Equality Is Not Possible Through Revenge

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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God Created All Equally Favoured.

We can be courageous to live so, today!

Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’

John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Words of Grace For Today

There is something very wrong with this creation account in Genesis. How it has been used makes this very clear to anyone who wishes to pay attention.

While humans are both female and male, the story places one as the first consideration for God, and the other as an after-thought, a help mate for the first.

This story came out of a male biased culture and has been used to place females as a second class kind of human. Abuses have abounded through history based solely on this false preference of God’s for males. These biases and their subsequent abuses used to seem so acceptable to some people, especially those that benefited from them. In truth they always have been an abomination for the whole species.

Today, as it this helps at all, many have turned these biases and abuses on their heads. Females are given free license to devalue, abuse, lie about, gaslight, and even kill males as if it were their birthright as females. This can never set right the abuses of a bias for males. In fact in is worse than the male favoured bias. For many the bias favouring males was unintentional, and it has been supported also by females for their benefit.

The new (to our culture) bias favouring abuse by and benefit for females at the expense of males cannot be claimed by any to be participated unawares. It is the flip of a terrible bias in history. For that matter continuing male-favouring biases is no longer excuseable if it ever was because one was unawares.

A bias participated in aware of it is worse than an accidental bias in that it is on top of everything else consciously chosen.

Female favouring biases are also most often pursued with revenge in mind, i.e. it is as if the abuse is pursued against this good male to take revenge for the abuse of other males, even though they are related on in that they are males.

That kind of blind revenge bias is many measures worse. It claims to set things right, yet it adds layer upon layer of lies and deception and damage to every situation.

Only Grace brings us to live past bias of any kind.

Jesus, on the cross, does not change that woman have next to no possibility to ‘take care of their own business.’ They require a man to own the property and from that provide for the woman. Instead Jesus acknowledges the disadvantage this places upon Mary, his mother, and he ensures that one of the disciples is now recognized by Mary as her son, and she is recognized by him as her mother.

Jesus does not remove the bias. Instead he ensures despite the bias, his followers and his mother are cared for as all people should be.

We can make changes, if all too slowly, to cultural biases. We need to do this with great courage and persistence. We need to do this to remove the bias, not to merely replace it with an equally if not worse bias!

And as we recognize our own sin, and the sin of our culture’s biases, we need to work swiftly and effectively to mitigate the suffering our cultural biases cause people. We need to provide the care every human deserves for everyone we can.

This is the meaning of life, and the purpose of each day. For this we can live grateful lives.

Can We Sinners Live Wisely and Gently?

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

In the Darkness of Sin,

We May Not Know How to Live Well!

Sanctified, We Can Learn to Live

Wisely and Gently

As the Holy Spirit Guides Us.

Psalm 119:66

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

James 3:13

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

Words of Grace For Today

After we recognize our own hopeless sinfulness, which God redeems at great cost, forgiving us and renewing life in us, and that we need God’s forgiveness constantly, for we simply cannot stop sinning, then the question is how are we going to live?

The measure we humans have held up returns us right back into works righteousness, as if God suddenly has made us able not to sin, so that we must preform or lose God’s favour and blessings. These two passages certainly could be interpreted that way … making it easy for us to dismiss them.

There is more to it than that.

Once sanctified (made saints by God), though we continue to sin, God pulls out of us great works that further God’s will and work on earth among humans and for creation. Most simply put, God’s willa and work is that God’s Grace is demonstrated to more and more people, and more and more people embrace the cross as God’s demonstration of God’s love for all people; forgiveness, redemption and new life is for everyone. We can live to cooperate with God’s will, or we can constantly choose to defy God’s will and live as if God does not exist, has not created us, does not forgive, redeem and renew us, and as if we can go it alone.

We can go it alone … right to our own damnation, choosing to separate ourselves from God. God still comes to us, forgives us, redeems us, renews us … except at some point God allows us to have our way … and the hell we have created for ourselves is the hell we live forever. At what point this happens is not anything we can know. But that it happens we can know: we can choose to deny God’s good work in us.

