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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 19:1–10

He 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.” (NRSV)

Tax collection in the early Roman Empire was very much a kind of commission sales job. The publicans were private businessmen who would bid on the right to collect taxes. They would pay the state in advance and reimburse themselves (plus interest) from the proceeds. If they collected less than they paid, too bad for them. If they collected more, that was pure profit. And business—unlike government—exists to make a profit. Profit equals winning. Squeeze hard, get that last drop.

Since no one like to be the cattle in the dairy analogy, people didn’t think well of tax collectors (not to mention that they were working for the occupiers). So when Jesus goes to the short guy’s house for dinner, they grumble. “Why is he eating with one of them?” One of the milkers, one of the squeezers, one of them. Why not one of us?

Zacchaeus makes a pledge, a great big donation. Zacchaeus is a rich man, and rich men make big donations. The thing is, Jesus didn’t ask for any money. He didn’t solicit any kind of pledge. And Zacchaeus didn’t ask for any quid pro quo. He just said, “I’m doing this. I’ve squeezed too much, I’ve taken too much, I have more than I need, and I don’t want to be a parasite.” And for a profiteer, those are huge realizations. They fall into the realm of transformation, a change of heart.

And that’s when Jesus says salvation comes to his house, because “he, too, is a son of Abraham.” There is no us; there is no them; there is only we. What saves Zacchaeus is his realization that people are not cattle to be milked; they are a flock to be fed. And that’s what saves us—the realization that we can’t just live off of each other; we have to sustain each other.

Lord, remind us that we are called to feed your sheep, not shear them. There is no us, there is no them, there is only we—one family. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator for Fine Arts

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