THIS WEEK”S SCRIPTURE: Luke 19:1-10
A few weeks ago, I shared a part of my call story with you. I mentioned that I heard my call to ministry through a Hindu mantra. This morning, I wanted to share that little part of the story with you because we are thinking about Jesus calling us. When I owned my yoga studio, I decided to upgrade my teaching qualifications. Part of that program was a new meditation practice. I sat each day at dawn and dusk and silently repeat the words I had been taught.
Om Tryambakam Yajamahe,Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam, Urvarukamiva Bandhanan, Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat
I loosely translate the mantra like this:“I meditate on the triune God, who like a good gardener takes care of all living things. Please pluck me from the vine like a ripened cucumber before I rot into the ground.” In the quiet that would fill the space left inside me after repeating the words over 300 times, I would feel deeply held in prayer. I had to journal as part of my course and one time I wrote the words, “Stop trying to fit in, I made you to stand out. Lead people back to me. Go to school. Learn and teach. You are ready! People will listen. You are enough!” There were (and are) so many times in my life where I felt like I didn’t fit in, so these words, when I reread them later, hit me square in the gut. Jesus was calling me. I had a choice to make. I chose to follow where I was being called – that call eventually lead me to you.
Today’s scripture is about someone else who didn’t really fit in either. What we learn in this short story is that Zacchaeus was very short, and he was the chief tax collector for the region. Some of you might remember what we learned about tax collectors in Roman times from the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector from this summer. Tax collectors were considered sinners by the Jewish people because they handled Roman money (which was unpure), but more than that, they were crooks. These weren’t your friendly neighbourhood CRA agent! No, these guys stole from the poor and gave to the rich… and most often than not, they gave to themselves lining their pockets with what they would skim off the top. And as the chief tax-collector he was truly an enemy to his own people. The way he chose to live his life was the reason he didn’t fit in.
It’s unfathomable that Zacchaeus would have wanted to see a Jewish teacher passing through Jericho. But something called him to catch a distant glimpse of this man he’d heard so much about. He knew there was no way the people were going to let the likes of him to the front of the crowd, so he ran ahead of the them and climbed a tree. This was also a very unusual thing for such a powerful man to do. But this is what happened the story says. And, when Jesus saw him, he called him down out of that tree and told him he needed to stay at his house. The story doesn’t tell us why, but there was something in Zacchaeus that Jesus reached out to that day – even though Zacchaeus was far from perfect, Jesus valued him enough to honour him by staying in his home and eating dinner with him. And when the people muttered about Jesus staying with such a sinner, Zacchaeus spoke directly to Jesus and said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything,I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus treated Zacchaeus like an old friend and because of that his life was turned around. In that moment Jesus declares that Zacchaeus, who so many would have thought could never fit in, was just like them – a child of Abraham – their common ancestor. Zacchaeus was affirmed to everyone, including himself, that he was worthy in the sight of God and in this moment, he was made free.
Jesus calls all of us to walk in the way – the way of God. Jesus calls us in many ways. Some of us are called to care for the sick, some of us are called to feed the hungry, some of us are called to educate our children, some are called to deliver the word, some of us are called to touch and to heal. Some of us are called to lead the rest of us to make a joyful noise! Some of us are called to be a good friend. There are so many different ways that Jesus calls us to be his disciples. When we attend to the needs of the other, when we look after one another, when we help each other in the name of God, then we are ministering to the people of God.
So how do you know when you’re being called? Wouldn’t it be nice if it was as simple as hearing, “Hey you, come down, I have to stay at your house tonight!” or looking down at your ringing cellphone and seeing Jesus’ name! One of the ways that I like to describe the call of Jesus is this:
Have you ever looked at the date or time and thought, “I feel like I am supposed to be somewhere” but then you check your calendar, and there is nothing recorded – but that feeling still lingers? Maybe you don’t figure it out until the next day, but by then it’s too late to get where you were supposed to be. But sometimes, sometimes, all of a sudden, where you are meant to be becomes crystal clear. You’re not sure how, but you suddenly realize exactly what you are about to miss. If you’re lucky, you get where you are supposed to be, and you don’t miss anything at all. I think that sometimes what it feels like when Jesus calls: Sometimes it is a faint whisper creating a nagging feeling of “there is something I am supposed to do” and sometimes it is a flash of lightening that lights up the whole mind to the potential of what you were meant to be. We don’t have to be at certain place or in a certain time to be ready or worthy. Jesus calls us right where He finds us.
Like Zacchaeus, and like me, you have been called by Jesus. Whether you are just viewing Jesus from a distance with a faint curiousity or whether you have invited him into your home – Jesus is calling us. Figuring out what Jesus is calling us to do and be is going to be unique to each of us, but there is nobody that is unworthy of that call. It is a daily practice to figure out how we will answer the call and it is so often less about seeing the big picture all at once and more about doing that one immediate thing – like Zacchaeus coming down from the tree.
Each moment is an opportunity for us to check in and make a choice to keep turning back to Christ. So, keep the line open, your heart open, and your mind open through self-care, prayer, and patience. I wonder where Jesus will call us all next. Ask yourself, “when Christ calls, how will I answer?” Are you ready? May it be so. Amen.