How else can we live? There are options that God makes possible for us. Wisdom is one of them.

We can pray: Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

We can live each day so that our God-given wisdom and understanding is evident in our works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

These passages then speak to how we can pursue wisdom in our daily lives, not to our own benefit, but to the benefit of everyone around us. They speak of our penultimate striving that God make possible for us.

God’s Story for Us is Never Complete

Monday, March 1, 2021

The End of Our Story or

God’s Beginning

Of the Rest of Our Lives?

Genesis 37:14

So Israel said to Joseph, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

Philippians 2:4

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Words of Grace For Today

Israel sends Joseph.

That begins Joseph’s story of betrayal, slavery, advancement, a woman’s false charges, jail, interpreting dreams, and rising to Pharaoh’s most senior man … able then to rescue his family (including the brothers who betrayed him) from famine, which then results in Joseph’s descendants being enslaved by the Egyptians and God’s delivering the people, bringing them into the Promised Land. This story of deliverance will be retold generation after generation as the basis of God’s relationship with God’s chosen people.

When we think that our enemies have done us in, God uses all circumstances (especially our great disaster) to bring about witness and long-lived stories of God’s Graceful Deliverance of so many people.

God’s guide for us comes in many various words and ways. Paul relates a few of them to the Philippians: Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Let us live wondrously filled with trust in God’s deliverance, for God walks with us through all circumstances. We need not look after our own interests. We receive life and breath that we may look after others’ interests.

God’s Wonders Keep Us In Life, No Matter What Comes Our Way

Sunday, February 28, 2021

God is with Us

Always

Though we Despair,

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Blessings and Joy.

Isaiah 43:5

Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Words of Grace For Today

God promises us no easy or comfortable life. God promises us, though, when life is horrendously challenging, we need not fear what may come our way: We need not fear.

Some people somehow learn not to panic in the most stressful situations, though we all have our limits. There are things that drive everyone of us over the bend, and into such distress that we cannot see our way forward.

Life with Christ as our guide, though, need never leave us in doubt; God accompanies us, and when we stray, God gathers us and our offspring in from all the corners where we have strayed and been scattered like dandelion seeds in the winds of summer thunderstorms. Life can be rough, so rough that it will easily appear to do us in.

God promises us we need not fear that such misadventure will do us in. Paul puts it well: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

God calls us to be saints, the people who reflect Christ’s light to all the world. As we work to bring to light the wonders of God’s miracles among us, there will be no end of challenges that we will face, that will tempt us, and that will do us in, except God finds us, delivers us, and sets us right again, to breathe for yet another day of service.

Light and easy our lives may not be, though accompanied by God we can trust we will endure everything that comes our way. Knowing God’s promises are sure, we need not panic. Not because we are so great or practised or immune. We need not panic because God guards our hearts and minds and strength with God’s own strength. Life for us never ceases to amaze or challenge or inspire.

Breathe. God’s spirit enters us, cleanses us, and inspires us.

Breathe. All will be well. All will be well. All manners of things will be well.

Challenges, Darkness, Light

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Light

Let Us Be Light

For Those In Dark.

Deuteronomy 32:11

As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, so the Lord alone guided him.

Philippians 4:7

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Words of Grace For Today

The challenges we face everyday are not inconsequential.

On our own the Devil always gets us and has his way with us.

God does not abandon us.

Like an eagle providing care for it’s young, God looks after us. Like a loving parent God guides us all our days.

We need not panic, or lose heart, for the peace of God surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and guides us to be saints, the people of Christ’s light, Christ’s Grace, God’s love for all we encounter.

God’s peace is everything we need for this day, for each day … one day at a time.

Between Infinite and Finite

Friday, February 26, 2021

We Find Our Way Home

to the Light of God

Following the Trail Left by

the Saints Who Have Gone Before Us.

Amos 4:13

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

John 17:6-7

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.

Words of Grace For Today

While Covid 19 restrictions force us to deal with shortcomings in ourselves, in our congregations, in our faith …

All this can have huge upsides for us. Not that we are likely to overcome our shortcomings. Recognizing our shortcomings is the first step to confession, which is our first step back to renewed life in Christ. Our confession is not the first step back to renewed life, for God has taken many much larger steps to bring us to the point where we can confess by assuring us that God will respond graciously, forgiving us, and renewing us as we confess. In truth, our confession happens AFTER God renews life in us. Our confession is our first step to realizing (again and again) that God has already renewed life in us (again and again.)

The greater challenge in all of our-realizing-God-has-renewed-life-in-us is wrapping our finite, tiny minds (imagine so very small square holes) around God’s infinitely large being, or even God’s attitude towards us (imagine one multi-universe times infinity sized round peg!)

We just do not have the horse-power in our so limited minds, in our so limited existence as a whole species, to be able to start to comprehend God.

If you are pressed and stressed to the point of giving up by Covid 19 – a shortterm pandemic- , then we all must surrender to the reality that the project of starting to understand God is so far beyond us, there is no place to start.

Yes, humans have seemingly ‘understood God’ completely, which gives rise to all sorts of human-made-up religions, almost always tools for controlling other humans. What better way to control others than to have them believe it is not just another human ordering them about, but it is the divine, the infinitely powerful (to be feared), their Creator who orders them about. Even throw in love powered by fear and … well obedience is complete … or the just punishment has often been ruin, exile or even death administered by those in power over this made-up faith.

What about our faith that we hold to today? Is that made up as well? If you treat faith as a smorgasbord from which you can take anything as much as you want to form your faith, then I would guess that is not only the case, but you have lost yourself to a morass of ‘leaders’ who are yanking you around by the nose, though you may remain completely unaware of it.

If you adhere to a tradition … you may still be living out someone else’s control over you. OR maybe, just maybe …

Throughout scripture there is a thread woven of our God (the God of Abraham and Sarah and all the others down to Martin Luther, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Hordern, and many others of all generations) as a God who goes the complete ‘distance’ to bridge the infinite (imagine a multi-universe times infinity round peg) to finite (imagine a teeny, tiny square hole) problem.

We refer to it as revelation. We read it in the passages above:

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.

We are not left to try to bridge the gap, to somehow wrap our heads around the infinite, the divine. We need not worry about ‘understanding’ God. God comes to us and does that for us.

That we cannot do anything to earn God’s favour or renewed life, that we can do nothing to understand God, must leave us as the beginning of each moment humble.

Humbled we can confess. Humbled we can proceed through our days assured that God walks with us, that we can be bold (not arrogant or self-righteous) and courageous to speak of God’s Word to us, and to be the doers of God’s Word at all occasions.

God’s Will for us, for this marvellous creation is most clearly seen in … our failures, our sins. In God’s Forgiveness in response to our sins we limited humans experience most clearly God’s Will for us and all people; that we live lives of gratitude for life, forgiveness and renewed life.

Confession and humility and gratitude are not easy nor are they comfortable. There are plenty of leaders who encourage us to start, continue and carry on our days without confessing our sins. In Covid 19 times, with recorded worship, my congregation has not had confession once as part of the services (that I have seen, at least. I would hope I am wrong. Yet it should be a part of everyday, a part of every service. It is the beginning of experiencing God, otherwise we risk avoiding God all together as we ‘make up our faith’ for the coming days.

What a miracle it is that God has given us; a way to begin to understand God’s Will and Word for us and all creation!

It is said in many ways. It is the shadows that point us to the Light! Leonard Cohen expressed it, ‘It is in the cracks that the Light gets in.’

Breathe, Relax, Choose, Do the Saints’ Work

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Relax, Breathe,

No Matter the Path We Choose,

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love.

2 Samuel 22:3

My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my saviour; you save me from violence.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Words of Grace For Today

Covid 19 has brought many of the challenges to abundant living to the fore, making it impossible to ignore them. Poor care in (only some) senior care facilities, the real costs of homelessness (which we used to minimize by large social housing projects which were stopped decades ago, resulted in large homeless populations nearly everywhere, which we are only recently addressing and saving money doing so!), the huge percentage of our populations who have absorbed as the basis of their ‘rational’ thinking ‘Querdenken’, false-news, science-deniers, and wild conspiracy theories, which has fed racist and minority focused hate – this is possible since the powers that be have long since used propaganda, and all the above to rationalize their corrupt agendas and to remain in power. Fear mongering by politicians and power brokers and even courts has long term costs for a society and we are paying for it now, again, and will be for decades.

