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.

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