O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
Who may rest upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads an uncorrupt life
and does the thing that is right;
Who speaks the truth from the heart
and bears no deceit on the tongue;
Who does no evil to a friend
and pours no scorn on a neighbour;
In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,
but who honours those who fear the Lord.
Whoever has sworn to a neighbour
and never goes back on that word;
Who does not lend money in hope of gain,
nor takes a bribe against the innocent;
Whoever does these things shall never fall.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 19.1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When 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.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 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.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘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 to save the lost.’
Today we have another well known story from Luke’s gospel. The story of Zacchaeus is one that many can recite: the story of the short man who had to climb a tree to see Jesus, and whose subsequent encounter with Jesus changed his life. However, there is a problem with our familiarity with the story of Zacchaeus. We over-simplify it. We turn it into the plot of a pantomime rather than a story of a life-changing encounter with our Saviour.
There was nothing cute and appealing about Zacchaeus. Yes, he was short, but he certainly was not cuddly. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, not just a tax collector but a chief tax collector. The Jewish community would have hated this hard hearted traitor to their culture. Not only was Zacchaeus responsible for collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman occupying forces, but he would have cheated the Jewish community as well. As we are told, he was rich. Someone so rich must have been acting in a corrupt way, irrespective of the effect it had on his victims. No, Zacchaeus was not a nice man.
But … one day, Jesus came to town. Like everyone else in the crowd, Zacchaeus would have heard the stories being told about this amazing man. Like everyone else, he wanted to catch sight of the celebrity who was passing through. But, he was a very short man. Despite his sense of self-importance he could not see. To get even a glimpse of Jesus he had to make an extra-special effort, he had to climb the sycamore tree, and that would not have been easy for him. But, he made the effort and he was rewarded in a way that could not have been further from his mind. Yes, Zacchaeus got to see Jesus, but Jesus also got to see Zacchaeus. Jesus saw the man who was so despised by the Jewish community and he saw hope and light in him.
Jesus called out to Zacchaeus, saying that he would be dining with him that very day. Yet again Jesus flew in the face of the traditional customs and attitudes of the orthodox Pharisaic law. Jesus declared before the crowd that he was going to dine in the house of a chief tax collector. As we have seen before, Jesus did not shun people whom others despised. Instead, Jesus stretched out his arms and offered them new life. In the case of Zacchaeus that new life was grasped eagerly. The chief tax collector truly repented. He turned away from his old ways in that very moment and became the faithful follower of Christ we are all called to be.
Today’s challenge is straightforward. Are we ready to make the effort to inconvenience ourselves so that we might catch a glimpse of Jesus? Are we then ready to welcome him into our homes and our lives? Are we ready to lead the life he wants us to lead, rather than the life we have been living all these years?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Father, who sent the Son to seek and save the lost.
As we begin to prepare for the coming of Jesus in his Incarnation, teach us to remember that he will come again to be our judge, and make us ready to meet him. Fill your Church with the sincere repentance that does not trust in outward show.
Give to those in authority and to all who influence the lives of others the spirit of mercy towards the oppressed and unprotected. May those who control money matters be just and honourable in their dealings.
Bless us, our families and friends, with a burning desire to be close to Jesus and to know him better. Help us to be generous in giving to those in need.
Have mercy on those who have turned from evil ways and yet are not accepted back. Relieve the distress of all whose lives have been damaged by the extortion and dishonesty of others.
We pray for those who have died, that they may be found worthy of your Kingdom. When they are judged, grant them the mercy of Christ.
We pray that we may be made fit to receive Christ in our homes and in our hearts.
Prayer for the week
God of righteousness, God of peace,
forgive the selfishness, greed and arrogance
that cause us to be at enmity one with another.
Help us and all people to live together
in Christian love and goodwill;
and teach the nations of the world
the things that belong to their peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Thy kingdom come! On bended knee
the passing ages pray;
and faithful souls have yearned to see
on earth that kingdom’s day.
When knowledge, hand in hand with peace,
shall walk the earth abroad:
the day of perfect righteousness,
the promised day of God.
Frederick Lucian Hosmer (1840–1929)