While the stress of isolation taxes each person’s resilience, the first step in responding to each new wave of stress is to relax. It is in fact the only healthy thing we can choose to do in the face of overwhelming stress.

Breathe.

Breathe deeply and slowly.

Breathe in the Holy Spirit’s presence to be in us. Allow it to cleanse and renew each fibre of our being.

Breathe out the effects of all evil and stress.

Breathe in deeply and slowly. Breathe out every source of stress.

Then we can remember who our rock and salvation is. Then we can remember the words of Paul which have sustained generations of God’s people:

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So assured, again, that God is with and for us, loving us, now we can return to providing that same unconditional love to those in need around us. We can start addressing, one by one, the ills of our society that Covid 19 has made more obvious. We can in fact bring an end to chronic homelessness. We can in fact provide better value (pay) for essential workers, and less for overpaid un-essential leeches on our society, like money brokers and stock market manipulators. We can ensure all people receive respect and care. We can deal with violence (physical and psychological) against all people by anyone, not just against women by men. We can begin to deal with the many who use religion to accumulate power for themselves, to hide their abuse of others, and to perpetrate violence against anyone who stands up to them. We have more than enough ‘wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing’ in our congregations. We can begin to deal with Querdenken and raw hatred based on religion, ethnicity, gender or any other measure by speaking truth, and protecting those who speak truth for us.

And we can begin and end each day thanking God: My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my saviour; you save me from violence.

Striving Onward to ‘Greatness’?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Every Living Thing Strives and Grows,

Trees Were Once Seedlings And Before That Mere Seeds In Pine Cones

Up to Be More Than They Started Out To Be

Psalm 102:26

They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away.

1 Corinthians 1:8

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Words of Grace For Today

We humans strive.

It’s built into our DNA, that we strive.

We strive to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and those we are responsible for and those we are responsible to.

When we no longer need to strive to provide the necessities of life we continue to strive, to make life more, to make life easier, to make life more comfortable, to make life more secure.

Our striving requires that we persevere through even the apparently most unendurable circumstances in order that we can hope that we will emerge successful.

Our common, built into our DNA, sin is that in our striving we think highly of ourselves, and with our successes when we strive, we think even more highly of ourselves. This assessment of ourselves provides us a base, even if totally falsified, from which we operate with boldness, sometimes raw foolish boldness, to achieve what we strive for.

Besides falsely assessing ourselves, we falsely assess other people. We think less of them. If they have not achieved with their striving as much as we have (measured by what we have striven for) we devalue them. This gives us a greater assessment possibility for ourselves. If they have achieved more than we have (measured by what we have striven for) then we devalue their achievements in order to give us a greater hope of matching and surpassing their achievements.

The most deceptive part of our striving is that we also devalue God, the ultimate power, creator, and judge of us all, in order that we can move forward in our own ways (measured only by our own standards of what is acceptable and what is not). We throw off the inconvenient truth about the ethical value of our strivings, methods, and accomplishments. It is simply a drag on our confidence. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we are capable of god-like achievements, that we have out-paced other humans, that we have stepped above the rest, and even that God must be dead because we can achieve enough on our own to be able to prove that God cannot exist if God ever did.

Ah, yes, we become godlets to ourselves and those around us who worship us.

Until God changes us like clothing, and we pass away into oblivion.

To avoid such a terrible end, an end of the same kind of nothingness we’ve actually achieved with our lives founded on the sinking sands of deception, we know we must turn to God, confess our sins, and worship God. Thus we may remember who we actually are; mere creatures of God’s making.

We know we must pray (or when we are so lost we no longer remember to pray we need others to pray for us): strengthen us to the end, so that we may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know on our own we can strive all our lives long and achieve nothing worth anything. With Christ Jesus our Lord graciously forgiving us, redeeming us, and renewing us, there is no limit what God can accomplish in us, with us, and through us.

