morning! What a great day to be together and worship, and to have
Peggy here to share with us. I know you’ve been waiting for
the past two weeks to hear the end of the Zacchaeus story. Betty
just read Luke’s account for us, but we have another version
we’ve been following, too.
Here, from Ted & Co. and their DVD “What’s So Funny
About Money” are Zacchaeus and the poor sucker who Zacchaeus
has been running up taxes for. Here is the conversation at their
favorite café, the Burlap Monkey.
[Track 12 At the Café from DVD “What’s So
Funny About Money?”]
The not-so-biblical conversation we just saw happened after Jesus
left Zacchaeus’ house. I want to backtrack a bit and consider
what happened right after Zacchaeus came down from the sycamore
tree. You’ll remember Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, hurry
and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” And Zacchaeus
hurried down and was happy to welcome him. If Zacchaeus was worried
about what he had in the refrigerator or if the linens on the guest
bed were clean, we’re not told that -- only that he was happy
to welcome Jesus.
But the people begin to grumble -- remember, Zacchaeus is a despised
little man: the chief tax collector, employed by the occupying powers
of the Roman government. Nobody else invites Jesus to their home,
but they grumble because Jesus is going to be the guest of a sinner.
What kind of rabbi would associate with someone like Zacchaeus?
Doesn’t Jesus know any better? Doesn’t he even care
what this looks like? Apparently not. But Zacchaeus hears the grumbling;
there’s probably grumbling everywhere he goes. Jesus doesn’t
even get to Zacchaeus’ home; Zacchaeus stands right in the
midst of this crowd who is grumbling about him, and speaks to Jesus.
And he says, “Look, half 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.” And Jesus replies -- do you
know what Jesus replies? Not, Thank you, Zacchaeus! That’s
very generous. Or Be sure to put the right number on your offering
envelope. Here’s what Jesus says, “Today salvation has
come to this house.” What? What does salvation have to do
Let me say unequivocally that salvation is not a commodity which
can be bought or sold. The medieval Roman Catholic Church tried
something very like that with the sale of religious relics and indulgences,
and that was one of misuse of religious power which led to the Protestant
Reformation, which fostered the Anabaptist movement, out of which
came the Church of the Brethren. Brethren stand in the tradition
which says that salvation is a free gift, offered to each one us
of through Jesus Christ.
I have shared before, most recently at Vicki Lehman’s service,
about the relationship between salvation and healing: in Greek,
it is the same word. Jesus came for the healing of body and spirit.
I want to take you to Luke 4, where Jesus begins his ministry in
his hometown of Nazareth, by reading these words from Isaiah 63
in the synagogue:
The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
There’s a lot of different kinds of salvation going on here:
economic salvation to the poor, societal salvation to the captives,
physical salvation to the blind, political salvation to the oppressed,
a year of the Lord’s favor.
The church, or at least some churches, has increasingly made salvation
an individual matter: that moment when a sinner becomes a believer,
falls to her knees, confesses her sin and proclaims Jesus Christ
as Lord and Savior, and the only way to everlasting life. That is
a fine definition of salvation, but I believe the Bible gives us
a broader vision than that. The witness of the Bible is that salvation
is not just a moment in time; it is a process which forms us. Salvation
may begin with an individual, but it doesn’t stop there.
Let’s go back to Zacchaeus: he doesn’t confess that
he defrauded anyone, he doesn’t say that Jesus is Lord, but
he does commit to economic justice: he will share what he has with
the poor, and he will take responsibility for what he has done in
the past. This is a genuine conversion, and it will affect how Zacchaeus
lives his life and how he interacts with his neighbors. And it isn’t
conditional on them being nicer to him.
We are not saved by what we do with our money, but what we do with
our money says a lot about our buy-in to God’s plan of bringing
healing to the world. Maybe money isn’t even the resource
which we have, or which will make the greatest impact. Maybe it’s
prayer or presence or vision. Maybe it’s heifer cows. I believe
that the effort to bring food and economic stability and hope to
communities and families which were devastated by World War II was
an expression of the saving love of Jesus Christ. It still is. Heifer
International is the result of a vision which we celebrate because
it was a wonderful idea, but also because it is close to our hearts
as Brethren, and close to our neighborhood with Dan West and the
initial group of people whom he gathered in Northern Indiana. How
those men chose to use their resources was a direct result of their
faith: a faith which included love of God and love of neighbor.
The seagoing cowboys, as some of you know personally, were men who
expressed their love for Jesus as love and service for others. We
are not saved by what we do, but if we don’t do anything for
anyone else, how is our salvation expressed? My Anabaptist antennae
get a little twitchy when people talk about Jesus as their personal
Savior. That phrase “personal Savior” isn’t found
anywhere in the Bible. If it means that Jesus knows me intimately
and personally, I’m fine with that. But if the implication
is that salvation is between me and Jesus and it doesn’t change
how I relate to my family, my neighbors, my world, or my money --
my stuff is my stuff and Jesus has nothing to do with that -- then
I don’t think we’ve read our Bibles very carefully.
I hope your conversations around the resources in “What’s
So Funny About Money” have been engaging. This is the last
week for those conversations; even if you haven’t been able
to be a part of them before today, I encourage to join a Sunday
School class or the group which Ted is leading in the Gathering
Area. Peggy will be in the Gathering Area during our fellowship
time. As you have a snack and look through your new Seagoing Cowboy
book, I invite you to consider the modest or ambitious ways which
you are being called to put your faith into action: to share the
salvation and healing love of Christ with our neighbors and in our