Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sermon: Peace, Just A Word?

Peace. It is a word that we use a lot.

We look for peace and quiet. When we are relaxed we are at peace. We hope for peace of mind. Want our dead relatives to rest in peace. We even have a hand signal for peace. But I wonder sometimes if we forget the power of what we are really talking about. I wonder if we use the word so much that we take the idea for granted and never plunge ourselves into the depth of its meaning. Listen to how the bible describes it.

Isaiah 2:1-5  This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say,

“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain to the house of Jacob’s God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths.”

Instruction will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem. God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war. Come, house of Jacob, let’s walk by the Lord’s light.

Isaiah talks about what the world could be. He lives in a country which has throughout history – even into our own time – a country in which there is either war, or the people are preparing for war. There never is really true peace. And Isaiah proclaims that what God wants is true peace. Peace that results in a total change in the way people live and relate to one another. It even changes how nations live and relate to one another.

Too often in this season,

peace is just a word we hear in Christmas songs, it is just a phrase that we print on Christmas cards. It is a nice thought. We treat it like it means living without stress. But it is so much more than that, it is a deep longing for life without injustice. It is God’s dream for the nations that one day wars will no longer be necessary. It is a longing for wholeness in our relationships – not an absence of conflict or a lack of disagreement. But a way of handling that conflict and those disagreements in ways that truly build up community. 

So when Isaiah talks about taking swords and spears and turning them into plows and pruning hooks. What Isaiah reminds us is that there may be changes we need to make, we might need to unlearn some old habits.

I read a story that is both a little disturbing and entertaining.

In the late 1930s Max Schneider, a tenant farmer, was having a tough time of it on the land he farmed in North Dakota. The great depression still had a tight grip on the nation, and farmers were victims perhaps as much as anyone in the country. Prices for cash crops had hit rock bottom, and for Max and other farmers, it cost as much to raise the crops as the money they received for the harvest. Max couldn't continue to feed his wife and seven kids on the money he wasn't making on his crops.

Max heard from other farmers when he was in town that he could sell old farm machinery to scrap dealers. That it was being sold to Japan so that they could make bombs and guns for their war with China. He and his wife were torn, they didn’t like the idea of seeing their old machinery turned into weapons, but they needed money for food and clothes. So they did it.

Years later, after the war ended. Max and his wife Evelyn were doing much better. They actually saved enough money to visit Arizona during the winter and escape from North Dakota. On their trip they noticed the silhouettes of discarded airplanes that had been used in World War II. Acres of worn out places were sitting in their lonely final resting place in the desert. And you know what Max thought?

He turned to Evelyn and said, “I wonder what I’d have to go through to get those old planes and sell them to scrap dealers.”

She looked at him and said, “Are you back to selling scrap metal? The war’s over, you know; what do you think they would want with the scrap this time?”

Max thought for a moment, “I don’t know. Maybe they’ll make farm machinery out of it.”[1]

Isaiah is telling us that we need to change old habits, and then he says there are new habits we need to learn. Whole systems will have to shift so that there is no need for war, as we learn new ways of relating and working together.

But in the end we need God’s help to do this.

You see, peace is not just about our physical state. It goes much further. There is a deep spiritual dimension to this peace, one we have to work to cultivate – it doesn’t just happen. If it did, every peace treaty that got signed would actually guarantee true peace. But they don’t because the spiritual dimension, the seeking of God’s deeper path too often is left out.

Isaiah specifically mentions three things that we have to do: he calls us to “go up to the Lord’s mountain”, he calls us to teach God’s ways and give instruction, and then he says we must walk in God’s paths.

These three actions connect our spiritual growth with true peace. As if, as we work to grow closer to God, when we look at just what God wants from us, when we learn to see what it means to do right in relationship with others, when we actually walk the ideals and teachings of Christ, then peace becomes a reality.

This is true for us as individuals as well as nations. If we want a more peaceful life, if we want less conflict, we have to work on growing closer to God, seeing what God wants, changing how we relate to others, and actually putting into practice Christ’s ways.

So let me give an example: For years we have had a metal hanging outside our house that said “peace” on it as we dream of a world where wars are no longer necessary, and people get along. But is that enough for it to happen? No of course not. It isn’t even enough to guarantee that my life will be peaceful. I have to do more than just put the word on my house.

