I spend a bit of time travelling around and speaking at different churches.
Its a funny deal, because in giving the same talk over and over you often look like a much more impressive speaker than maybe you really are. Its easy to be clever and funny and insightful and wise when you aren’t developing a new talk every week. Its much harder to come up with whiz bang stories and hard hitting lines when you gotta do it week after week. Been there done that.
One of the talks I like to do is in relation to this whole thing of communicating faith to others in ways that will help them hear and also respect where they are at. I like the picture of Jesus in chapter 19 of Luke where he meets with Zacchaeus. This morning at Beaumaris Baptist I was using this story to point out 6 things we can all do that don’t require any kind of theological degree. They are all drawn from Jesus actions in this story. Here they are:
1. He was available. Jesus had time for Zacchaeus. No doubt Jesus had stuff to do that day, but he created space in his world for this man. I sense one of the biggest issues for us when it comes to helping people meet God is that we are too busy to actually hang with people and develop friendships. Being ‘time poor’ will cripple our ability to develop relationships. I believe we have a challenge to live in such a way that we creat space to be with others.
2. He was in
the world Jesus met Zacchaeus out in the street – not in the synagogue. Chances are Zacchaeus would never have made it to a synagogue! Chances are most Aussies will never venture into a church. If we really value the stuff we are on about then we need to come to grips with what it means to live the gospel in the world and to meet people on their terms.
3. He was aware – Jesus noticed Zacchaues up the tree. I reckon he saw him because his ‘spiritual attenae’ were tuned that way. He was always on the outlook for people who were in need. I don’t think I am always all that good at being tuned into where people are at and what their needs are, be they spiritual, physical or practical.
4. He welcomed everyone – Zacchaues is just one example, but it seems everyone felt valued in Jesus presence. He didn’t have an ‘A’ list and a list of ‘losers’. Some people make us feel less comfortable because they aren’t like us. Jesus doesn’t live out of this anxiety.
5. He took a risk – he invited himself back to Zacchaues’ place for lunch. He actually risked being rejected by this bloke. Most of us get stuck here. Any chance of being rejected, or made to look foolish has us turning tail and walking the other way. There is always a risk if we initiate friendship and if we are honest about who we are in that friendship, as followers of Jesus then chances are some people will feel uncomfortable with that and won’t want to hang out with us.
6. He was prepared to break with tradition – Just going to Zacchaeus’ house was offensive to he crowd who muttered ‘he’s gone to be with a notorious sinner’. He broke religious laws, because this man needed a friend and needed to know how he could see change come about in his life that looked rosy but really wasn’t. We have some traditions that really need to be given the toss if they stand in the way of the gospel.
Pretty simple really.
The only thing I don’t like about the story is that there is an instant response from Zacchaeus, where he gives his stuff away and repays people who he cheated. In my experience people rarely make those shifts quite as quickly as that!
So there you have it… some simple thoughts on how we live and share our faith in our own communities. This has been a bit of a synopsis of my own learning and experience over the last few years.
What do you see in the story?