OT 31 – 21st Sunday after Pentecost

October 30, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Habakkuk 1.1-4, 2.1-4 the prophet is discouraged by the injustice that he sees. But though it seems hopeless, God’s vision will be fulfilled: it is a vision of how things will actually turn out (“wait for it; it will surely come”). The righteous are those who “live by faith,” that is, they trust this vision of God’s grace.

Psalm 119. 137-144 celebrates God’s truth—using many metaphors: God’s word, law, ways, commands, statues, promise. God’s wisdom gives us joy and guides our lives.

In 2 Thessalonians 1.1-4, 11-12 Paul thanks the people of the church for their increasing love for each other, and prays that Christ will be glorified in them.

In Luke 19.1-10, Jesus invites himself to the home of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, as if they are relatives. In the context of Jesus’ acceptance of him, Zacchaeus experiences a dramatic turnaround in his life.

Preaching Thoughts

Habakkuk
       There is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. Why doesn’t it get any better? Amid news of war, racism, climate change, Trumpism, the loss of species and so many other threats we can feel the prophet’s despair. “Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble?” Habakkuk’s promise might seem to be that everything will turn out OK, but it’s not that simple. Everything may Not turn out OK. (It didn’t for Habakkuk’s folks: he may said these things as Babylon was advancing on Jerusalem.) The prophet’s message seems deeper: even if things don’t turn out all right, everything will be all right.
       The righteous live by their faith. Habakkuk invites us to dig deeper for the foundation of our faith: not just that things will eventually be as we want them to be, but that God is present and active in the world no matter what. It’s so easy to latch onto a false hope that God will “make things right” in the end. But that may not happen, at least not in our limited vision and time frame. What will happen is that God’s vision for the world will still guide us and give meaning to our lives. Gods vision extends beyond human history, and it is on that scale that the ultimate reconciliation will happen—and is now happening. Hope for the future is not wishful thinking but trust in what God is already doing, unseen. And faith is living according to that hope, living out love and justice, healing and joy, no matter what. We’re invited to trust God’s grace even in the gloomiest of times, and shine with God’s light even in the thickest night. That’s how the righteous live by their faith.

Luke
      Jesus doesn’t seem to be “passing by.” He might even be seeking Zacchaeus out. He invites himself to Zachaeus’ house. Sometimes we think we’re seeking God, trying to get a glimpse of God, when it’s actually God who is seeking us. How does Jesus invite himself into your life? Why do you think he does that? How does he enter into your living, your home, your heart? When he enters, what happens?
      Zacchaeus’ story is about how Jesus changes lives. And it portrays Jesus’ radical acceptance of everybody, without judgment—even despised tax collectors. His mission to “seek out and to save the lost” is not about religious conversion but inclusion: establishing kinship even with enemies.
      Jesus’ relationship with Zacchaeus is enough to discomfort everybody. To righteous Jews camaraderie with a tax collector is grumble-worthy. To those of us who take comfort in Jesus’ attention to the poor, we’d rather see him visit the poor widow. And to most of us we’d rather not talk about giving away our money. (Ever notice this? Almost all our pictures and images of Zacchaeus are of the little guy up in the tree. Not the guy giving away his money. We’ll go for cute above challenging any day.) Jesus seems to see the goodness in Zacchaeus before any of us do. In this story Zacchaeus subverts everything we think we know about rich people in the Gospels. He is eager to see Jesus, quickly and willingly invites Jesus to his home, and offers generous repayment to the poor. It might be that though he was despised Zacchaeus never was a bad or selfish guy. That’s our judgment. (Technically in the Greek Zacchaeus doesn’t say “I will” give that money, but “I am” giving. As if he’s been that generous all along!) If I start this story by thinking nothing good can come of Zacchaeus till Jesus gets hold of him, I am the one whom stands guilty of sin. Maybe I need to be as generous with my forgiveness and acceptance from the beginning as Jesus is.
      The outcome of Jesus inviting himself to Zachaeus’ house is deep generosity and justice. Is that the outcome of our encounter with Jesus? What holds us back?
      We marvel at the apparent change that comes over Zacchaeus. How does this come about? What might it have felt like for Zachaeus, climbing up the tree? Climbing down the tree? Walking with Jesus? Maybe this is a story of a greedy person who becomes generous because first it is a story of a lonely person who is befriended.
      This is the first time since chapter 2 that Luke talks about “salvation,” after talking about it so much in the first two chapters. He apparently wanted to show us salvation as God’s free and unwarranted gift of love, forgiveness, healing and inclusion in the divine circle—first, for 17 chapters, before we get ideas about right belief and “getting saved.” Now he can use the word without losing us. Salvation comes because Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham, not because he’s a good person. It’s the lost who are saved.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, for life and beauty we praise you.
All: Joy and gratitude!
Loving Christ, for grace and mercy, we thank you.
Joy and gratitude!
Holy Spirit, in your life-changing power we worship you.
Joy and gratitude! Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Eternal God, like Zacchaeus we are too small to see you.
All: But we want to see you. We want to greet you!
So you come to us, and invite us into your presence.
You come to us in Christ, and you call our names.
You come to us in scripture and in prayer, and you change our lives.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, as Jesus came to Zacchaeus’ house, you come to us; you bless us; you change us. We open the homes of our hearts to you and we welcome your gracious presence. Speak to us, and transform us by your Spirit. Amen.

