Equipper
Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for October 30, 2022 – Proper 26

Speaking of Life 4049 | Words of Encouragement

A simple sentence can crush someone’s dreams or it can inspire someone to be a better person for a lifetime. Words are powerful. God inspired Paul to write to the struggling early churches to encourage them that they are seen and loved. Has God empowered you recently to encourage someone? May we always carry God’s love in whatever we do so others may know who he is through our actions and our words.

Program Transcript


Speaking Of Life 4049: Words of Encouragement
Jeff Broadnax

The most iconic scene in several of the most successful movies is a scene that involves an inspiring speech. This usually features the protagonist addressing a group of people, exhorting them to carry on despite the overwhelming odds that have been stacked against them.

As I am saying this, you may be picturing Mel Gibson astride a horse in the movie, Braveheart. His character, William Wallace, implores his Scottish countrymen to fight their English overlords by saying, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”

In the movie, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ character is known for his inspirational words to his students, “Carpe Diem”, or “Seize the day!”

Sports fans may recall Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans. He calmly inspires his embattled racially diverse football team at the site of the battle at Gettysburg. He implores them to accept and support each other saying “If we don’t come together, right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like them.”

The fact is, we were meant to be encouraged. When we were children, we were told, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me. I don’t know about you, but I have felt the stinging pain of quite a few words in my life.

Over the years, psychological studies have shown that words do in fact have a profound impact on the human brain and on our personal development. Words have great power; they can breathe life or death into the soul; they can build up someone’s spirit or tear it down.

The apostle Paul’s short second letter to the church in Thessalonica was meant to be a letter of encouragement. The believers were striving to model faith and patience in Christ while undergoing severe persecution and trials. Paul commends them by saying:

3 “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Paul is writing to a church that has endured the seizure of their property, loss of their livelihoods, and abandonment of their families. Some were beaten and others were put to death.

Through it all, Paul wants them to know that their faith and love are not in vain.

Amidst their trials, God empowers them and provides opportunities for his people to share their faith and love. Their shining example of faith and love is being recognized and honored by their brothers and sisters in Macedonia.

Sometimes in the busyness of life, we are distracted from noticing God’s invitation to join him in ministering to the people around us.

Blinded by our own concerns, we might miss the opportunity to encourage those around us. We may never understand the struggles those around us are facing. The waitress serving you who appears frazzled may be a single mom working extra shifts to put a roof over her children’s heads. The elderly gentleman that shows up early at your church may have been diagnosed with stage four cancer. The uniquely dressed young barista serving your daily latte may be wondering if there is anyone in this world who really cares about her.

Brothers and sisters, let us consider the encouragement that we have from being included in Christ Jesus and join him in sharing his love and faith to build those around us.

I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 119:137-144 • Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 (11,12) • Luke 19:1-10

This week’s theme is faith. The psalmist places his faith in God’s commands with a vigorous display of emotion. In the Old Testament, in Habakkuk, we are told that the righteous person will live by his faithfulness. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul prays that God’s power would bring about good deeds as a result of our faith. And in Luke’s gospel, Jesus affirms the faith that Zacchaeus places in him.

Sought, Seen, and Saved

Luke 19:1-10

Cigna, a health insurance company, conducted a survey in 2018 from 20,000 Americans, trying to gauge how they felt about their relationships within their communities. They found that nearly half of those surveyed reported feeling forgotten.

Another study, this one conducted globally, was done to see how employees felt about their employers. Almost half of them felt like they were invisible in their workplace.

And finally, 66,000 middle school and high students were asked if they felt that they would be missed by their teachers if they never returned to school. Again, nearly half of the students indicated that they felt they would simply be forgotten. They also shared that they felt that they were just another face in the crowd.

Today, we will be looking at Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus – who wasn’t invisible, but was marginalized, even vilified because of his chosen profession. He needed someone who could see him. Jesus is going to do far more than that. We are going to see that what Jesus does for Zacchaeus, he does for all of us. Jesus seeks us, sees us, and saves us.

