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Tuesday, October 30, 2007
WELCOMING JESUS What does it mean to look beyond our present understanding in order to see the amazing ways in which God’s promises are being fulfilled? In this week’s readings, Jesus, the prophet Habakkuk, the psalmist, and Paul all see beyond the obvious and welcome God’s reign. Following their example, we are invited to live in the presence of God’s promises and work toward their fulfillment. Focus Scripture: Luke 19:1–10 At the beginning of Luke 19, we find Jesus passing through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem; at the end of this chapter is the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Again, the gospel reports that Jesus is criticized for associating with those considered unclean or outside the household of faith. In this story we encounter the discipleship of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who seeks out Jesus and is then transformed by the encounter. In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were not paid by the Romans, but were entitled to collect whatever amounts they chose from the populace, paying the Roman government the required amount and keeping the difference. Decried by some as collaborators, despised by others for being ritually unclean because of their routine contact with Gentiles, and hated by others because of the tax burden they forced on the community, the gospel of Luke portrays tax collectors as the ultimate outsiders. The Pharisees considered Jesus’ interactions with them as an indication that he was not a true prophet of God. Jesus extends God’s grace to Zacchaeus by being willing to engage in that most intimate of Middle Eastern customs, the sharing of a meal in a person’s home. Sharing a meal brings Zacchaeus into community with Jesus. Zacchaeus welcomes the gift of God’s grace that Jesus gives and is transformed into a disciple who is generous in serving, who becomes rich toward God. Luke challenges the first readers, and us, to consider how we place ourselves in God’s presence and welcome Jesus Christ, who first and always welcomes us. The climax of the story comes when Jesus declares that Zacchaeus is a “son of Abraham” – one of God’s chosen people. Jesus announces that God’s salvation has come to Zacchaeus. Salvation in the Bible refers to God’s desire and activity to free humankind from sin, death, and the powers of evil – liberating people to live as God created them to live. The saving work of God that Jesus described in the stories of the lost coin and sheep in chapter 15 is also evident here. There is nowhere that the reign of God will not reach. In Habakkuk 1:1–4, 2:1–4, the prophet calls for the promise of God’s saving and liberating love to be written large enough for a runner to read. God’s goodness and grace will surely come. The righteous will, like the prophet standing on the rampart, continue to look for the salvation of God. God’s promises bring transformation. In Psalm 119:137–144 the psalmist proclaims that regardless of what happens, the people will know the coming of God’s promises. Zacchaeus’ life was transformed by being in Jesus’ presence. In 2 Thessalonians 1:1–4, 11–12, Paul reminds his readers that their faith is growing because of God’s presence in their lives. Paul calls on the Thessalonians to give thanks to God and to be confident that as God works within them, they will be able to live the lives to which they have been called. • • • • • When people place themselves in God’s presence, lives are transformed. New possibilities for life and service become visible. We have a place in this story of God’s saving work. What new and fresh perspectives on life do we gain by living in Christ? What might we do, as individuals and as the church, to welcome Jesus – and the friends Jesus brings along – into our hearts and homes?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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