But I have also used peace as a prayer word. Sitting in quiet when my mind is stressed and my heart is out of sorts, I have tried to settle myself and said “Peace” each time I breathed in, hoping and praying that God would fill me with that peace that I knew I needed in that moment. And this helps bring me calm. It certainly is that first step of seeking to grow closer to God. But is it enough to guarantee that my life will be peaceful? Of course not. I have to do more than just say the word and pray the word.

Next I have to learn the best ways for me to handle conflict.

I have to learn how to relate to people better. I have to learn how to correct problems and disagreements in ways that are healthier. Not so that the other person will be happy, but so that the end result is the best one for all involved. For that to happen, I actually have to change how I act.

And I wish, I wish I could give you the secret in a couple of sentences. But the closest I can come is this: love your neighbor as yourself. That is, love them enough to tell them when they’ve crossed the line, love them enough to forgive them when they do, and keep on loving them. But even that is oversimplifying it. The fact is, it takes a lot of work to learn the ways of peace. And I have been working on that. But I haven’t perfected it yet. I am still learning. God is still teaching me.

Isaiah understood that peace isn’t easy.

He lived in a place that drastically needed to learn from God a new way of life, so he encouraged all of us, to walk by the Lord’s light. He didn’t give up hope of peace, but he also knew that it wouldn’t come by superficially by hanging the word peace on our advent wreath, but true peace requires taking peace into the very depth of our souls, and making it ours. Going up the Lord’ mountain, teaching God’s ways, and then walking God’s paths. Drawing near to God, unlearning old habits and learning new, and then actually living it out.

If you want peace to be more than a word on your Christmas Cards this year, that is what it will take. I pray that you will work to make it happen.

[1] CSS Publishing Company, Inc, Lectionary Tales For The Pulpit, Cycle A, by Merle G. Franke

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sermon: With Me In Paradise

Luke 23:33-43

It may seem strange to read a story of the crucifixion right before thanksgiving, and as part of our celebration of those who have died. But here is the thing. In this passage we have criminals who are suffering with Christ. We have people who were not perfect, people who were so bad at least in the eyes of the government that they were given a public, humiliating and awful death. And yet, despite that, they come to have a deep conversation about Christ and with Christ – as they suffer.

It begins with the crowd. They mock Jesus, “He saved others, let him save himself if he really is the Christ, sent from God, the chosen one.”

Then the soldiers join in, as they start mocking him. “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

And these two fellow victims who hang on the crosses next to Jesus, join in the conversation. The first has been listening, and I think, as he does so, he has the smallest glimmer of hope. He realizes that if Jesus is who he says, that perhaps there is escape from this awful punishment. So he asks, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Almost every interpreter I have read judges this criminal and makes it sound like he is joining the soldiers and the crowd, making fun of Jesus. But I don’t think so, I think he is grabbing at the faintest of hopes. He is begging – save yourself and save us. It comes across self-serving, but when you are hanging on a cross dying, being self-serving is okay. So I don’t really think he is mocking Jesus. I think he is grasping for hope, like most of us do when life is at its worst.

The second criminal is far more reflective. He thinks about what he has done to earn his punishment, and then he looks at Jesus and humbly says that Christ has done nothing wrong. Then in faith he adds, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Perhaps he had heard the story of King Frederick the Great who was visiting the jails of Potsdam and speaking to the inmates. Surprisingly, every single one of the inmates expressed to the King that they were totally innocent of the charges against them. Near the end of the King's visit, one of the inmates shared with him, "My King, I am guilty and deserve the punishment I am receiving." The King ordered the man to be released. With a smile, the King said, "After all, I don't want him to corrupt all the innocent people in here."[1]

Maybe this criminal was hoping by confession to be let go, but I doubt it. More likely he understood that Jesus was an innocent man, condemned by politics. More likely he understood that Jesus was a good religious man, who truly helped others. It appears he even understood that Jesus’ kingdom was real, maybe not on earth, maybe in our hearts, maybe in heaven, but that God had a plan for this suffering messiah beyond the cross. So he simply asks to be remembered.

Christ then replies, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

To me, there is this amazing thing here. A criminal expressing only the very simplest faith, making only the most simple plea – to be remembered by Christ is told that on that very day he will be with Christ in paradise.