Read text: Luke 19:1-10

Luke does something interesting here. He places this story right after Jesus tells a series of parables in chapter 18. The characters in those parables seem to foreshadow the character of Zacchaeus.

  • The parable of the Persistent Widow is like that of the persistence of Zacchaeus wanting to see Jesus.
  • The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is likened to Zacchaeus in how he recognized his state before God just like the other tax collector.
  • And lastly, The Rich Young Ruler decides not to sell everything and follow Jesus, yet Zacchaeus was wealthy himself, and decides to freely give what he has.

Like most tax collectors, Zacchaeus was probably very wealthy. They got that way by collecting taxes from their own people, the Jews, and enriching themselves as well as the Romans. But Zacchaeus wasn’t just any tax collector. The scripture indicates he was a “chief” tax collector and wealthy. While Scripture doesn’t say specifically, tradition indicates his wealth likely came from skimming off the top by placing a surcharge on the taxes that the Jews were already having to pay. And on top of that, he was collecting from the tax collectors under him.

To Luke’s intended readership, they would have spotted something odd about this story. And that is the name of Zacchaeus, himself. They would have known that his name meant pure or chaste. Really? You can’t be serious. This chief tax collector is named Pure? It would have been recognized as an oxymoron – like saying cold fire, deafening silence, awfully good or living dead.

Riches aside, Jesus must have known what this man’s life was truly like. A man despised greatly by his own people may not have had many friends. (Even the other tax collectors might not have liked the “chief.”) And adding to the scorn he must have felt, he was probably made fun of because of his short stature.

Do you think he had experienced bullying? We don’t know how his life was, but we might imagine how his riches and how he acquired them had taken more from him than he had taken from the people.

Jesus enters Jericho with his mission for humanity in front of him. He had never wavered nor deviated from seeking, seeing, and saving the lost. When he spots Zacchaeus, he takes the opportunity to fulfill part of his mission right then and there.

Jesus is not focused on the crowd of gawkers. He is looking for the lost soul among the crowd. He is the one who seeks us. And he sees this lost soul in Zacchaeus. He could have just as easily kept walking on by and left Zacchaeus in the tree, which may have been what Zacchaeus was expecting. Even if he was up in the tree, he probably felt invisible and rejected by God. Just another face even if he wasn’t in the crowd.

In our daily lives, we are also on mission with Jesus. It’s easy to get consumed with our responsibilities and what is in our immediate view. But sometimes we need to be reminded that we are still on mission and that we need to look up. Jesus says in John 4:35 “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” We seek others because we have been sought.

 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. (Luke 19:5-6)

Zacchaeus realizes that he has been seen. In his mind, he may have been expecting judgment. “Here is this miracle-worker that many are saying may be the Messiah, and if so, I could be the first on his chopping block.” The crowd might have enjoyed that. But then he quickly realizes that Jesus has a different agenda altogether. Rather than being judged by Jesus, he is affirmed. Jesus loudly proclaims that he is to come down from the tree immediately because he is going to be the guest of Zacchaeus. What a turn of events!

Jesus not only sees Zacchaeus physically, but more importantly, sees the inside of him. Jesus knows the heart of mankind. We were made for connection with him. And he knows how we long to be seen, to be known for who we are. We often hear people referring to finding their people, or tribe. We all have that longing to belong. We want to know that someone would still stick around even if they knew the worst of us.

Pastor John Lynch, wrote:

What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it? … What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?

Jesus accepted Zacchaeus knowing who he was. He extends grace, not by asking for Zacchaeus’ invitation but by declaring that he must stay with him. And it wasn’t based on anything that Zacchaeus had done, good or bad. It was based solely on who Christ is.

Our God chooses to dwell with humanity, not based on our goodness but based on his goodness. Romans 2:4 confirms that it is God’s kindness that leads us towards repentance. And Zacchaeus is getting a full dose of God’s kindness in his encounter with Jesus.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7)

Unfortunately, we don’t always see what God sees in others. All the crowd saw was an undeserving sinner being embraced by this holy man of God. Their thinking was that God would want nothing to do with such a person. But it wasn’t up to the crowd then, and it is not up to us now who is included in the grace of God.

