ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
This Sunday, Pastor Donnell spoke for the second time on the interaction between Jesus and the wealthy, tax collector, Zacchaeus. The text is in chapter 18 of the gospel of Luke. The people of Jericho clearly see Zacchaeus as a sinner, a collaborator with the hated Romans, a thief of their hard earned money. Jesus, to the crowd’s dismay, invites himself over to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. During dinner (Luke skips from their meeting on the street to the middle of the dinner), Zacchaeus announces that he is giving half of his wealth to the poor and giving back to anyone that he stole from four times the amount stolen. At this, Jesus says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house.
Pastor Donnell highlighted both Jesus’ love and acceptance for those excluded by society and his call for the transformation of our lives to reflect the kingdom of heaven. This week, we will use this story to open our hearts to examine how God might be calling us personally to experience his love and acceptance and his call to be transformed through the Holy Spirit.
When you have some time available for prayer, invite God to join with you in your prayer. Read the passage below once slowly, taking note of your thoughts and feelings.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Do you relate to the crowd, who wonders what Jesus might have to do with a sinner like Zacchaeus? Do you relate to Zacchaeus? Are there times when you think that God has abandoned you or turned his back on you because of things you have done? How do you feel about Zacchaeus’ decision to give away a lot of his money, to make restitution for his stealing? Do you think of others who you believe are rich? Do you think of yourself and your resources and how they are or aren’t being utilized for God’s kingdom? Take a minute or two and open your heart to God’s spirit. Which of the above feelings were strong? This may be an indication that that is the area that God wants to speak with you today.
Read the passage again, more slowly this time. Pause at the point where you had the strongest feeling the first time through. Also be aware of new thoughts and feelings, pausing when they seem relevant. Which half of the story seems more relevant to you, the part about love and acceptance (or rejection, as it may be) or the part about stepping forward into transformation? Share your thoughts and feelings with God. In one sense, look at them together with God. Are your thoughts and feelings from God (does he seem to agree with them?) or are they from somewhere else? If questions arise, ask them of God and take a minute to seek a response.
Read the passage one more time, even more slowly this time. The goal is not further cognitive understanding, but to offer God an opportunity to speak to you more deeply about his relationship with you. Let yourself identify with the person in the story with whom you related most strongly. Share your feelings about this situation with God. Share any hopes or fears about this situation with God. After you finish the passage, sit for a minute or two and invite God to join you in your silence. You’re your time is up, you might jot down some of the more significant things about your time of prayer. You might also share these things with a close friend.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.