You know, that should be a huge comfort to us as we think about our loved ones. Some of them deserve to be called saints.

“A little boy attended Church with his Grandfather one Sunday. Grandpa's church had beautiful stained-glass windows. Grandpa told his grandson that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and whole lot of other saints.”

“When he got home, the boy told Mom and Dad all about it. Dad, wanting to be funny and curious about what his son had learned, asked, "What is a saint?" The boy thought for a minute and then replied, "A saint is somebody the light shines through."

That’s “a pretty good definition of a Saint. Who are your saints? Who are the people in your life who let the light of God shine through them for you to see?”[2]

They were truly people that pointed us to Christ, they were one’s whose lives were light and hope and inspiration. And it is easy to imagine them with Christ.

But this passage goes beyond that, it includes others who may have been sort of ordinary, they may not have been perfect. They may have had a simple faith, but said little or did little to express it. Or in fact, they may have been deeply flawed – they may have been thieves and even condemned to death for awful acts.

But, but Christ remembers all of them as he sits in his kingdom, he receives them with only the simplest statement of faith, and calls them his own. Do you realize how amazing that is? Saints, ordinary folk, sinners of the worst type, all are welcomed into paradise simply by asking Christ to remember them.

It doesn’t take a degree in theology. It doesn’t take the sort of life that inspires feel-good miniseries on television. These aren’t what get the criminal into paradise. It is a realization that we are guilty, and Christ is innocent. It is a realization that Jesus is the Christ, from God, and he does have a kingdom, and we want to be part of it. That’s really about it. For all those rather ordinary people, who probably aren’t going to make the “who’s who” of sainthood, and all those deeply flawed, even deeply sinful people, even the type that condemned to death for their crimes, for all of us Christ’s words are pretty amazing, “You will be in paradise with me.”

What a hope-filled message!

So as we reflect on those who have died, whether they are the shining saints or the unpolished ones; when we consider these people without whom our lives would never be the same, we can know that they are in paradise today. Christ remembers each and every one of them. Isn’t that nice to know? Isn’t that comforting? I think it is!

Plus, we can also come to the point of making a simple statement of faith for ourselves: starting with confession of our sins and then simply asking: “Christ remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In doing this we can hear him respond to us that we also can be with him in paradise (maybe not today – I hope not today), but when that day comes and our eyes close in final rest – we will be with him.

Once we come to know that message of hope, then we can begin to change our lives, to work toward a different lifestyle, but at the very least we know, that Christ will remember us; he will not forsake us, but he will welcome us into the eternal kingdom.

So it may seem strange to read a passage from the crucifixion as we think back on our loved ones who have died, but I think it is very fitting – it is a word of hope, a reminder of forgiveness – from people who were facing imminent death themselves. And it tells us there is a future beyond the grave.

[1] Christianglobe Networks, Inc. , The Ritz Collection, by Eric Ritz
[2] ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., RSVP: Stewardship through Service, by Billy D. Strayhorn

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is Christmas Boring?

“During his tenure as head football coach at the University of Arkansas, Lou Holtz once had his team play a bowl game on Christmas Day. When a reporter asked him how he felt about playing football on this day, rather than being at home with his family, Coach Holtz was honest and to the point. “Frankly, I’d rather be doing this,” he said. “Once you’ve been to church, had dinner and opened the gifts, Christmas is the most boring day of the year.” (from A More Urgent Season, Erskine White, 1993)
 Hmm. I ask myself, has Christmas become boring? It certainly wasn’t when I was a kid. Then Christmas was about getting together with all of my cousins and absolutely enjoying life. We did some of the craziest stuff. Sometimes we got so wild that our aunts would come upstairs and yell at us to be quiet. It didn’t work. Some of my favorite memories are writing plays and acting them out for our aunts and uncles, playing with our new Cabbage Patch dolls with such vigor than mine’s arm nearly came off, jumping on the beds (sure to get us in trouble), recording fake radio interviews with people like “the garbage man”, climbing the ladders in the barn, playing football in the yard, trying to make the world’s largest snowman, playing hearts or euchre (or if we were really adventurous – spoons, but you risked losing a finger to my Uncle Bill). I think those days were some of the best in my life.

