Summary: Arrogance destroys our walk with Christ because any notion of self-sufficiency pertaining to righteousness distorts the power and necessity of God’s grace in all of our lives.

“Keeping Grace in Bounds” / Luke 19:1-10

Proper 25, Year C, Downsville Baptist Church (4 November 2001)

As Mr. Zachary Allens walked into Main Street Baptist Church a couple of minutes late last Sunday evening, he was greeted by scowls and low whispers. Nobody liked Zach Allens, and everybody has a good reason for their dislike. Zach Allens is one of those small town politicians that tried to make too many friends by double-crossing friends on both sides of the fence. He started out well enough, got voted on to city council when he was just 28 years old. Zach Allen’s problem was the problem so many of us have magnified ten times over—Zachary’s # 1 priority was Zachary. In climbing the ladder of success Zach squashed enough friends to the extent that the ladder’s rungs eventually broke one by one. The poor people in the community could not stand the sight of him because two years ago he had told them that he was going to increase their taxes to sponsor a project that would make access to public transportation more feasible. They had not minded the increase in taxes because they needed more city busses, but they all felt betrayed when it was discovered that Zach Allen had actually funneled their money into some projects at the local country club. Even the wealthy people in the community had a certain disdain for Zach Allen. When he felt the heat of the scandal concerning his embezzlement of funds, he had dropped one or two of their names as scapegoats just to save himself from any jailtime. With all this said, Zach still had one other problem. He had little man’s complex. At a whopping 5’2", 125 lbs, Zach Allen always had a smarter mouth and worse attitude than he should have just to prove to people that he was a tough guy. This caused everybody to laugh behind his back until his financial trickery of a two years ago. Now it was simply another reason nobody could stand former city council member Zach Allen.

The preacher got up at the beginning of the service to make a few announcements. When he saw Zach Allen in the congregation, even he his upper lip curled a bit in disgust. Zachary had convinced the church at a business meeting that they should make donations to his “pet project” to help better to and from work transportation for the poor in the community. The church saw this as a good missions project but was very upset when they learned the money had gone to buy more golf carts instead of busses. Nevertheless, the preacher began to read the announcements. “Now, as many of you know, Jesus of Nazareth will be coming to our community today. Several of our ladies have organized a welcoming committee, and nearly all of you have told me that you’ll be coming to hear him speak during our evening service tonight. What you may not know is that Jesus is joining us for a potluck in the fellowship hall at 5:00. Please bring yourselves and a dish.” Everybody forgot about Zach Allen for the moment. The whole state had been in a buzz for several months about Jesus’ visit. The church felt so honored to have the privilege of hosting the prophet for the evening meal and having the chance to hear him speak from their pulpit.

Zach Allen also took interest in the news. Although he hardly came to church anymore, he thought he might just have to return for the evening meal and service that night. He kind of wanted to meet this man named Jesus and see why their was so much excitement. Zachary came back to the fellowship hall that night. Again he was a little late, and a huge crowd had already gathered. There was a line coming out of the fellowship hall doors of people holding dishes. Zachary didn’t feel much like waiting. “Excuse me folks, excuse me,” Zach muttered as he attempted to push his way into the building. A few members of the congregation noticed that Zach Allen had not even bothered to bring a dish. “Enough of this,” they thought. People stood firm in the line. They had somehow made a silent pact not to let the crooked nuisance past them. “Get lost, shrimp!” one shouted. “Go crawl back under the rug, you jerk!” another howled. Zachary realized he wasn’t making any progress so he walked to the back of the building and began to peer through a dusty old window. After wiping away some of the cobwebs, Zachary was able to see a small area in the fellowship hall—it really was crowded in there! Suddenly one man who seemed to be the center of attention wheeled around and looked right at the window. Everyone had puzzled expressions on their faces as the man, Jesus, walked right over to the window and opened up exposing Zach Allen propped up on an overturned wastebasket. A groan spread through the fellowship hall like a wave of ocean water. But Jesus smiled and extended a hand toward the wobbly window watcher, securing Zachary balance with a firm embrace on his shoulder. “Zach Allen,” Jesus laughed with a grin on his face. “Get down from this window. It’s good to see you. I’m going to be staying at your house tonight.” Zach Allen couldn’t believe it. He had never met Jesus before, but Jesus seemed to know him. And Zachary’s shock hardly matched that of the rest of the congregation as Jesus walked out of the fellowship house and home with Zach Allen that night. “Why is he staying with Zach Allen? Doesn’t he know what a crook he is? Somebody should warn Jesus about the company he’s keeping!”

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