Always wretched sinners, simultaneously God-made saints, our lives lack nothing. Compared to the highest roller coaster ride, our lives require that we ‘hold on to our hearts, minds, and souls (and soles)’. There is never a dull moment. God walks with us, and moves us to places, events and endurance we could never imagine possible.

Hang on, here we go!

In Our Sin God’s Greatness Is Most Clear

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Cracks Let’s the Light In, The Shadows Point to God’s Greatness

We May Think Sin Keeps Us From God

It Is In Our Sin That God

Most Clearly Demonstrates God’s Greatness

Deuteronomy 3:24

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your might; what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds and mighty acts like yours!

Colossians 1:27

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Words of Grace For Today

It matters not how much we’ve experienced of God’s great wonders as blessings poured out on us, there is always going to be more and more and more. We cannot know everything that God has in mind for us; the goodness and blessings flow without end.

Jesus’ contemporaries expected that God’s blessings would flow only to the Israelites. The surprise and unexpected comes after Jesus’ death when it is made clear that God’s blessings flow even to those who are not Jews. Paul did Jesus’ work well, as did others, ensuring that Gentiles and Jews alike knew God would bless all kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles.

Today, we also try to restrict God’s blessings to only some people. As people have since the beginning of time, we try to claim we are better, more blessed, by God than others, which somehow explains that while others do not have God’s favour, we, even if we do not deserve it, are God’s chosen few.

False pride in all that, and to ensure we are not found out to be no better than others, we try to make others out to be much more terrible than they really are. Lies, deception and all that goes around freely.

This is what we do, unabashedly sinful to try to make ourselves appear to be better than we are.

God knows all this about us. Even so God exercises grace upon grace for us, forgiving and renewing us to live as God’s own children, God made saints.

Such riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in [us], the hope of glory, are made known to the Gentiles … exactly in this way: the Gentiles have no expectations of God’s blessings, unlike the Jews. So the Gentiles, when they know God blesses them without end, know that this is God’s real work for us all, this is the sure demonstration of God’s wonderful Grace – the greatest work of God, that the undeserving receive God’s favour and blessings.

This is the good news for us: we do not deserve anything good from God, and still we receive blessings upon blessings.

Then the big surprise comes: God blesses those we most think do not deserve God’s attention yet alone all of God’s blessings poured endlessly out upon them.

What a surprise, a surprise of all God’s goodness for us … and for all people.

God’s Way Through Our Mesh and Messes

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Too Often We See the Light of Christ

Through the Mesh and Mess of Our Shortcomings.

Still Christ’ Light Shines

In and Through Us

to All People!

Genesis 18:3

He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant.’

Luke 19:5

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’

Words of Grace For Today

When a king comes to town for a visit, unannounced (because there is no internet, or post, or telephone – either our past or our future) then we may want the king to stay with us, maybe.

First it would be life-death important to know how the king is disposed to us! If the king has come to find traitors and suspects us, will see what is not a betrayal, but something that the king will use as an excuse to vent his anger at being betrayed … well then obviously we might not want the king to come stay with us.

If the king, despite our ‘indiscretions’, is forgiving, and is favourably disposed to us, then it would be a great honour to have the kind stay with us.

Thus Abraham’s invitation seems understandable, “Come stay with us, if we have found favour with you.”

It’s a bit more complicated, since Abraham is sitting in a nomad’s tent, where the law of the desert, seldom ignored, is that out in the barren, isolated hard lands anyone seeking refuge from the heat and sands will be welcomed in, and welcomed in will be protected from all danger, even from one’s own desire for revenge if this is one’s enemy. As enemies go the desert is a greater enemy. Thus when three strangers stand in front of Abraham, who has made untold enemies in his journey up and down the golden tradeways from Ur to Egypt, Abraham may not know if they are enemies or not. He may be letting an enemy in three parts enter his tents, trusting the rule of hospitality will keep him safe, and will not put him in the middle of a fight these men have with others, others who may or may not honour the law of hospitality.

Perhaps Abraham hedges his bets, so to speak, and offers hospitality, if he has found favour with these three men.

Another piece of the complications is that this is not a known king, or just any passer-by either. This is three men. Not just men. Whether Abraham knows it or not the narrator tells us that this is the Lord, this is God. Three men are God. So not so simple, whether Abraham is in the know or not.

Perhaps Abraham really hedges all his bets, so to speak, and offers God hospitality, but only if he has found favour with God. What a way to find out where one sits with God! What a risk! What a wager Abraham makes, for if he has found favour with God and these three demonstrate to him he has, and others hear of it, Abraham’s reputation will increase immensely!

Pause a bit to notice in all these considerations I have led us to pass up one obvious thing: if these three strangers need hospitality, then they ought to be the one’s asking Abraham, ‘If we have found favour with you, sir, may we stop and rest within your hospitality.’

Stories about God’s interactions with us are always something different than we should expect.

Jesus’ story is one such unexpected development after another, always with a twist or seventy, to keep us on our toes about what we think Jesus is about and what God is trying to demonstrate to us with Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension.

Good people, travelling about as Jesus did, teaching in the synagogues and to the people (if the traveller teachers were honourable people) did not mix with dishonourable people. They avoided ‘unclean’ people because it made them unclean and therefore unable to enter the synagogue until they had completed the purification ritual that lasted days.

Reminds us of obligatory self-quarantine requirements of travellers and those with close contacts with people diagnosed with Covid-19!

Zacchaeus was anything but honourable. He collected taxes for Rome, able to exact from whomever whatever he wished in order to collect his allotment. He got to keep any extra he collected. Tax collectors were wealthy and hated; the preyed upon those from whom they could take the most with the least ability to protect themselves. They hardly collected from the influential and really wealthy people who could exact their own revenge against any tax collector taking anything but a token tax from them. Tax collectors were hated, really hated and really feared. One did not want to end up on the wrong side of a tax collector who could ruin you financially, or if you resisted, could have you jailed for debts.

Jesus interaction with Zacchaeus is exemplary of what Jesus demonstrates to us. Jesus does not stand at all on norms or expectations. Jesus stomps all over them, not to stomp on them but to point to something that norms and expectations violate: God’s unconditional love for everyone.

Again the invite is backwards, given by the one who ought to be the invitee. It would be Zacchaeus’ honour to host Jesus. Zacchaeus is more than curious about Jesus. He works to overcome his own shortcomings and short stature (real and figuratively) to get a view of Jesus. Zacchaeus should be inviting Jesus to stay with him, begging for the honour of Jesus’ presence in his ill-gotten and supplied home. – If you have not caught this in reading the Zacchaeus story, we are all equated to Zacchaeus; we should all be desperate to invite Jesus into our lives, and all we do is try to overcome our shortcomings and lack of standing in the Kingdom of God in order to get at least a glance of God’s own Son, Jesus. As if that is enough, or as if we actually could every overcome our shortcomings, our sins.

Instead Jesus is the one who sees Zacchaeus (us), and Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home (our lives). When Jesus arrives Zacchaeus is converted from a lost soul to one of Jesus’ followers. Zacchaeus moves from Jesus’ presence back into his own life … in order to make things right that he has made so wrong.

Jesus arrives in our lives (well we notice Jesus’ presence as an arrival even though he’s been there since before we were conceived – God is always with us!) and our first steps are to put things as right as we can in our lives, for those we have done harm to. Like Zacchaeus our putting things right for others is a good step toward doing ourselves something good too, not in order to gain something, but in response to being given everything, namely we have been given God’s favour.

Jesus will seem to arrive again and again in our lives. Today what are we going to put right in response to God’s greatest blessing, namely that God walks with us through everything, that Jesus has made his home in our lives, forgiving us our sins in order that we might forgiven all other people and make things as right as we can.

Lord, if we … no, that’s not how it goes for us that trust God walks with us. We say instead: ‘Lord, since we have found favour with you, and you abide with us, what can we do for you this day?!’