Summary: It’s hard fitting in, yet it is critical to our well-being. Motivational speaker, Simon Sinek says it well. “Our desire to feel like we belong is so strong that we seek it out...What a dreadful realization if we are to learn that people had to “join a gan

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“Fitting In”

Scripture / Text: Luke 19:1-10


One of the more awkward experiences of my life as a kid were the times we played sports, whether organized in a school gym-class or the field across from our house. Everyone lined out single file and two team captains would stand opposite the rest of us and pick their players. As the picking got down to the last two or three of us we were feeling the same thing – we didn’t want to be the last one picked. It was interpreted as no one really wanted you on their team but since you’re the only one left you ‘defaulted’ to the team whose turn it was to pick the next – and last – player.

It’s hard fitting in, yet it is critical to our well-being. Motivational speaker, Simon Sinek says it well. “Our desire to feel like we belong is so strong that we seek it out. This is what gangs offer a teenager in the inner city. With no strong family unit and no strong school bonds, a young, disenfranchised man or woman will join a gang to feel like a part of something. That sense of belonging is important to us because with a sense of belonging, with a sense that we are surrounded by people who understand us and see the world as we see it, we feel more comfortable. We feel safer. We’re even able to form bonds of trust much easier.”

This takes us to our text for the morning. Let’s begin with Jesus. There are several references in the gospels where we read that Jesus was “passing through” (19:1) somewhere. He didn’t live there or work there. He didn’t have friends there or have an evangelistic campaign and tent meetings. But somehow in the normal reality of being a man on a mission and connecting with people, he arrived in towns and cities to do what he came to do and the result, when he left it, was very positively different than it was when he arrived.

As we begin our journey, the first lesson is probably the most obvious. The world is full of

1. Lonely, Hurting People

It’s lonely being rich. I don’t speak from experience but I speak from a conversation with someone who might not consider himself rich but he certainly has a lot more money than I can imagine having. People look at you differently he said. Most people avoid him because somehow they think he’s different and doesn’t relate to them. All they see is the expensive suit or his BMW. They don’t see the man and consider that he has needs like them, the need especially for good friends.

Zacchaeus was lonely. He was rich but unhappy. Unfortunately it didn’t help the situation any that being at the top of his game involved a lot of robbery and extortion as he overcharged the people on their taxes and make a fair sum of money after paying the authorities. One could appreciate why he didn’t fit in or was less than appreciated. I suspect though his not fitting in didn’t start with his lucrative business. It didn’t help that Zacchaeus was short and the jokes probably were as many and hurtful as one can imagine, as adolescence saw his peers growing up but he had stopped growing. I picture him something like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. It’s possible that the boys who beat on him on the playground now beat on him in his efforts to see Jesus. Sometimes people don’t need a reason to be unkind, they just “are”; once a bully, always a bully. Zacchaeus may have had a lifetime of not fitting in, of being pushed around and been the object of cruel jokes and bullying.

The band’s lead-in to the sermon with the powerful song, “People need the Lord” often leads us to think of people with less money or property or clothes than we have; or people sleeping in cardboard boxes, standing in line at the food bank or the people given soup from the Response Unit. We often don’t associate people needing the Lord as people who are overwhelmed with the work load of everyday life and CEOs; or people living with fear for one reason or another. We don’t remember those who hide their pain behind their laughter. We discount the importance of remembering those who behave as if “wrong seems right”. The song really speaks to the generations of people who live in suburbia as much as on the street, driving fancy cars as well as those pushing a grocery cart in the alley. It represents those who are paying for their kids’ university.

In every pew in this church there sits a broken heart. Everyone here has a story, a story that carries pain, loneliness or both. All of us need a safe place, a place where we are accepted for who we are, with our pain and hurts and our need to belong and connect. Our Life Groups will be forums for us be accepted and appreciated for who we are, as we connect and grow with others who are like me in the ground level need for friends, confidants and supporters and cheerleaders now and then!

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