It must have given Zacchaeus a terrible shock. He had climbed a tree to get a better look at this famous preacher and healer when suddenly the man stops underneath him, looks up, and says "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." Not only was Jesus planning to go to his house, but he knew his name.
Zacchaeus was obviously a better housekeeper than me, or more likely he had a wife, because he didn’t immediately start worrying about whether his home was clean and tidy enough for Jesus. He was immediately ready to welcome him. Then when Jesus came, his life was transformed. He changed his behavior radically – this would be like Bernie Madoff paying back everyone he cheated– not just what he owed them but even more.
Most of us are not like Bernie Madoff. We are not, in the words of the prayer book, notorious sinners. We are very ordinary and mundane sinners with unexceptional sins.
I wonder what difference it would make if on your way out of church this morning you found Jesus waiting for you and he said, “Hurry up, for I must stay at your house today.”? Would you be pleased? Would you welcome him? Or would you immediately think of a dozen different reasons why today is not convenient?
I would certainly worry about the state of my house. It is rarely pristine. But if Jesus knew Zaccheaus’ name, he probably knew where he lived and what his house was like. If he showed up and announced that he was coming home with me, I think I could assume that he knew what he was in for, piles of paper, cat fur, screeching cockatoo and all.
God comes to us in many different ways. I wonder how often we jump up and rush to welcome her, and how often we think that this really isn’t the time, that we have to get ready first, that there must be some sort of mistake. When you get the inkling that God is speaking to you, when you catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of your eye or catch the scent of her perfume, do you say “YES”. Yes God, come? Whatever it is you have in mind, however unprepared I feel, yes God yes?
What would it mean for you to say unreservedly, YES to God?
I read an article the other day which said that we don’t have to ask all the time what is God’s will for me. The author said that we just have to learn to discern between good and bad and then make the best decisions we can. God gave us brains and trusts us to get on with using them. To some extent I agree with him. I don’t think there is usually only one right decision, only one right person to marry, one right job to get, one right doctor to consult. If there were only one right decision then we would not have free will.
However my understanding of our faith tradition is that God is always inviting us into closer relationship. It is God’s joy to be working with us, to have us on board as co-creators. I often ask my close friends what they want to do – to find out when they want to get together, whether they want to play golf, see a movie, go to a play. Because unless I know what they want and they know what I want then we can’t agree how to further our friendship.
When we are serious about following Christ, about serving and worshipping God, then we are going to be serious about asking God to show us what to do and what to say each moment of every day. And sometimes we’ll hear clearly, other times we’ll just trust that since we prayed God will be guiding us and other times God will say, it doesn’t matter, you choose.
We don’t need to be anxious about doing God’s will, after all, if God wants the very best for each one of us then how can her will be something that would not be for our very best?
And yet we are. We wonder how we can know what God wants for us. And then there are times when we really don’t want to know, or we don’t want to be bothered today. There are times when if Jesus is standing on the veranda at coffee hour we just don’t notice. Don’t bother me now I’ve got things to do. Don’t bother me now, my back hurts so bad I can hardly stand. Don’t bother me now, I need to rest.
If Jesus shows up today as you’re leaving church and announces that he’s coming home with you, will you say “Yes”, “Yes, God, yes?”
There may be reservations in your mind. What if he asks me to sell everything I own? What if he tells me to make amends to everyone I’ve hurt? Or there may just be a general “I don’t think so”.
Our resistance to God gets in the way of our healing. It prevents us from being able to fully receive God’s gifts. Only when we are fully open to receiving all that God has for us, and to living the life that she calls us to, can we live as we were made to. But God is able and willing to remove our resistance and to bring us healing so that we can participate fully in his resurrection life. God’s incredible and extravagant love is available to transform us. But as Mother Julian said Christ is courteous and never forces himself into our lives. We have to be willing.
Willingness is not so difficult. We can be willing to want to invite Jesus home. God will honor our willingness to welcome him into every area of our lives, not just the public well-kept ones.
So this morning as we pray for healing for ourselves and others, let us pray that God will gracefully remove from us the things that get in the way and prevent us being able to say with joy “Yes God Yes. Come home with me today and stay for ever as my honored guest”.