one of them five million dollars, one of them two million dollars, one of them one million dollars. And then he leaves to spend a long time at his mansion on a tropical island.

When the Wealthy Man comes back in the late spring, he asks the slaves to give him an accounting of what they have done with the money. Slave Number One says, “You gave me five million dollars, I invested it in Portland real estate and I made another five million dollars!” The Wealthy Man says, “Good job! You can spend the rest of the week lounging beside my swimming pool while my chef comes by and feeds you grapes and tiny sandwiches.”

Slave Number Two steps up and he says, “You gave me two million dollars. I invested it in Nike stock and I made another two million dollars!” The Wealthy Man says, “Good job, Slave Number Two! You also can spend the rest of the week lounging beside my swimming pool and eating small but very expensive food.”

Slave Number Three steps up and says, “You gave me one million dollars. I knew that you were a terrible person, that you take things that don’t belong to you, that you steal. I was afraid of you. I knew that you would punish me if I made a mistake. And so I buried your money in a box and kept it safe.

“Here is your one million dollars.”

And the Wealthy Man says, “You knew that I was a terrible person, did you? Then you should have invested my money like the other two!

“Guards, take this Slave’s one million dollars and give it to the Slave with ten million dollars. And then throw Slave Number three into the pool and throw my pet piranhas in after him. For the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. If you have more, you will get more. And if you have nothing, even the little that you have will be taken away!”

Let’s play:

Choose Your Own Biblical Adventure.

Turn to page 103 if this is a story about making the most of the gifts that God has given you.

Paul Nuechterlein, the Lutheran pastor and blogger and scholar whose work has heavily shaped my understanding of scripture in general and of this passage in particular, says that he did a search for every children’s homily that he could find on this passage. And of the homilies that he found, 100% of them rely on this interpretation. They grab onto the word “talent” (“talent” being the Ancient Greek word for a weight or unit of currency, a word that evolved into our current word for “something that you’re good at,” although it is not at all clear that “talent” had the latter meaning or implication in Jesus’ time) and they tell us about how God – who, in this reading, is unequivocally the Wealthy Man – wants you to run with the gifts that God has given you, that God wants you to thrive.

That’s an okay reading, I guess. I think that God really does want you and me to thrive, that God has given you and me gifts that God hopes that we will share with the world. And there is no question that it is hard to watch, tragic even to watch, when you know and love someone who, for some reason can’t or won’t let their gifts shine, who takes their life and buries it in a field.

The problem with this reading is twofold. First, it’s kind of harmless. And I always get suspicious when we read Jesus’ stories in a way that makes them into gentle platitudes. Try hard and you’ll succeed! You can do anything that you put your mind to! These are bumper stickers, , they are posters in your guidance counselor’s office. They are not the tales of a brilliant and subversive storyteller, the tales of the Son of Man.

The second problem with this reading is that, well, it makes God look awful. If God is the Wealthy Man, then God is kind of brutal and arbitrary. God gives some of us way more resources than others – this reading more or less blesses or sanctifies the generational wealth into which some of us were born and into which some of us are excluded. And then God viciously excludes and punishes the ones who can’t or won’t do much with their limited resources, going so far as to take their resources and give them to the very wealthiest.

Here is the Prosperity Gospel: If you’re wealthy, you’re doing things right and God is rewarding you accordingly; If you’re poor, you’re doing things wrong and God is punishing you accordingly. Your privilege or your suffering is all on you.

I don’t know how much I like or trust or want to worship such a God.

Turn to page 56 if this is a story about how your image of God shapes the way that you encounter your life and the world around you.

Now, this interpretation intrigues me a little more. In this reading of Jesus’ folk tale, Jesus is teaching us that what we believe or don’t believe about God correlates pretty reliably with what we believe or don’t believe about ourselves and about the world around us. If we believe in and trust in and say “yes” to a God who is generous, who is loving, who has created a world which is singing with abundance and life and possibility, then that will shape us. Following such a God, we ourselves will become generous and loving and abundant. If we imagine God to be angry and petty and selfish, then we are likely to be angry and petty and selfish.

If our theology is small and broken, in other words, we ramp up the likelihood that we will live in a small and broken way. A way in which we dare not love, dare not risk, dare not become fully alive.

