I must stay with you today

31 October 2010
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 26C (RCL)

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

There is a major problem with the translations we have of this passage from the Gospel. Zacchaeus makes his statements about giving away half his goods and repaying anyone whom he has defrauded in the present indicative, not in the future tense or subjunctive mood. A good way of translating the sentence would be, “Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look here, I give the half of what belongs to me to the beggars, and if I have defrauded anyone, I pay them back fourfold.” It sounds like he is making his defense in the face of the accusations of the crowd. The crowd has assumed that because he is a tax collector, he is a sinner. By insisting on Zacchaeus’ hospitality, Jesus is forcing the crowd to reassess its definition of sin. It isn’t just collaboration with Rome that determines a person’s status, but how a person lives in the local community. Even a tax collector is a “son of Abraham” if he is just in the community. Compare this story to the rich man and Lazarus, and who was a son of Abraham. Lazarus was a beggar who crouched by the rich man’s door. Zacchaeus would have given him something. Rome isn’t the problem; local justice is the solution. So, could we say, “Washington isn’t the problem”?

Habakkuk seem to be about the changeover of government in Jerusalem after Babylon’s first siege, when they set up their own king. Habakkuk, apparently, had hope that would bring about a change in Jerusalem’s evil ways, but it didn’t. So, now what? The vision is coming. Write it on tablets so the heralds can carry it through the kingdom. Even if it seems slow, it’s coming. What is the vision we have? Do we have a common vision. In the political ads that inundate us, everyone seems ready to say what’s wrong with the other guy, but no one puts forward a vision. How do we start building one?

Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a view over the crowd, past the immediate. He looked for the larger picture. Perhaps that’s our vocation, and then when Jesus says, “I must stay with you today,” be ready to climb down and welcome him with joy.

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