HURRY AND COME DOWN. Habakkuk 1:1 4 and Luke 19:1 10

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1 HURRY AND COME DOWN Habakkuk 1:1 4 and Luke 19:1 10 There s a story of young pastor who was very nervous about his new responsibilities. He was especially worried about leading the Communion liturgy his first time. The pastor has to say the right words in the right order for instance, The Lord be with you, to which the congregation duly responds, And also with you. The new cleric was concerned that he might foul up his parts of the liturgy, causing the congregation to get their parts wrong too. The whole liturgy might fall apart and he would feel like a failure. So you can imagine the young man s panic when he got up before the gathered congregation that Sunday morning, only to realize that his microphone had gone dead. Frantically the rattled pastor began to tap his finger hard on the silent microphone and exclaimed, Something is wrong with this microphone to which the congregation replied, And also with you. Something wrong, yes there is something wrong there are many things wrong in our world. And there are many ways we can deal with those things we see wrong in our world. One way is the way of the prophet Habakkuk. The oracle of the prophet Habakkuk begins with this complaint to God. O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you Violence! and you will not save? It is a very real, very intense, very heartfelt cry to God from the prophet. And it is a cry we could echo in our world today. O Lord, how long shall we cry for help.because you don t seem to be listening? How long shall we cry out for help for those who are hungry in our streets and homeless sleeping under our bridges? How long shall we cry out for help for those caught in the suffocating web of payday loans? How long shall we cry out for help for those who work forty hours a week for minimum wage and still must decide between buying food for their family or medicine for a sick child? How long shall we cry out for help for children being kidnapped and forced to be soldiers in Uganda? How long shall we cry out for help for girls and boys forced into slavery, working in unsafe factories, abused by members of their own families? How long shall we cry out for help for those in our own church family whose lives have been devastated by illness and pain? O Lord, how long...? Because some of us have been crying out for a LONG time already. And God has not answered our cries not in the ways we have wanted God to answer those cries. Have you ever played the If I were God Game? It s not a particularly helpful game but if you play it with a group you can often discover the real priorities in each group member s life. If I were God there would be no more hungry children or homeless families.

2 If I were God there would be no war, all people would live in peace. If I were God there would be no illness, everyone would be healthy. If I were God there would be more joy in the world. If I were God there would be. you get the picture. But in that little game which we often play without even understanding we are doing so we elevate ourselves to the position of believing that we could have created a world better than God created; that we could run the world better than God runs the world; and that our understanding of what is best is better than God s understanding of what is best. I understand that we do get frustrated at times with what we perceive in our human understanding to be God s slowness in acting to cure an illness and renew health; and we do get frustrated at times with what we perceive in our human understanding to be God s unwillingness to intervene to bring peace to nations and an end to violence. We become frustrated and cry out with Habakkuk, O Lord, how long shall I cry for help. We may even cry out hurry and come down. Hurry and come down. We heard those words earlier today in our reading from Luke 19 in the words of Jesus to Zacchaeus that wee wittle man who had climbed up into a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. What struck me this week as I held our two scripture texts before me like two globes of light each shining in a different direction is this: that the one is us calling God to hurry and come down and fix all the mess here on earth and the other is God calling us to hurry and come down and fix all the mess here on earth. And the question for us is this, are we going to sit back in our prayer corner crying out to God, attempting to compel God to come down and do things our way, or are we going to listen to God calling us to come down into the mess and muck of life and do something to make it better not just for ourselves, but for all others? You see, that s what Zacchaeus chose to do. He chose to come down and do something. That s why his story is told by Luke and that s why we remember this wee wittle man because he came down and did something. We know the story so well. Jesus enters into the city of Jericho. He is on his way to Jerusalem that final trip to Jerusalem. But as he enters Jericho intending to pass through it to get to Jerusalem something is happening in the life of the man who was the chief tax collector in town, Zacchaeus. And by chief tax collector we are talking about a man who was given instructions concerning how much tax to collect from each resident and then told the

3 tax collectors under him a much larger amount for each resident sent the correct amount to Rome and kept the rest for himself. It was a lucrative business. He was rich. But something has happened in his life. He had heard about this man Jesus maybe he had heard about the miracles he performed, maybe he had heard some the of the parables he told, maybe he had heard that Jesus loved and forgave tax collectors something he had heard caused him to want to see Jesus. But the crowd that day lining the streets of Jericho was large and Zacchaeus was short in stature and he knew that he would not be able to see Jesus. He could have just given up, gone back home to count his money because Luke tells us that he was rich. But he didn t. There was something within him that compelled him to see Jesus, so he devised a plan and carried it out. He ran ahead and climbed a tree Luke mentions that it was a sycamore tree. In case you didn t know, the typical sycamore trees grow to be 70 to 100 feet tall with a spread between 60 and 80 feet. So Zacchaeus climbs up in the tall, broad, round tree for one purpose to see Jesus. I can only speculate, but I would think that Zacchaeus was not intending to talk to Jesus and he certainly didn t want to be pointed out a spectacle up in a tree. He certainly didn t want to be pointed out because he was certainly not very well liked by those in this crowd who knew how he defrauded them. But he was pointed out. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up Was it just by accident that Jesus looked up at that moment into that particular sycamore tree? You decide, but he did, and when he did he spoke those words those words of invitation to Zacchaeus to hurry and come down and then more, for I must stay at your house today. It s not necessarily proper manners to invite yourself to stay at someone s home particularly someone who has never met you before but Jesus did and Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome him. Something was going on in Zacchaeus life. We might call it the movement of God s Spirit. We might call it a conversion experience. We might call it being born anew. We might call it dying to the old self and living in Christ. We can give it any one of a number of names, but something was happening in Zacchaeus life and he couldn t stop it so he embraced it. And Zacchaeus didn t call out to God, hurry and come down and fix this mess I have made. No, he hurried down and said, I m going to do something about the mess here. Half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much. Zacchaeus hurried and came down not to get what he could get from Jesus, but to give what he could to ease the pain of others. He hurried and came down because he no longer saw his wealth as something that he needed to hoard for himself no, he now saw his wealth as something he could share with others who had great need. So he hurried down, and he gave.

4 And we read Jesus response to this, Today salvation has come to this house.. We might call it the movement of God s Spirit. We might call it a conversion experience. We might call it being born anew. We might call it dying to the old self and living in Christ. We can give it any one of a number of names, but something was happening in Zacchaeus life and he couldn t stop it so he embraced it. And Jesus called it salvation. Saved from a life of greed and selfishness a life of feeling that he was entitled to his wealth while others were desperate. Saved from a life praising God for his wealth and hurrying into a life of giving to others. Back for a moment to our prophet Habakkuk whom we left crying out to God, O Lord, how long shall I cry out for help and you will not listen?. It is an honest cry. It is where Habakkuk finds himself at that moment. It is Habakkuk s sincere plea for God to come down to destroy all that is wicked and make everything right as Habakkuk sees that right. But if we turn over just a few pages to the end of his prophecy we read something much different we read of a faith that trusts God and sees the need to be about the work of God in the world. For Habakkuk ends his oracle with these words, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; and makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights. Like Zacchaeus many generations later, the prophet Habakkuk has experienced the salvation of God, has received the strength of God, and now goes forth to share the word of that salvation with others. He is not waiting for God to come down and cure all the ills of the world he is going forth to do his part. Habakkuk cries out to God and then Habakkuk puts his feet to the ground and gets to work. Bart Campolo is director of Mission Year, a rapidly growing youth volunteer program which recruits college students to give a year of their lives move into an inner city neighborhood to work with a local church much like the model of our Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer program that Laura Robinett is involved in right now. For Mission Year the program is simple the young people go from house to house, asking if those who live there would like them to pray for the needs in that home. Most of the people they call on say yes, many probably thinking, What could it hurt?. Sometimes the students pray right there on the doorstep, other times they are invited into the home. In the course of the visit and prayer the circumstances and needs of the people in that home are voiced. Then, aware of those needs, the students are able to help people make connections to other sources of support or assistance. Maybe there s a need for some child care, or some household chores and repair work, or an educational opportunity, or after school options for children in the home, or an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, or a health care need and the students can provide those in the home with information, referrals, ideas of where to turn. Or maybe the students just listen maybe someone to listen is the homeowner s greatest need. The youth are crying

5 out to God as Habakkuk did and they are getting down and doing something as Zacchaeus did. They are providing a word of hope through their prayers and a further word of hope through their action. Jim Wallis, in his book Faith Works writes, Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change. He acknowledges that he is often asked after thirty plus years of working for positive change in the world as a person of faith Where have you found the strength to stay involved for so long? And he responds that the strength comes from his faith, and writes, Simply put, faith makes hope possible. And hope is the single most important ingredient for changing the world. When Zacchaeus hurried and came down from that sycamore tree he wasn t the answer to Habakkuk s cry, O Lord, how long shall I cry for help or maybe he was not the whole answer but one piece of the answer. For that day he put his feet on the ground and did something to help those for whom Habakkuk was crying out those who had real need for that day he said, Look, half of my possession I will give to the poor. We too are called by God as Zacchaeus was to hurry and come down into the very real, sometimes messy, often times requiring sacrifice work of serving God by serving others. Let us pray. Lord, give us the strength to cry out to you on behalf of the needs of others, and give us the strength to hurry and come down to meet very real needs in your world. Amen.

Copyright 2016 Lee Giles All rights reserved

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