Proclaiming the abundant generosity of God, therefore, is important work for you and for me. Proclaiming that 1John is right and that God really is love might be the most important work that you or I can do. There is a reason that the 20th Century theologian, Mr. Rogers, said over and over again, “I like you just the way that you are.” How would the world change if it were filled with people who believed themselves to be truly and unreservedly loved by God and who believed that their neighbours were loved by God in the very same way?

That sounds like the Kingdom to me.

And I’d almost like to stay with this reading, except for the ending in which the God – who in this interpretation is also the Wealthy Man – goes along with the broken image that the third slave has of God. God says: “If you think I’m cruel, then I’ll be cruel. If you think I punish, then I will punish. If you think I’m the devil, then I will be the devil.”

That can’t be right. That isn’t the God whom you or I know and love. That is not the God whom Jesus proclaims in the remainder of the Gospel.

Turn to page 117 if this is a story about economic systems that sets the stage for a story about the Kingdom.

What if the Wealthy Man isn’t God?

Let’s remember the context in which this story is originally told. This is a story told by a peasant living under occupation to other peasants living under occupation. When that audience listens to this story, with whom do you think they identify?

Manifestly, the story’s hero, the “you” in this particular Choose Your Own Adventure, is the Third Slave. For Jesus and his friends, living in fear of a capricious and violent boss is everyday reality. Having few resources is an everyday reality. And I’m fascinated by those scholars who argue that for Jesus and his friends, investing money for gain was considered immoral, that making money off of capital rather than making money from work was something that they thought was wrong. (This is a perspective that is all but entirely foreign to us in late 2017 in the United States.)

If that’s right, then the Third Slave, the one who breaks the pattern, acts in a way that is not merely sensible given his Master’s violence – he dare not risk his Master’s money – but in a way that is good ethical: the proper thing to do when someone gives you money is to preserve it safely, not to try to make more money with it.

Now, I love the lectionary, the schedule of readings that we follow from one Sunday to the next, it takes us to holy and hard texts that we would almost assuredly avoid otherwise. But there are times when it kind of exasperates me. This is one of those occasions. Because, by ending the reading where it does, it encourages us to suppose that this text can or should be read in isolation from the rest of the Gospel. But Jesus’ folk tale only makes sense if you keep on reading in the Gospel of Matthew. It is incomplete, maybe even incoherent if you read it on its own.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the instant that Jesus says the last line of this tale, the instant that he talks about throwing the slave into the outer darkness, the next thing that he says is:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.

All the nations will be gathered before him,

and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

This is the Judgment of the Nations. One of Jesus’ most famous teachings.

And the sheep and the goats are separated based upon what?

I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

I was naked and you gave me clothing,

I was sick and you took care of me,

I was in prison and you visited me.

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Jesus then says then goes on to say: Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.

What if the folk tale that Jesus tells today is about an oppressive economic system in which people like the Wealthy Man, blinded by their power and their privilege, forget that their slaves are made in the image of God? What if this story is about how what the Wealthy Man does to Third Slave – the Third Slave who is manifestly the least of these – is the same as what he does to Jesus? What if, in other words, this is a story about Jesus being cast into the outer darkness? What if in this story, just as he does on the cross, Jesus is saying to all those who suffer, all those who are crushed when wealth and power are abused, I am with you. I am with you ‘til the end of the earth.

And what if this story sets the stage for Jesus saying to you and to me: When you work for a living wage, when you work for a country in which everyone has health care, when you work for a community in which everyone is fed, you are doing this work for me and to me?

That is an adventure that I want to be part of.

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Martin Elfert

Lessons:

Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-8
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

One of the many things that draws me to Jesus is that he is both someone who tells parables and someone who lives parables. One moment Jesus will be hanging out with his friends and sharing his holy folk tales, his stories of transformation about a ne’er do well son being welcomed home by his staggeringly generous Dad, or a suspicious foreigner who is the only one to stop to help the wounded man beside the road, or – as we heard last week – a religious official who doesn’t understand much at all about God and tax collector who does. And the next moment Jesus’ very life will become a story of transformation: he will take us to a wilderness place where we discover that, in his hands, five loaves and two fishes are enough to feed thousands, we will follow him to a tomb where he invites the dead man inside to come dancing forth, we will watch from the foot of the cross as his dying changes everything.