2.
Spirit of Life, Jesus came to Zacchaeus and called his name. You are present with us now. Call to us, draw us closer to you, and change our hearts, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, like Zacchaeus we long to see you, but many things get in our way. Help us now to set them aside, to look past all the obstructions and distractions, and look only to you, and listen to you. As your scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, open the eyes of our hearts and the ears of our souls, so that we might hear your Word, and be changed. Amen.

4.
Holy One, we are bound up by our fear and self-centeredness. But Like Zacchaeus we want to see you, so we draw near, each in our own way. And you receive us. Invite us, Lord. Spend time with us, speak to us and change our hearts with your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor:
The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of gentle mercy,
we confess our sin,
for it has become a burden to us
that we cannot bear.
Receive us, forgive us,
relieve us of our burdens,
and set us free. Amen.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

2.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word and deed,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
Gather us in your loving arms;
have mercy on us and forgive us,
that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways,
by the grace of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
We believe in God, maker of all things, provider of all things, who loves all people. We follow Jesus, in whom salvation has come to us: he sees us for who we are, heals the wounds of our hearts, and makes us new. In his death and resurrection we see the deepest truth of life. We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, that empowers us for self-giving love. We give thanks for the Church, the Body of Christ; and for the gift of forgiveness, the power of resurrection and the mystery of eternal life. Amen.

2. (based on Habakkuk 1, 2)
Leader: O God, destruction and violence are before us;
strife and contention arise.
All: Why do we keep seeing wrong-doing?
Why doesn’t justice prevail?

There is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
Give us hope, for you are at work.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Give us faith to endure, and to face toward that day.
Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
Give us love, to live by our trust in you.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
1.
Holy One, your vision is true,
your will is certain, your delight is sure;
but it comes about slowly.
Open our hearts to trust, to listen,
and to live in faithful love.

2.
Generous Jesus,
you invite yourself into our lives.
We climb down from our plans.
We invite you in.
You bless us, and change us.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Generous God, we thank you for your grace.
You are not merely passing by. You seek us out.
You have invited yourself to our home, entered into our lives.
You come with grace and forgiveness, with blessing and joy.
Our lives are changed, and we celebrate.
We feast on the generosity of your heart,
and sing your praise with all Creation.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He enters into the lives of the poor and the lonely.
In our awkwardness and loneliness he befriends us.
In our greed and selfishness he changes us.
In our sin he saves us.
In his dying and rising he invites us to become new people.
     (The Blessing and Covenant)

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
By your grace salvation has come to this house.

Therefore, remembering your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.

In gratitude we give of ourselves and our goods;
we give of our lives, for the sake of the mending of the world,
in the name and the company of Jesus.
     
(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, in gratitude for all you have given us, and in faithful stewardship of what you have placed in our hands to share with the world, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You have received us into your love; now send us out as changed people to serve you for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, you have given us rich gifts: the grace of your forgiveness, the blessing of your presence, the treasure of your abiding Spirit. We give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You enter our lives with grace. May we enter this world with love, with humility, gratitude and generosity, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)


Setting the Table        (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

Christ, you have seen us and called us with grace, and
come to feast with us in our earthly place.
You eat with sinners! We welcome you here,
grateful for love so abounding, so clear

God, you have saved us so that we may live
new lives of grace; so now grateful, we give
freely our treasure and gladly our hearts,
with generosity that your love imparts

Spirit, you bless us with infinite gifts:
healing that frees us and power that uplifts.
Grateful, we give you our hearts and our gold;
Lord, there is nothing that we would withhold

Lord, you forgive us our fear and our greed, and
free us to share with all others in need.
We set this table with joy and with care,
saved, blessed and grateful, and happy to share.


Zacchaeus’ Song (Tune: I Come with Joy)

1. Lord, send me out into the world to share all I possess.
My generosity shall be— the faith that I confess, the faith that I confess.
2. For you have given me such gifts, grace infinite and deep,
that I can only share them all. — There’s nothing I will keep.
3. And let my giving change me, Lord, to make me more like you:
to let your blessing flow through me, — creating me anew.
4. My life will not be known by what I have, but how I share,
courageously, with trust in you,— with love and joy and care.