Fear and Freedom


The Pas                       24th Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 31

Proper 26 – Ordinary/Lectionary 31 – Pentecost + 24

Year C

30 October 2016


Isaiah 1:10-18

Psalm 32:1-8, BAS pg 366

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Luke 19:1-10


Lord of the lost,

you come into our homes and call us your own:

may our tables be graced by your presence as guest

and our possessions freed to serve the poor;

through Jesus Christ, the Seeker. Amen.



 “All the people saw this and began to mutter,” yet, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk 19:7, 10)


I find humanity interesting to observe, to watch, but most of all to see how humanity hasn’t really changed since the days when the gospel was written.


It’s interesting how we see our lives to be more advanced in our culture, and most definitely in our technology, and our use of technology. But, really, we are still in the place of “the people saw this and began to mutter.”


We are able to look at the world around us and we can see the many places of “people mutter[ing].” They are muttering because of perceptions of fear, and of what Jesus, what Zacchaeus may or may not bring to the community of Jericho, today.


When we look at the world today, we can see the way fear is being used as a tool for intimidation, and control. At the same time, we can see fear being used in a similar way to be a force of control, in the gospel. Even in the words of Isaiah, from our Old Testament reading as he compares the people of Israel to the citizens and the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, we can see comparisons to todays situations.


Yet, Jesus says “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk 19:10)


When we look more closely at the whole scenario, in Jericho, today, we can see so much more than a reason for people to mutter at Jesus desire to have lunch at the home of a rich tax collector.


From the perspective of the mutterers, they see Jesus inviting himself to dine at the home of a rich tax collector. They see Jesus singling out this one person who has wealth and position, although he’s a sinner, and perhaps they think Jesus wants to sit on comfortable couches, eat fine foods, be waited on by servants.


Yet from the perspective of fear, their fear, Jesus is avoiding the righteous and polluting himself with the sinners of the community; and ironically, this wealthy person, this ‘tax collector’ is seen as a sinner because of his occupation.


Our gospel tells us that Jesus sees Zacchaeus in a tree. We can see that Jesus sees Zacchaeus, in the tree, dressed in fine clothes, yearning to see Jesus in person, in the flesh. He truly wants to see him go by, to know that Jesus has been in Jericho and that all of humanity is welcome in the presence of our Lord and Saviour. Yet, instead of just passing by, Jesus pauses by that tree and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for lunch.


We can see that Zacchaeus has been yearning to make changes in his life. We can see that he truly wants to make changes, and he fears that these changes won’t happen, that he will be trapped in a life of sin and cold-shouldering by the community because of his occupation as a tax collector. Otherwise, why would he have bothered to join the crowd? Otherwise, why would he have bothered to climb the tree?


And, we can see that Jesus sees this as well. We can see this when Jesus comes up to the tree, looks up at Zacchaeus and says “’Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” (Lk 19:5b-6)


This isn’t the actions of someone who doesn’t wish to accept Jesus offer of forgiveness, Jesus offer of a new life, of a new place in the world, and in his heart.


And here is the miracle. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows the hearts of those who stand on the sidelines and mutter. He knows the hearts of those who come, their hearts in their hands, and truly wish for a new life, a new change in the way they live and are seen. Jesus sees the fear that lives in our hearts and lives, and offers God’s love, God’s inclusion, God’s forgiveness and grace to all who ask.


People will always mutter out of fear. People will always see what they want to see in the lives and the actions of others.


“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


I recently watched a movie based on the “Doc Martin Series,” a British TV program. When he first arrives in the village, that becomes the background for the series, he has no luggage, no shoes, and he’s not using his real name. The village sees him as the instigator of their current problem; they are the subject of a busybody, who shames members of the village by leaving a jello mould with a photo, or other evidence of people’s impropriety or indecency imbedded in the jello; even Martin received one.


The authorized town busybody sees him as the bearer of this current upset in the community although it has been happening for longer than he’s been among them. This leads to a town meeting where he’s confronted by the entire town who wants to know exactly why he was in town, when he would be leaving, and to let him know in no uncertain terms, that he will never be welcomed by the community, ever.


Now, according to the plot line, everyone is wrong, and the mischief-maker is actually another member of the community, leading to the resolution of the program. But the similarities between the scenarios is similar. Doc Martin was looking for change in his life. He was looking for a return to what he fell in love with, in his chosen occupation; he was looking for a new start. However he discovered fear for the future, fear of the jello maker, fear of the secrets that people hid in their lives.


“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


In our gospel, Zacchaeus was looking for an opportunity for redemption, and for people to believe that his path of redemption is real, is valid, is not going to change with the first bump in the road.


And this is where we can find ourselves, as well.  The path to redemption, the path through confession and forgiveness, is not a path that is ever denied to all who ask and who seek. Each week, when we gather, we offer our foibles, our transgressions, our problems, and our sins to God, and we ask for God’s forgiveness in and for each of our lives.


Every day we have the opportunity to lay our problems and our burdens at Christ’s feet, and to receive God’s forgiveness and love in return.


Every day we have the opportunity, like Zacchaeus, to set fears aside, and to make changes in our lives that are lasting. Changes that affect not only us, and our households, but the community around us as well.


“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Zacchaeus wanted to make a change, but the community couldn’t accept the changes he wanted to make, on his own. They were afraid. He was afraid. Without Jesus to provide the catalyst for the change, without Jesus to offer him God’s forgiveness, then not all of the changes he wished to make would have taken root because of the fears of Zacchaeus, because of the fears of the community. 


And Jesus does this very publicly.  “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately I must stay at your house today.’” (Lk 19:5)


He reaches the spot in the road that the tree overhangs, looks up into the face of a man who has put everything on the line and climbed the tree in order to see Jesus, and Jesus declares that it is with Zacchaeus that he will be dining, today.


And this is when the muttering starts. This is when Zacchaeus looks into the face of God’s love standing at the foot of the tree, and accepts Jesus’ help for him to begin his new life as a redeemed child of God.


In the face of the muttering all around them, “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Lk 19:8-10)


“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Here is the great paradox for those who stand on the sidelines and mutter. Here is the best response to those who need to see the light in the darkness.


499 years ago, tomorrow, Martin Luther chose to ignite the light of God’s love in the hearts of those around him when he sought to correct abuses he witnessed happening in the church and in the world of his day. When he sought to overcome the fears of the day by making the gospel available to all people in the common language of the people, as opposed to the Latin bible, which was to be interpreted for you by a priest, who had also never read the gospels of Christ in full. 


The Reformation was an event that truly, according to Luther’s aspirations, failed utterly; but it opened the door to growing schools of thought that had only been able to flourish out of the sight of the Roman Catholic Church.


Luther looked to reform his own life in response to the changes that took place, and sought to live his life in the open, in the light of God’s love, much as we see Zacchaeus doing today.


Today we continue to see Jesus seeking and saving the lost as he continues to shine the light of the gospel, of redemption and forgiveness into the darkness of doubt, despair, and self-condemnation.


Today we continue to have the same opportunity we see given to Zacchaeus, as we strive to live the lives that Christ inspires us to live – fully in the light of God’s love, at the foot of the cross, and surrounded by the love of Christ in every action we make.


Those who mutter will always mutter. Will we allow them to hold us back from the lives God puts before us? From taking the opportunities, that Christ puts in our path? Or will we embrace God’s love fully in and for our lives as we show the love and light of Christ to those who still dwell in the darkness?



About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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