|Rev. Dr. Ron Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns|
This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Ron Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
Some years ago in a course called, "Preaching as a Performative Act," I was taking as part of my doctoral studies at Chicago Theological Seminary, I had just finished preaching for the class when one of the other students asked, very good-naturedly, "Has anyone ever told you that you are short?"
I replied that, in fact, it had been pointed out.
I had to preach for the class again on the next day, so I chose Luke 19 for my text. And I began that sermon with these words:
"It has been observed, on occasion, that I am not overly tall. In fact, last Valentine's Day, my wife made a Valentine card for me that said, 'Who would ever have thought that when I finally fell madly in love, it would be with someone who is bald and short.' So it will come as no surprise to you that my favorite biblical character is a tax collector named Zacchaeus."
And he is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, but not just because he is "short in stature." I like Zacchaeus because, in the end, he gets what is important. Zacchaeus was happy to welcome Jesus. And because he welcomed Jesus into his home, he discovered what was really important--and it wasn't about how tall you are, or how much money you have, or who your friends are. What is important is what's in your heart, or maybe more important, who's in your heart.
I concluded my sermon for the class that day with this story:
"There once was a man who lived with his only son in a beautiful house in the city. They collected art--great world-class art of Picasso, van Gogh, and Monet. It was a love they shared, father and son, and they were as close as father and son can be.
"But these were days when war engulfed the nation. The young man went off to serve. Not long after he was shipped overseas, the telegram came. The boy was killed in action.
"His father, overcome by grief, every day would sit by the window staring out. The great art no longer had meaning for him without his son to share it. Many dark and lonely months passed. And then one day, there was a knock on the door. It was another young man, a soldier who, it turned out, was the very man the son was pulling to safety when he was killed. They had been friends. The young man clutched a package in his hands and explained to the father that he fancied himself an artist. The day before the battle, in fact, he had painted a crude portrait of his friend. The old man opened the package, and began to weep. There were the cool blue eyes, ruddy complexion, and handsome features of his son.
"When the soldier left, the father took out a step ladder and climbed the wall of the -room where the great artworks were displayed. There, right in the very center of them all, he fastened the portrait of his son.
"Years later, when the old man died, his will called for an auction of all his art. Experts came from around the world, feasting their eyes on the treasures he owned. Then the auctioneer started the bidding--with the portrait of the son.
"It was certainly not a work of art. It had no value to a collector. There were no bids at all.
"Finally, a neighbor spoke up. 'My friend loved his boy very much, and I can't stand to see this portrait scrapped. I'll give you ten dollars for it. It's all I have.'
"The auctioneer looked for other bids, but there were none.
"The gavel rapped.
"The deal was done.
"And so was the auction.
"'What are you doing?' the art dealers screamed in protest. 'When will we bid on the masterpieces?'
"'You won't bid on the masterpieces,' replied the auctioneer. 'The auction is over. According to the terms of the old man's will, whoever takes the son...
gets it all!'"
When Zacchaeus stood up at dinner and gave away half his fortune, and told Jesus how his life had changed, he got it all.
God, give us the courage to follow Zacchaeus' example and give ourselves to you.
First Cong'l Ch of Vernon, Inc.
P The Rev. Peter R. Brenner
AP The Rev. Cynthia J. Carr
CE Ms. Linda Shivers
Evangelical & Reformed UCC
P The Rev. Ellen L. Petersen
First Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Dean O. Warburton
AP The Rev. Margaret B. Jay
CE Mr. Brian Meyer
MM Ms. Jeanette A. Gross
Warren Cong'l Church
P The Rev. William G. Lover
First Cong'l Ch of Washington
P The Rev. Cheryl P. Anderson
Bunker Hill Cong'l Ch.
SU The Rev. Jon T. Zappulla
CE The Rev. Waldo R. Landquist
The Spirit Calendar: October 29, 2007 by Rev. Dr. Ron Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns