Unexpected Host

Climbing Trees by lapseoftheshutter
photo “Climbing Trees” by lapseoftheshutter on flickr.com

Luke 19:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version)

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. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

  1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?

What would it be like for Jesus to announce to the world that he was going to stay at your house today?  “But I’m not ready!” I’d think to myself, “I haven’t had time to prepare!  No mints on the pillows, no roast in the oven, no guest towels in the bathroom!  What is Jesus thinking!?!”  For me, all of this would kick me into Martha overdrive, and I might even miss the great blessing of Jesus’ presence and company.  As we enter into this extended holiday season, what preparations are you making?  How will you know when you are ready?  What would it be like to consider hosting Jesus?

  1. What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?

I am delighted by Zacchaeus’ response, probably because it would be the polar opposite of mine, and the reaction I wish I would have if Jesus showed up on my doorstep today.  He was happy to welcome Jesus, and even went the extra mile of opening his heart in generosity to others.  What would it be like to be someone who was happy to welcome unexpected guests?  When has your heart been opened in generosity?  When was a time when you knew that God was working through you?

  1. What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life?

This story makes me think of a time when I was the unexpected guest.  We were in the midst of moving, and had a gap between when our moving truck left and when it was time to hit the road to our new home.  We asked some friends if we could stay at their house at the last second, and although they were busy and not prepared for guests, they took us in.  We dined on frozen pizza and slept in one of the children’s beds.  It was not perfect, and yet it was.  The accommodations mattered far less than the company, the fellowship, and the joy we took in one another’s presence.  I have never been so grateful for the hospitality of others.  When was a time when you were a guest?  When you knew that Jesus was present in your life?  When an ordinary day turned holy for you?

  1. What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?

This is the story that we will explore together on Thanksgiving Eve and Day at our worship services.  How does knowing that we will hear it on a day that we set aside for giving thanks make you receive this story differently?  For me, it reminds me of the verse from Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  What if all of our hosting and guesting this season was holy instead of wholly frantic?  What if we welcomed the face of Jesus when we welcomed family and friends, neighbors and strangers?  What if we took the time to listen to Jesus calling our names and received that news with joy?  How would our hearts and minds be changed?  Just who would we become?  I am looking forward to dwelling in this Word with you over the course of the month!

In Christ,

Pastor Breen Marie Sipes