How Far Will You Go? Oct 23, 2016

Text: Luke 10:1-19

Prayer: O Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of each and everyone of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our strength and redeemer and our friend. Amen.

There is something odd about the sight of a grown man up in a tree. The Reuters news service carried a story sometime back about a Polish man who climbed a tree to avoid a taxi fare which totaled just a few dollars. Pursued by the irate taxi driver, the passenger climbed a tall tree, jumped from branch to branch and hurled bananas from a shopping bag at a crowd which soon gathered at the scene.

More than a dozen firefighters were called in and spread out an air‑bag under the tree as a police psychologist was sent up in a ladder‑bucket to negotiate with the man. After a two‑hour stand‑off, the man agreed to come down. But he learned a hard lesson. He may have to pay many times the original taxi fare he tried to evade. At last report the fire brigade was planning to send him a $4,300 bill for the rescue operation.

Why did a crowd gather to watch? Because it’s odd to see a grown man up in a tree. Today we are going to look at the story of Zacchaeus who got caught up a tree.

As we are finishing up our look at the use of money. We started this out a few weeks ago and I said, “Now are going to talk about money.” I remember hearing at that point audible crickets. And I looked out and I saw people’s facial expressions and it looked like people we thinking, “Oh no we’re talking about money. It’s that time of the year.”

I hope as we have talked about money this year that we’re thinking not simply in the usual ways about this gift that God has given us. But we first talked about wisdom and how we are called to a wise use of money.

And that has been the undergirding of this whole series.

And then two weeks ago we talked about John Wesley’s sermon #50. You can goggle it and bring it up. But what we’ve tried to do over the last few weeks is to condense this into something we can hold onto. John Wesley’s sermon has been broken down into three principles.   Earn All We Can, Save All We Can, and Give All that We Can

So that moves us to today, Give All You Can. Now I want to put this out as a caveat. In your bulletin today is a Commitment Card. I can see your brain whizzing around.

But this sermon today is not specifically focused on a single commitment card. This sermon today is talking about how as we grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ, as a follower of Jesus Christ, every part of our life is something that we are willing to turn over to God. Now I=m going to talk about the Commitment Card because it is that time of year. But I want us to think a little broader than a Commitment Card.

I want to share a text with you. “Proverb” proverbs are a pithy wisdom statement. A statement that is a great bumper sticker.

In Proverbs 11:25   “A generous person will be enriched. And one who gives water, will get water.” Let me repeat that. Two things that teaches us. It reminds us of the importance of generosity. How Jesus lived a generous life, the relationships he had with others, the resources he had with others and how our life is enriched when we are truly generous. The second part of that is that generosity is not simply about money. And we need to hear this.

Money is a part of living a generous life, money is part of having a generous heart. But there is a lot more than simply money. Money is the things that we like to about because money is the one thing we hold onto the longest. But a generous life is more that simply our pocketbook. A generous life is giving all that we are and all that we have to God, because we are blessed and realize that everything we have is a gift from God.

Now I want to make it a little more practical by looking at our Gospel lesson today. And this is a story that a lot of you heard when you grew up going to Sunday School, if you were a part of the church at that point in your life or going to Vacation Bible School, you know this story. It=s the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus.

I love this story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is one of those stories we learn when very young. There is a great song children sing about.

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see, And when the Savior passed that way He looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, You come down, For I’m going to your house today!
Many of us learned that song as we were growing up, or our kids or grandchildren have sung that song.

Zacchaeus is a model for us of a transformed life. Lets start at the very beginning. Zacchaeus was despised by society. I can’t say that strongly enough. Zacchaeus was a tax collector.

What he did was to take hard earned money from people and he gave it to Rome, who occupied Israel at that time in history. But while he did that, if he collected more than Rome required, he could use any extra to pad his pockets. So he took hard earned money and gave it to Rome, so people despised him. They also despised him because he was a thief. He stole money from people to make his lifestyle better.

He was probably on the top three of the most wanted list, if you will, by society, or more appropriately the most despised list. People did not like him. Somehow though, this child of God named Zacchaeus, heard that Jesus was going to be walking through this area that day and he wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus wanted to see him. He wanted to see what all l this hoopla was about. He said, “I’ve heard some amazing things about this Jesus.”

And imagine a procession like a parade, going through a town where Jesus was walking through. And we’ve all gone to holiday parades where people are liked up and there are probably like 4 or 5 or 6 lines of people deep. And imagine you are short and you=re standing at the very back and you could not see anything in front of you. So Zacchaeus took the initiative and climbed the tree and to hang out onto one of the branches. So he could see exactly what was going on.

Now think of this. Zacchaeus had everything that he wanted according to society, he had everything he wanted because he had all the money. Think of the people that were standing watching Jesus and seeing Zacchaeus in the tree and they probably turned around and laughed at Zacchaeus. Because they are thinking what kind of fool is this? He’s on a tree limb. Why’s he doing that? What’s going on in his mind? What’s this all about? Everyone else wanted to get real close to Jesus but there is Zacchaeus sitting on a limb.

And then as Jesus is walking though, he looks up and Jesus points to Zacchaeus and says, “come down. I want to go over to your house today. We’re going to have some lunch, and we’re going to talk.”