Today, Jesus’ lived parable involves a guy by the name of Zacchaeus. Like the character whom we met in Jesus’ spoken parable last week, Zacchaeus is a tax collector – someone who is getting rich by collaborating with the occupying forces, someone whom most of the population hates and fears. Unlike the character whom we met last week, however, Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector, he is the one to whom the other tax collectors report. Maybe we could liken him to the Chief Executive Officer who accepts a salary of $37,000 a day while vigorously resisting any scenario in which his employees receive benefits or are paid more than the minimum wage.

Zacchaeus has gotten wealthy at the cost of his integrity.

Jesus is passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus’ hometown. Jericho is located about ten miles east of Jerusalem and about five miles north of the Dead Sea. It is situated in what, today, we call the West Bank: in Jesus’ time and now, Jericho is under occupation. And Zacchaeus is there. We can imagine him at desk counting his ill-gotten money, a first-century Scrooge.

Because it is the first century and there will be an almost 2,000 year wait before texting or Twitter is invented, Zacchaeus doesn’t find out that Jesus is coming through town by looking at his smartphone. He knows that Jesus is coming near when he detects a change in the air, an electricity. He understands it by feeling the hairs on his arm stand straight up. A moment later, Zacchaeus begins to hear the excitement in the street, he hears people speaking the name that he has been hearing in rumours for weeks, the name of the healer and the storyteller: Jesus. Zacchaeus looks out the window of his office and he sees the people being pulled like water across the beach when the tide goes out. They are headed for the main road.

Something is pulling Zacchaeus there too. He gets up out of his chair and starts walking.

When Zacchaeus arrives at the main road, the crowd is thick, and Zacchaeus can’t see. This is not an experience to which he is accustomed: his world is normally filled sycophants and with those who are afraid, people who are hoping to gain some advantage or to avoid some punishment. Normally, when Zacchaeus approaches a crowd, it parts before him the way the Red Sea parted for the Israelites, people are tripping over their feet to make room for him, people are asking if they can get him a cup of coffee or a newspaper. But not today. Everyone’s attention is turned towards the road and to the one who walks upon it. No one even notices that Zacchaeus is there.

Zacchaeus sees that some kids have climbed trees in order to see better. And an old muscle memory in his body kicks in. He was athlete as a child and, even though it has been years since he ran anywhere, a reflex sends a signal to his legs and he starts running hard, sprinting down the road to where Jesus and his friends are headed. And then, all dignity forgotten, he begins to climb a tree. His sandals push against the bark, his robe catches in the branches, his surprised hands – it’s been decades since there were callouses on them – take him, up, up, up.

Luke tells us that the tree in question is a sycamore. It is not, however, an American sycamore. Rather, Zaccaheus’ sycamore is a kind of fig tree, vigorous and bushy with wide spreading branches, growing perhaps thirty of forty feet high.

Zacchaeus reaches his perch. He is breathing hard: the running and the climb have very nearly winded him. But his location in the tree is perfect – perfect. He is well hidden within the trees’ branches, and the view couldn’t be better if he were in a sentry tower built for the purpose. The crowd, with Jesus at its centre, is approaching. From within the tree, Zacchaeus will be able to watch Jesus pass, he will be able to satisfy the strange, unnameable curiosity that drew him here. And then, once the crowd goes home, he will be able to quietly climb back to the ground and go home.

No one will even know that he was here.

Except.

Except that Jesus, as he gets near the sycamore, draws on that same holy intuition that tells him the instant that the woman with the hemorrhage touches his garment. He stops walking, he looks right up into the tree, and he says:

Hi Zack!

All of a sudden, without any intention on his part, Zacchaeus has become the main character in a parable about meeting God.

Hi Zack! says Jesus. Come down! I’m going to stay at your house today.

What do you notice about the parable?

