Friday, 14 October 2016

Zachaeus and change

Closing Reflection for Synod (also the readings for a few week's hence)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12        Luke 19:1-10     

We live in a world which wants to polarise – right or wrong, left or right, In or out. And we live in a world of rapid change – new gadgets, new occupations, even new countries.

And so as Christians living in a rapidly changing, ever more polarised world we might want to claim that we are people of stability.
Our God never changes: our faith is stable and we sing, with Anna Letitia Waring:

In heavenly love abiding      
no change my heart will fear
And safe is such confiding   
for nothing changes here.

And yes, it is true that God is outside as well as inside time and space and so is eternal and ever reliable – but I don’t think the Bible points us to holding onto a faith that should never change and to living lives that should cling to the past and fear the future.

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians praises, even boasts of, their steadfastness and faith – but he also describes how their “faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing”.

Following Jesus is a dynamic thing, it involves change, travel, journey, so that , like the Thessalonians, we can be ever more worthy of God’s call on our lives and fulfil “every good resolve and work of faith”.
As the next year or so unfolds we will hear more and more about the URC’s new emphasis on discipleship “Walking the way – living the life of Jesus today”. Walking the way – not standing still or even, God forbid, digging in our heels against the march of time.

I wonder what Zacchaeus was expecting that day he shinned up a tree to see Jesus pass by? It was not so much an act of steadfastness and faith, but more a desire to be a spectator or a by-stander as the famous rabbi passed by. He ran ahead – to find a good tree and get settled in it to watch… and suddenly found himself the centre of attention as Jesus says "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."

Jesus isn’t prepared to leave Zacchaeus where is – safe and passive and quietly observing. The kingdom of God has come close – and it’s not a spectator event.
When Zacchaeus opens his house and his life to Jesus, he opens his heart to change. It’s time for Zacchaeus to get off the fence as surely as he gets down from the tree and get moving in answer to Jesus’ call.

Jesus himself sums up
"Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.".

Wrong becomes right; the lost become found;
tax-collector becomes benefactor, as Jesus changes Zacchaeus for good, for the good.
I can’t imagine Zaccahaeus singing ‘nothing changes here’, but he certainly learnt what it was to abide in heavenly love.

We have spent today learning about changes, making some changes, facing up to changes.
We might be facing changes we have not sought, and we do not welcome.
We might be longing for more and faster changes so that this world becomes more like the kingdom of God for which we long.

Whatever the change, whatever the future, God the Father goes before us, Jesus the Son walks beside us, and the Spirit drives us on.

May God be with you all to hold you in his love and change you into the person he has made you to be. For the sake of the Kingdom. Amen.

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