 There was something about Grandma and Grandpa’s house that made Christmas worthwhile. And it wasn’t really the gifts. Quite honestly, we did very little gift giving. In a large family you couldn’t give gifts to everyone, so we exchanged names. Each person got one gift, that’s it. What made Christmas was the atmosphere. It was aunts and uncles who really cared about us, cousins who didn’t always get along – but were best friends anyway, it was knowing that no matter how far away we moved we could still call this place home.
 As I think about it, I’d like our church to be a place like that for all of you this Christmas season. A place where we care about one another and really ask how it is going, a place where we may not always get along but we love each other anyway, a place where no matter how far away you move or no matter how long it has been since you came – you still can call your spiritual home. I want you to say there is something about God’s house that makes Christmas worthwhile – that it brings me a sense of peace and joy, of love and hope that I just don’t get anywhere else. I want you to encounter the Christ-child here in such a deep and meaningful way, that you would never call Christmas boring.
 So throw yourself into the adventure. Return home to church, laugh so hard that the person in the next pew says “Be quiet” at the same time you discover that people here care about you, sing “Joy to the World” extra loud and “Silent Night” especially quietly, and most of all find a deeper meaning for the season than just giving gifts as you reencounter the one true gift of God in Christ.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sermon: Celebrating Our Work

What would the perfect future look like for you? Where would you be personally and professionally? Go ahead, dream big! Would you be rich? Famous? What about happy? Now extend this dream to your friends and family. What would the perfect future look like for all of you together? What about the world? What would the perfect future for humankind and for Earth look like? (From Seasons of the Spirit, 2016)

Read Isaiah 65:17-25

I’m curious: What did you think about when you imagined a perfect future for our world? On the screen is one view from France in the 1890’s. But what did you imagine? Anyone want to share briefly something they thought about? [open time of sharing]

If only all those things were true! When we look around our world it isn’t hard to find things that are wrong, that are devastating to lives, that are unfair or unjust. And in many ways when we envision our perfect world, what we envision is those things vanishing. That’s what Isaiah does: No longer do children die at a few days old, no longer do people build houses and not get to live in them. We won’t labor in vain, or bear children into a world of horrors, because we will be people blessed by the Lord.

When Isaiah says that, he clearly speaks to us to remind us that God is doing new things. He does not deny that the world is a place of failed dreams. He doesn’t ignore that our lives are sometimes chaotic. “There is no denial of the struggle, the weeping, cries of distress, lives lost too early, homelessness, economic injustice, and turmoil in which they live.”[1] But in spite of all that, Isaiah has chutzpah. That is such a fun word chutzpah. You get to clear your throat as you say it. It actually is a Hebrew word that means having a lot of courage. In fact, the Miriam-Webster dictionary says that Chutzpah means “courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.”[2] Isaiah has the chutzpah to say, “Rejoice. God is doing amazing things.” He doesn’t care if it is shocking to us, as we look around the world and see all of the ugliness – he is going to remind us that God is doing amazing things even if we don’t see it. He has the Chutzpah to look toward the future that God has planned and show us that it is in construction even now!

Now most of you know, that while things are under construction They are a bit messy. When you remodel, dust gets everywhere, even the places you cover get dust in them. And when you build new, the first thing you have to do is tear up the ground, dig a hole, and make a mess. We have a house going up just down the road from us, and when the excavators came and dug the hole, these two immense piles of dirt appeared. Monty, our dog, does not like the piles of dirt. He barks at them. He wants them to leave. His territory has been made messy and he doesn’t like it. So he barks at the piles of dirt to try to get them to leave.

All Monty sees is the mess. Even when we try to explain the end result --  He doesn’t see that one day those piles of dirt will be a house, a house where another dog may live who will be his best friend (Monty is the type of dog who thinks every dog is his best friend).

Isaiah is trying to tell us, that the mess we see isn’t permanent, he is trying to show us the end result, to explain to us the beauty that will come from the dirt-piles around us.

For just a moment, I want to focus on one part of that vision that Isaiah has for us. One of the things Isaiah mentions is that God is working so that those who build houses will live in them, those that plant vineyards, those that do work, will benefit from it. Our work, our labors will not be in vain. We will get to see the fruit, the results, of our hard work.

