Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

In the gospel for today we read of a meeting between Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and Jesus.

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.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. (Luke 19- 5-6)

What a wonderful opportunity for Zacchaeus – what an affirmation – that the Son of God had such a strong imperative to be with Zacchaeus. “I must stay at your house” Jesus said. Of all of the people milling around him, Jesus felt he “must” spend time with Zacchaeus! What an incredible privilege! Zacchaeus acted immediately – eager to share time with Jesus. What about you?

Life and the demands of the world are so time consuming that sometimes we may not even hear Jesus invitation to come down from wherever our busyness has taken us – and sadly we forget to be on the lookout for Jesus and miss a possible glimpse of His everyday miracles.

I love to come into the presence of God and spend quality time there. It’s pretty much like setting aside time to have coffee/tea with a friend. Or preparing for a phone call with someone we love. It’s important to set aside time and space away from interruptions… to give our whole attention to the one we am visiting with.

In private prayer, I am not one to use a lot of words. Sometimes I come to God with specific needs, or the prayer requests of parishioners, family and friends but otherwise, I am happy to sit in silence, just waiting on God.

I, personally need times of silence, listening for the footsteps of our Lord – to feel refreshed and energized, which is why, sometimes you will see me sitting quietly before a service. In silence I find the peace of God. I know that there are others in our congregations who have the same need.

On the other hand, I find great joy in our shared worship and being a part of the Body of Christ. There are many who thrive within the noise, and busyness of community, which feeds and nourishes. We are all different. Together we can know the presence of God in sharing of our concerns, sometimes in tears, in shared wisdom, love, encouragement and joy.

Jesus longs for each of us to open our hearts that He might enter in.

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Forgiveness: A series of events has lead me, once again, to reflect on forgiveness. I guess it’s something we all hope to receive … but sometimes find it hard to offer to others.

Forgiveness is very easy to talk or even to write about, but we need the power of the Holy Spirit to actually forgive. For the Christian, forgiveness is not optional. It is mandatory.

Sydney pastor, Tim Costello, tells of an incident at his inner city church. Quite unexpectedly, while at communion, one person spoke about his shock that he would be accepted at the altar though he was a very great sinner… the man (still at the altar) then gave a very graphic account of his misdemeanours. Other people were also moved to individual confession. With one such confession, a number of communicants were moved to gather around the “sinner” to offer forgiveness and to pray for healing from a particular “addiction.”

It got me wondering how people would react on Sunday, if the same sort of thing happened. I suspect that there would be a certain amount of discomfort. But, after the initial shock, I wonder, would we have the grace to offer healing and forgiveness in Jesus name? Would we still be able to look at each other with love? Or would the revelations change the way we perceive one another?

Jesus ate and drank with sinners… he knew their failings, and, if he didn’t, someone was bound to tell him. Regardless, he persisted in reaching out to those who were shunned by the religious leaders of the time. How would we feel if the undisclosed sins our a parish friends were suddenly made public?

A young member of our congregation once commented that it is easier (less “scary”) to confess to an unseen God than it is to confess to a parent. I suspect that it might be the case with most of us. We make a general confession, at our services, but no one around us is likely to know our individual sins. We keep our “darker” side to ourselves, rarely trusting our whole identity to others, perhaps out of pride, but partly because, while we are pretty sure that God will forgive us, we are not so sure about our Christian brothers and sisters.

We are all sinners in need of forgives, but we are also, by the grace of our calling into fellowship with Jesus called to forgive others.

Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.’ Go ahead – stretch out that hand of forgiveness to someone today. Write that letter, make that call, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. And always remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom: ‘Forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an act of your will.’ To be forgiving can be a wonderful act of encouragement, not just for the person forgiven, but also for yourself.

May you know the healing power of forgiveness this week.