I love how this text then dramatically changes. And it says the people grumbled. The people were upset. The people were angry. Think about it for a second. Number one, two, or three on the most despised list. They thought, “Jesus doesn’t want to have anything to do with that person. Because he’s despised, he’s rich, he’s stolen from us. He’s not worth anything but we’ve been good, we’re here and we’re going to glorify Jesus.” And Jesus looks up at that man on the limb and says “come down I’m going to have lunch with you today.” The crowds did not like that.

If they took an opinion poll of Jesus at that time his approval rating would have been zero!   But he was making a statement. He was making a statement that everyone matters to God, and that a life can be transformed no matter what that life does or what that life has been involved with in the past.

So Zacchaeus gets down, and Jesus says I want to go over and have a meal with you.

Zacchaeus sorts of props his shoulder up a little bit, he puts a little smile on his face, and he gets excited because Jesus not only knows him but knows his name!   And he says I want to come over and have lunch with you. You gotta be kidding me! And so Zacchaeus brings him over to his house and they have a great meal together and Zacchaeus’ life is transformed. He is transformed because he’s in the present of God.

He’s in the presence of the living Christ.   And when Jesus transforms a life, change happens. Now the text says that salvation was brought to his house this day. Now before that it says that Zacchaeus gave half of all the money he had to the poor and he paid back anyone he had wronged four times over. Then Jesus says, salvation has been brought to this house today.

Now I don’t want to belittle this but I want to say one thing about this that has always intrigued me about this text. We have this understand of salvation today, that we are saved or we experience salvation, when we simply believe with our minds that Jesus is Lord.

But I think Jesus set salvation a little higher standard than sometimes we do in our world today. Because Jesus said salvation is brought to this house not only when he believes but when his actions then start to emulate a generous heart, the very heart that Jesus modeled throughout his ministry. When Jesus was invited to his house and they had a conversation, and then he gave half of his money away, and he when he repaid those whom he had wronged four times, then Jesus says salvation has been brought to this house today.

Salvation and discipleship maybe, just maybe, is not only a belief that we have in our mind but when our life completely begins to emulate the life of Jesus. When our mind says I believe and when our heart says I’m all in. And “all in” for everyone of us is something very different for every person here. For Zacchaeus who was rich, he was good at earning all he could and he was good at saving all he could, but that “all in” for Zacchaeus was giving, giving all that he could. And Jesus says, salvation was brought to his house today.

This year as we enter our time of stewardship. I get into trouble when I say things like this, but what if we didn’t commit to a budget. What if we didn’t worry about the expenses of the church. I know the Finance committee members are cringing now. What if we said, it’s not about trying to keep the lights on, for stewardship, but we say it’s about something bigger. It’s about everyone one of us realizing that God has blessed us in ways that we can’t bless ourselves. And that God is calling us to live that out in our life by not just simply saying, I believe in Jesus with my head but living that out by saying in my heart: you have blessed me God with all that I have though Jesus. And I have this need inside of me to give you all that I am, that means my time, my talents, my gifts, my service, my witness, everything that I am.

If that was our stewardship program, we would meet any budget that we put down on paper, because the resources that we have in this room are greater, I think than any dreams that any one or two or three of us can dream.

When we give of ourselves completely, when we give all that we are and all that we have, because God has blessed us, when we put God as the front of our stewardship, we can’t out give God. There’s no way we could fail at stewardship. So here’s what I’m asking this year with this commitment card.

God has blessed us with everything that we have. John Wesley reminded us that we are called to earn all that we can, without doing harm to own health, or hurting others, or neglecting our relationship with God. And we are called to save all that we can to live lives as a good steward. And we are called to give all that we can.

What does that look like for each of us in this room and for each family that is represented in this room as we make our commitment today?

We are not called to give to a budget but give to God. This is about transformation of lives. It’s about us not just believing with our minds that Jesus lived and that he died and then he arose.

It’s about us having this Zacchaeus moment in our lives where our lives are transformed where we realize that everything that I am and everything that I have is a gift from God, and when I say I am ‘all in” that means I am willing to commit to Jesus and the work of sharing the love of Jesus in the world.

And for everyone of us that is something different in this room. The one thing that I do want to highlight, and I’ve talked a lot about money and resources, but this is just as important as the money and resources. We also have talents and gifts. We also have the ability to serve inside the congregation and outside in our community. When we say we are “all in” it means everything we are and everything we have.

I have one question I want to leave with you today. And that is ask yourself, “how have I experienced the blessing of God in my life?” In a moment during the offertory, I am going to ask you to come forward and place your commitment card in the basket at the front of the center aisle.

And as we come forward, thank God for the blessings God has given us; we come forward to express our thanksgiving to God by offering our commitments to the church of Jesus Christ for 2017.

And today after we finish our worship service, it’s important that we gather in fellowship and share that time of being together. Together we are in ministry. Together we are making a difference in the lives of people. Together we serve as God has blessed us. Amen.

—————————————————

Prayer: We thank you today God, for the reminder of all that we are and all that we have is a blessing from you. You modeled this in the life of Jesus, the generous life of Jesus who gave his everything, including his life, so that we can be brought into relationship with you.

God, we ask your blessing upon us as we think about the blessings you have place in our lives, the resources you have placed in our lives, the talents you have placed in our lives. And God help us either alone or together in our families to talk about what it means to give back to your church in 2017 of our time and our riches. Thank you for your gift of Jesus, for in the name of Christ we pray. Amen.