Too often we never get to see that. Think about all the people who built new homes only to see them destroyed by the winds or floods caused by Hurricane Matthew. The people in Haiti worked so hard to rebuild after the earthquake, now homeless again.

Or I heard a radio interview with a man who had fled Mosul because of ISIS. He had spent his life there, making a home, being part of the community, and now he says, even if it is liberated he won’t go back. Everything he worked for there is gone. He has lost it all already, it is time to start over somewhere else.

Or it could be that we work hard for our company, we put in extra hours, we give our all. But we never really benefit. When we found a great way to cut costs, our boss took the credit. When the company made record profits, we didn’t get a raise.

What Isaiah envisions is that we will enjoy the results of our work, our toil, our labor. The homes we build, the communities we create, will be things that we get to enjoy. That is quite a dream, when you think about it. We will get to see the results of what we have done, we will understand the purpose, the final product will be revealed, and we will know how it is part of God’s holy work.

For example, Some of you, for the last month have taken on the challenge of making $20 grow. The church gave you $20 and challenged you to do something with it. You put thought into how you could do it. Perhaps you put hours of work into it. Perhaps, you simply decided to add something too it, as a gift from your own income and the hard work you do there. Perhaps you bought lemons and had a lemonade stand. Or perhaps you took the time to research a stock and invested it. Each of these took work from you, time from your day.

Whatever you did, God says here that your labors had a purpose, they have a result – they do good in the world. They are part of God’s holy work. Maybe you didn’t think of it that way as you were doing it, but your efforts were part of the new thing that God is doing. Bringing gladness and rejoicing, bringing an end to weeping and crying, helping babies to live through childhood diseases. That’s what your giving to the church enables, the hours you work to earn the money you give to church, are hours worked to help realize Isaiah’s dream. You probably didn’t think that as you were teaching rowdy children, or cleaning a bathroom, or staring at a computer screen trying to get numbers to balance. But your work, your labor, in those hours, was for a child to get fresh water from a well for the first time.

In fact, Isaiah says that what God is doing will go to miraculous lengths, beyond the things we could ever really imagine – the wolf and lamb will graze together, the lion will eat straw like the ox, the snake will eat dust (which sounds a little bad for the snake, but I suppose is better than it biting my leg), and most of all: people will no longer hurt or destroy at any place. Your work, your giving is part of this. And Isaiah says one day we will get to see it – we will witness the results of the work of our hands. Can you imagine, what it will be like to see God’s world, the new earth, and realize that your hands helped create that? Sit at work tomorrow, and think about that one! That is something to celebrate even as a customer complains. Our labor has value.

And because of that, our giving is no small thing. This isn’t just about paying the heating bills for a hundred year old building, or paying a pastor’s salary, it is about creating God’s kingdom on earth, board by board, nail by nail, dirtpile by dirtpile, until all is complete. Isaiah has the  chutzpah to tell us that, we need to have the chutzpah to see it! It is a dream of a new heaven and a new earth, God’s dream.

[1] Seasons of the Spirit, 2016
[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chutzpah

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sermon: Bringing Jesus Home

Luke 19:1-10

Who lives with you in your house?

You can start by answering that literally: roommate, spouse, partner, brother, sister, mother, father, slipper-chewing dog, a herd of elephants . . .

Then you could think about the people that spend a lot of time there, but don’t technically live there: the kid next door, your best friend, mother-in-law, and so on.

But if you start to get a little philosophical about the question of who lives with you, you could add all those that you bring home with you mentally and emotionally. Perhaps you bring your work home with you every day – so maybe a co-worker or an employee or a boss hovers about in your mind even while you are home. Or perhaps there is a boy or girl in your class that you have a crush on, or that you are dating, and you spend half your day texting them. Or perhaps you have a picture of grandma on your wall, that you walk by all the time, and you know that she is watching over you.

So I ask again, who lives with you in your house? Whose presence is there, indisputably influencing your home-life?

The question for today is: is Christ there?

Is he one of them that you have invited in? Listen to this example from scripture: Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.
Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”
Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. The Human One came to seek and save the lost.”