The crowd may be quick to tear us down and remind us of our faults, but Jesus, through his Spirit, will continually remind us of who we are in him, and who we are to him. He has sought us and seen us.

In answer to the crowd, Zacchaeus proves to them and Jesus that his repentance is genuine.

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 the lost.” (Luke 19:8-10)

Jesus declared to all within earshot that salvation has come to Zacchaeus. In witnessing the repentant heart of Zacchaeus, Jesus is pointing out to the crowd what it looks like when one has a proper response to the grace and favor of God – the response of faith.

He affirms Zacchaeus as being a son of Abraham. He is included in the people of faith, no longer to be thought of as an outcast amongst his own people. Zacchaeus’ response is one of faith because he has seen the faith of Christ exhibited towards him. Zacchaeus, then, was sought, seen, and saved.

Jesus said that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. He represented the heart of the Father here on earth. In this story, he was on mission to seek, see, and save. He identifies Zacchaeus as someone who felt lost, who needed to know about his saving grace.

Zacchaeus realized something many of the crowd missed; many of them believed they didn’t need a Savior. Many thought they were already righteous apart from Christ and didn’t feel the need to repent and humble themselves. How many today believe the same – that they are found in their own goodness? In so doing, they become the ones who are truly lost.

Jesus looks into the hearts of us all to see our place of greatest need. He then works in us to heal those broken places that only love can fix. And he comes to live with us by his Spirit to claim us as his own.

He is the one who seeks us, sees us, and saves us. He continues his ministry today through us, by his Spirit. As his followers, we hold our heads up to see the fields that are ripe for the harvest. We open our eyes to see as he sees. We open our hearts to feel as he feels. And we open ourselves as his church to gladly receive and welcome others into the family of faith where they truly belong.

 

Resources:

O.C. Tanner Institute, 2018 Global Culture Report: page 10, http://www.octanner.com/content/dam/oc-tanner/documents/white-papers/2018/2018_Global_Culture_Report.pdf

Dewitt, P. (2016, January 26) “Only 46% of Students Feel Valued in Their School,” Education Week, https://www.edweek.org/education/opinion-only-46-of-students-feel-valued-in-their-school/2016/01

Justified w/ Walter Kim W5

Video unavailable (video not checked).

October 30 – Proper 26
Luke 19:1-10 “At the Table”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on Spotify, Google Podcast, and Apple Podcasts.

Program Transcript


Justified w/ Walter Kim W5

Anthony: Let’s transition to our final pericope of the month. It’s Luke 19 :1-10. It’s a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 26 on October 30th.

1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable due to the crowd, because he was short in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Him, because He was about to pass through that wayAnd when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down, and received Him joyfully. When the people saw this, they all began to complain, saying, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!” But Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I am giving to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I am giving back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

This is such a beloved encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus for many reasons. But what stands out to you?

Walter: Yeah, it’s funny that you used the word stand, what stands out because that was part of the story, right?

That he was unable to see Jesus, because he could not stand tall enough. And there’s something about this story that makes it so, as you say, beloved. It shows up in flannelgraph Sunday school lessons for little kids, as well as the most probing and prophetic sermons in challenging adults in a life of radical generosity and repentance.

So, you know, several things. This imagery of sight strikes me of throughout scripture. We have this notion of seeing things, truly seeing things as they really are. And I’m struck by that because of a science study that I had recently run across that differentiated the perceptions of the world between wealthy people and working-class people, and that they had literally determined, the researchers, that wealthy people and working-class people actually see the world differently.

In other words, they’re more attentive and responsive to different things. They could be looking at the same exact scenario on the street or in the center of the city, but actually pick out different features of that scenario. And one of the things that the study concluded was wealthier people actually see empathy less. They perceive other people’s pain less than working-class people.

So, there is something very profound in this passage that the wealth of Zacchaeus, like perhaps the challenge that exists for all people who are privileged, enables you to look at the world in a certain way and ignore certain problems, because they’re not a part of your world, you don’t pick it out. If this is a part of your daily existence, where the next meal is going to come from, you are able to look for and look at and see the world in a particular way.

