Summary: What others think of us is irrelevant to the Lord. It is what he see in us that is important. Zacchaeus show us how the power of God is used to free us from the influence of others, and free us to be ourselves.
This sermon was delivered to Holy Trinity in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 30th October 2016; Holy Trinity is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
The readings for today are:
Jesus 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. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."
“Please join me in a short prayer from Psalms 19:14, and ” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
This morning we have just heard the Gospel reading on Zacchaeus, and I am sure everyone here has heard this story many times before; it is certainly a particular favourite for Sunday School, in fact it is usually the emergency lesson when nothing else has been planned.
This then gave me a problem on delivering a sermon on a topic that has been literally flogged to death; that is until I hit on the fact that like Zacchaeus, one of our greatest needs in life, is to feel valuable or valued; … in that our own individual lives do matter, and that regardless of our circumstances, or our feelings, we do make a difference to this world. …
And this desire of value drives us much more than we think, and this is particularly true when we are alone, or we are struggling in some way, where we find ourselves saying … acht, why bother.
One way of dealing with these thoughts is to compare ourselves to other people; even though it is wrong, and I will give you an example. When I was in my teens, and I was about to join the navy, my father reminded me of the famous Rabbie Burns quotation, “to see yourself as others sees you”; and this to me was always a horrible saying, as it is a saying full of condemnation until it was revealed to me many years later that this saying depends, (not on the truth), but on what we and “others” think about ourselves. …
So we have to ask, who are the others that are judging us? … Well its simple, it depends on who we pick as the others, others whom we want to impress. In the extreme, we could choose people we love and respect, however, us Scots are more likely to pick the exact opposite, our worst enemies, or those keeping us at a distance.
You see, we are all different to different people, … and this quotation is so wrong on so many different levels, because it is not “a gift to gee us”, but more the curse of rejection.
Now to take this further, and I now this is not inclusive or exhaustive, but in today’s society, people tend to base their self-worth on the following four things, and we are all guilty of this to an extent: … the first is, … we judge ourselves by our appearance; “how do I look”, concluding that the better we look, the more value we are in the eyes of others. Yes, appearance is important, but it is not the be all and end all to our lives. Jesus said as much when he compared the fine clothes of solemn to the “lilies in the field”.
The second way we judge ourselves is by our achievements; “what have we accomplished”, concluding that if we are successful, then we will be accepted. … Now not that I have made many achievements in my live, but I have noticed that the more success I have shown, the nastier the comments I received. Just look at the comments today’s celebrities’ get, love them or hate them, most are not repeatable; all of them originating from jealousy.