Whenever I am looking at a Bible text, I like to read some other people’s opinions on the text. Often I gain insights from them that I would never have on my own. The commentary I use most often is called Seasons of the Spirit. As I was reading this, there were several phrases of theirs that really jumped out at me.

Number one: If there was anyone that people did not expect to respond to Jesus, it was Zacchaeus. But he does. -- In other words, Zacchaeus was not the kind of guy you’d expect to walk into church. But on this day, he shows up. What kind of guy was he? Well . . .

A funny story:

A man on vacation was strolling along outside his hotel in Tampa, enjoying the sunny Florida weather. He heard the screams of a woman kneeling in front of a child, after a moment he determined that the boy had swallowed a coin. Seizing the child by the heels, the man held him up, gave him a few shakes, and a quarter dropped to the sidewalk. "Oh, thank you sir!" cried the woman. "You seemed to know just how to get it out of him. Are you a doctor?" "No, ma'am," replied the man. "I'm with the IRS."

This was Zacchaeus. A tax-collector. A shake down artist. A man who could get the last quarter out of you. He is not the person you’d expect to walk into church, but on this day he shows up.

A second observation that the commentary makes is that: Perhaps Zacchaeus was not dishonest, like we generally judge him to be, but he suffered what many of us today suffer from – failing to put his faith into action. But on this day he does it. – In other words, most of the time we pastors paint Zacchaeus as something near to a thief, who skimmed from the taxes he collected. But what if he wasn’t dishonest, he was just doing an unpopular job, and he suffered a much simpler and more common problem – his faith didn’t really influence his life. His faith didn’t impact what he did or how he lived. Which can be something anyone can struggle with: even you or I.

Yet on this day: Zacchaeus goes to see Jesus, and he finds a seat. [pause] Then when Jesus sees him and calls to him, he invites Jesus to his house, both figuratively and literally. [pause] So when he invites Jesus to his house not only does Zacchaeus welcome him with hospitality, but he also opens his heart to change everything in his life. Zacchaeus decides that his faith is going to make a difference in his life from now on. And I would say, in response to my question earlier: for Zacchaeus, he’s bringing Jesus to his home.

We also need to bring Jesus home with us.

There are places in our lives, every one of us, where we could be doing better. Perhaps we are not as generous as we should be. Perhaps we are like the crowd and we look at people like Zacchaeus and judge them. Perhaps behind closed doors we abuse our spouse, or we struggle with addiction. Perhaps we lie and cheat and steal at work and have never thought twice about it.

And that is why I asked you, who lives in your house? Is Christ there?

Because we need to bring Jesus home with us, if the only time and place you see him is here at church, and when you walk out that door you leave him here, then guess what – those things in our lives won’t change (of course maybe we don’t want them to change), maybe we are quite comfortable not putting our faith into action. But eventually something may happen, and we will look around, see those places where we really need to change, and decide today is the day. Perhaps we will even get as excited as Zacchaeus about it, and we throw ourselves into a new attitude with commitment to change.

Eric S. Ritz in his book Why Change is Possible reminds us that: “A famous preacher once said, "When people tell me that human nature cannot be changed, I am moved to reply that in light of my experience, human nature may well be the only thing that CAN BE CHANGED!" We cannot change the course of the moon or the sun. We cannot change the laws of the physical world. We cannot change the movement and flow of the ocean. We cannot change the stars in the skies and the course they move in. However, the Bible pulsates with pages of testimonies of the lives, purposes, events, and habits which have been changed and can be changed.”

That is the opportunity that Christ gives each and every one of us. To bring salvation not only to us when we are in church, but to bring it to our homes, our daily lives.

So how do you make sure that Christ lives in your home?

It starts quite simply by inviting him in, admitting that you want him there, making room for him. But then be a good host, making time for him, talking with him. Make sure that your faith is alive, affecting your relationships, your daily choices. If you realize that you have failed, do everything you can to repair it (Zacchaeus offered to repay anyone he cheated four times as much) that had to help him change how he operated. Being willing to accept the cost of your mistakes as you seek forgiveness.

We are not talking about being made religious for a few moments once a week, we are talking about being rescued from a sort of spiritual brokenness where what we believe and how we live are disconnected – we are talking about true deep, lasting change that connects our faith to our lives, and makes a difference. It happened for Zacchaeus, even though no one expected it; and it can happen for us.