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-Living justly as a sign of salvation- 
Date: October 30, 2016 (Pentecost 24) 1. Texts: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Ps. 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: justice in action. 4. Aim: guide, encourage. 5. Proposition: “Living, breathing justice is proof of our salvation.” 

POOR ZACCHAEUS 
"Zacchaeus was a wee little man , and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree For the Lord he wanted to see. 
And when the Savior passed that way He looked up and said, 'Zacchaeus, You come down, For I'm going to your house today! For I'm going to your house today! 
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, But a happy man was he, For he had seen the Lord that day And a happy man was he; And a very happy man was he.”[4] 

Ordinarily, wouldn’t we all just like to see a full Sunday School singing this song? Wouldn’t they be just so cute? 

And, as soon as we admit to melting at the mere thought of that scene, we have dealt a serious blow to both the proclamation of the gospel and to our own expression of our salvation. True! Zacchaeus as the cute little impulse for a cute little Sunday School song by cute little Sunday School kids robs this story of its impact. 

Please note that this story is not a parable, contrary to what we have been reading of late. A parable is a story, told by Jesus to teach us a lesson about God and his people using everyday situations sometimes with a surprise. This is not a fictional story—this is history. Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus,

a short, rich tax collector, had to work hard to actually see Jesus. Jesus noticed Zacchaeus and invited himself to supper. At supper, Zacchaeus announced his plans to redress the injustices he has created. This is history. 

In light of that, Jesus’ pronouncement at the end becomes even more powerful and meaningful: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”1 Think about it. 

“…he too is a son of Abraham”: Jesus pronounced a definitive, rabbinic statement on Zacchaeus’ identity. Even this rich, tax collector—who became rich by abusing his office as a tax collector at the expense of his fellow Jews—was a Jew, a son of Abraham. He was a member of the Chosen People and an inheritor of all the privileges of that identity. No longer should his fellow citizens treat him as a Gentile and outsider—Zacchaeus was a Jew, a brother in the faith and a son of Abraham. Period. 

But, according to Jesus, Zacchaeus was also one of the lost—“For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus was a Jew, yes, but he lived in a broken relationship with God. He was lost. 

Then, he became like another famous song character: Amazing grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see.2 This, too, is the assessment of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house…” Zacchaeus moved from being lost to being found. His relationship with God had been broken and now it was healed. 

But how is this so? We don’t really see the change in Zacchaeus. We can presume that his relationship with God was broken because of his practices as a

chief tax collector who became rich. We don’t really get to see the change—all we have is Jesus’ pronouncement on Zacchaeus salvation. 

Except for the reality that we see Zacchaeus’ changed life: Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.3 Zacchaeus was a changed man. He moved from a life of unrighteous oppression to a just life and meaningful reparation of past injustices. Injustice to justice, unrighteousness to righteousness, all reflected in tangible, practical way— Zacchaeus gave proof of his changed life. It is on this basis that Jesus is able to authoritatively proclaim the change in Zacchaeus’ status. 

So, what started out as a nice, even comical Sunday School event has turned into a trumpet call to a new life: Come, O God of wind and flame: fill the earth with righteousness; teach us all to sing your name, may our lives your love confess. Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you! Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!4 There is nothing cute about Zacchaeus. He challenges our very existence. 

Here’s the real point of this historical story. 

When we experience salvation, it’s not just our eternal lives that are affected: it is also our daily living. We prove the reality of salvation by living it out in our day-to-day actions. According to Jesus, Zacchaeus and the Old Testament prophets, those actions must reflect God’s justice and righteousness. God’s nature is to be made visible in what we say and do—and God is justice, righteousness and universal love. And we must say that, if that justice,

righteousness and universal love are missing from our lives, than our own salvation must be questioned. That’s what Zacchaeus teaches us. 

Of course, it might help if we could figure out what that might look like in our lives. Zacchaeus split his wealth with the poor and paid back four times what he had stolen from tax payers. But none of us are tax collectors who are defrauding tax payers. So what will justice, righteousness and love look like in our lives? 

These qualities absolutely and categorically deny us all prejudice, racism, bigotry, sexism and the like. You can disagree with what any individual or group actually does, but you have no freedom to dismiss that group based on aspects such as race, theological assumptions, gender, sexual orientation or so on. A patronizing and superior attitude is denied the Christian, for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our salvation denies us all those “-isms” that elevate one group over another. 

Justice and righteousness also demand that we actively campaign against oppression and violence in all their forms. While no individual may combat all forms, every individual must stand up against oppression in whatever form it confronts them. Violence against women, economic injustice, and systemic bias inside our own justice system come to mind. 

God loves all people equally and with the same passion. His love establishes a fundamental equality amongst us all and it is out of that equalizing love that his justice and righteousness flow. Having been made in the image of God and having been saved through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that love, justice and righteousness are to be seen in the context of our daily lives. Our salvation is demonstrated and proven in our just and righteous living. 

Zacchaeus may have been a “wee little man” who needed some help to see Jesus. But once we have read his history, our own stories are challenged and transformed into tools for God’s justice and righteousness here on earth.