I think one of the deep challenges in this passage is this imagery of sight. One, wealth prevents us from seeing the world in its needs because we are so comfortable, and it really doesn’t take a lot of wealth to make us comfortable.

We in America might think we’re middle class but compared to the world’s standard that puts us on the 1% right of the world’s wealth. So, one of the things that I would say is, what are the circumstances in your life? What are the conditions in your life that prevent you from seeing well?

And then there’s something about Zacchaeus’ personhood. He was short in stature. And then I would ask the question, what is it about our particular life? Our personality, the quirks that we have, maybe even our bodily existence, like Zacchaeus, that prevents us from seeing Jesus. Those two things I think can be pretty discouraging because my goodness, our conditions are our conditions, our circumstances, that’s what we are in.

How can we overcome this? Is it really the case that privilege prevents us from seeing the world with empathy. And is it really the case that our personality quirks or biological inclinations prevent us from seeing Jesus? That may be the case. Yes. We are fallen sinful creatures, and that prevents us from seeing God.

But the beauty of the passage is that God could say for the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which is lost, and God can redeem us out of our circumstances and grant us compassion and empathy when that’s not natural to our circumstances. He can redeem us in our inherited sin and fallenness, or even in the fact that we might have some kind of biological predisposition toward sadness in life or anger, like we are just predisposed.

And yet God says that too can be redeemed. So, there’s just so much in this passage that resonates with our life circumstances either personally or where we are in our station socioeconomically, and that we have the possibility of redemption for all of that.

Anthony: I chuckle, who invited who? Jesus says, I’m going to come to your house. I’m not sure as Zacchaeus had his house in order or what condition it was. But I think in some ways that’s a wink to the incarnation that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. He came to us. And one of the aspects of Jesus’s transforming ministry, that I think it’s under-talked about, is his meal-sharing or table fellowship.

Now, in this particular passage, it doesn’t reflect that. But in other telling of this story and the Synoptics, we see they had a meal. How does table fellowship fit into the incarnation? And for us, how do our efforts to join the Spirit in incarnational living look like table fellowship?

Walter: Yeah, there’s some profoundly human instinct that God has created us with, that we want to celebrate over a meal those things that are important to us. So virtually every culture that has some kind of marital ceremony includes a meal reception that follows, whether it’s a simple meal or an elaborate meal.

In my case, when Tony and I got married (Tony is a Taiwanese American), we had this elaborate meal that was set up. that was a part of our culture, that we had in commemorating our wedding and of the wedding feast.

We have this imagery of in Scripture of what’s going to happen, and the great unveiling of Christ in his bride in heaven, the church, it is this wedding feast, the gift of communion. This gift of a meal that was given to the church is, I think, a profound celebration of redemption of a covenant. We celebrate the covenant of marriage with a wedding feast. We celebrate the covenant of salvation with a wedding feast.

But there’s another aspect of meals that I think in the ancient, near Eastern context, would’ve been on people’s minds. And that is, meals not only celebrate great occasions, they solemnize this cessation of violence.

So, a lot of treaties were made over a meal. And that was because there was a certain protocol with a meal. You had to put your weapons aside at the entrance of the tent or wherever you end up having the meal together. And by using your hands in the meal, oftentimes in the middle east, you actually would eat [with your hands].

And I actually sat around a table like this, where there was this big pile—as I was traveling in Jordan, we had this kind of traditional Palestinian Jordanian meal. And there were a bunch of men surrounding this massive—it was like about five feet wide plate of food, a pile of rice with chicken and yogurt. And you were to use your right hand, grab some food and ball it up.

What does that mean? If you’re using your right hand to eat food, you can’t have a sword in it. There’s this beautiful picture of celebration, of course. But there’s a beautiful picture of making peace that the table fellow fellowship is a cessation of violence.