Well, here are a few things that catch my attention. First, notice that Jesus knows Zacchaeus and that he knows him by name. Here is an echo of the words from Job, words that are often paraphrased at the beginning of the funeral liturgy:

I myself shall see [God], and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

Whether or not Zacchaeus recognised it before this moment, whether or not it has ever been part of his waking knowledge, God knows him. God has always known him. And, in some ineffable way, Zacchaeus has known God in return. Zacchaeus – just like you, just like me, just like everyone, even if they find the very idea absurd or offensive – is known by God.

Second, even though God knows Zacchaeus – and knows him completely – God’s love for him remains absolute. Jesus is aware of what Zacchaeus’ job is, he is aware that he is a tax collector, that he is a state-sponsored criminal. And Jesus calls to him anyway, he invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house anyway, he treats him like a friend anyway. Listen to the crowd grumble: Jesus is going to be the guest of one who is a sinner. And their complaints are legitimate, they are reasonable: Zacchaeus has wasted no opportunity to exploit these people, to exploit his neighbours. But Jesus would call Zacchaeus “friend” even if he were a murderer or a war criminal or a child abuser, anything.

Stop and let that sink in for a minute.

The absolute love of God, well, it’s either the worst news or the best news that there is, it is either appalling or freeing. It is awful news when you realise that God’s love extends to the person whom you like and respect and trust the least in the world, when you realise that there is no one whom you could plug into the equation, no one whom you could put into the tree, and get Jesus to reject.

And it is freeing news when we apply it to ourselves. Many of us – maybe most of us – are carrying the cold and ancient fear that we are unlovable. The fear that if people found out who we really are – if God found out who we really are – no one, God included, could possibly love us. If people knew what goes on in my head or my heart, if people knew what I do at home after I close the door and pull the drapes, if people knew my past, if people knew my internet browser history, no one would ever love me. God would never love me.

But Jesus says: I know. I know everything. And I love you without reservation.

Third, meeting God changes Zacchaeus. Actually, I want to rephrase that, because I don’t want to imply that Zacchaeus is a passive observer of the change that takes place within him, that he is like a rock just sitting there while the tide erodes him into smoothness. Let’s try this: meeting God invites Zacchaeus to change.

Zacchaeus comes down out of the tree, out of this place of alienation and loneliness. And immediately, he repents. “Repent” which is an old word which literally means, “turn around.” Zacchaeus is suddenly facing a whole new direction.

Half of my possessions I will give to the poor, he says. And if I have defrauded anyone, I will pay them back four times over.

This is repentance. Not holy words or holy ideas, but holy action.

Now, I want to emphasise that Zacchaeus’ repentance, his choice to live and love in a Christ-like way, comes after he encounters Jesus’ love, not before. Again – and I’m going to risk repeating myself, but this is absolutely vital – God’s love is absolute. Jesus doesn’t love Zacchaeus because we are good. Jesus loves Zacchaeus because Jesus is Jesus. Jesus doesn’t look at our repentance and say, “Okay, that’s good enough: now I love you.” Before we say or do anything, Jesus says:

I love you.

God, to borrow a phrase from Richard Rohr, doesn’t love us because we have changed. God loves us, and that allows us to change.

Fourth – and last of all – notice that when Zacchaeus meets God, there is a abrupt reversal of Zacchaeus’ expectations: he thought that he was seeking God. But it turns out that, all along, God was seeking him.

There used to be a billboard about an hour to the East of my hometown Vancouver, BC, in a city called Abbotsford (insofar as the Vancouver area has a Bible Belt, Abbotsford is where it is). The Billboard asked a question. It said:

 Are you ready to meet God?

I remember my late father-in-law, Bob – God rest his soul – seeing that billboard and remarking, “How could anyone possibly be ready to meet God? That billboard should say:

“God is ready to meet you!”

A lot of us describe ourselves as seekers: I have used that language to describe myself, I probably will again. What Zacchaeus discovers when Jesus calls him down from the tree, is that Jesus too is a seeker. And that what Jesus is seeking is communion with him.

And so Zacchaeus and Jesus walk to Zacchaeus house, where Zacchaeus family will be surprised to learn who they are hosting for dinner.

This is a parable about meeting God. It is a parable about being known, about being loved, about being invited into transformation, about seeking and being sought. It is a parable in which Jesus says to you and me.:

Hi James!

Hi Sue!

Hi Holly!

Hi Everyone!

I’m coming to your house!