It’s the declaration that I give up this way of violence. And I’m stepping into this place where I make myself vulnerable. I leave my weapon aside. I use my hand to fill it with food and not a sword. And that puts me in a place of vulnerability. And if peace does not rule, then I’m in deep danger.

And I think that’s also a part of this beautiful picture of table fellowship that we say to God, I put aside my sword, my independence, I make myself vulnerable to you. And I yield myself in a place of trust and peace making. And to couple that with celebration and joy knowing that Jesus brought salvation to us, is a bringing together of these various aspects of what a meal could mean in the ancient world. And it was also family time. Right? You have family meals.

Anthony: Yeah. If meal sharing is peacemaking, may we eat more together, for crying out loud? Amen.

Walter: Amen to that!

Anthony: And it’s also a bit of a critique. The fact that many families have stopped eating together. It’s no longer a core value of the family units. And that’s another discussion for another day, but how important it is to break bread together for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost, what a Christological tour de force mission statement.

Tell us about it.

Walter: Yeah. This notion that we have Jesus coming to us seeking us. The classic come to Jesus alter call where we, sometimes physically, depending on your tradition (maybe it was a Billy Graham crusade), we literally get up out of our seat. And with “Just as I Am” being sung in the background, we come to Jesus.

And even the secular world has used that phrase, “this is a come-to-Jesus moment.” And yet what we have here is Jesus coming to us. He is the one that invited himself to Zacchaeus’s home. Yes, he is the one that came to seek and save the lost. This Christological statement of God’s initiative, God’s grace, that even when we didn’t have the wherewithal, the sensibility to invite Jesus, he invites himself into our lives.

And that there is grace that is that great that he would seek us out when we are stuck and unable to seek him. And that too is a great challenge for how we think about church, right? If Jesus did not wait to be invited, but invited himself, if Jesus sought out, then that has some profound implications for how we live out our church life.

Do we simply wait for people to come to us, to attract them to our church or do we figure out how to get church outside of our walls, into the communities such that inviting ourselves into one another’s [home], into our neighbor’s home would be such a sensible thing that our neighbor would respond by saying, “Oh yeah, of course. I didn’t think that, but yeah, I would love to have you over!”

That actually requires a certain kind of relationship of trust that you could invite yourself over. And I think that’s for us, what a missiological challenge. Do you have friendships with those who don’t know Jesus to such an extent that it would not be weird for you to say, “Hey, I’m coming over with a plate of brownies. Let’s hang for a bit.”

Anthony: Oh, that’s so good, Walter. I am very grateful for you for the calling that is upon your life, for the role that you have. We are in prayer for you. My church tribe is Grace Communion International, and we are a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

And you’ve gotten to know us a bit. I’m putting you on the spot a little here, but is there anything you would say to our listening audience that might be a blessing to our hearers?

Walter: Yeah, we are clearly in a time of deep contention. It seems like we’re in an infection moment, one generation giving way to another generation, cultural conflicts that are roiling, not only life in America, but internationally. You pick the country and there is a crisis of some sort.

And it seems like this is not simply some mild growing pains that people are encountering. This really does seem like a consequential generationally defining moment. And my word of encouragement is God knows.

A recent Barna study came out that said up 42% of pastors are considering resigning because of how difficult life has been these last few years. And one of the things that we will need is this vision of longing for the kingdom that can sustain us through what seems to be prolonged injustice. This sense that even if we can’t see Jesus, he sees us. This sense that we come to God in which we just bring our real selves before him. And so, what my word of encouragement would be, yes, you are encountering challenges, but your labor is not in vain. And you will one day experience the full vindication of God himself.

Anthony: That’s a good word. That’s a fantastic way to end and praise him, that he’s faithful and pursues us to the end.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Who has been your greatest encourager?
  • What do you find is the best way to encourage others?
  • How has the Lord gotten you through your trials?
  • What are the things in your relationship to Christ that encourages you?

From the sermon

  • Have you ever felt marginalized? How did that affect your life?
  • How can you remind yourself to look up and see those around you?
  • Share how you believe that Jesus has really seen who you are.
  • How has God’s kindness towards you led you towards repentance?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2022 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy