Spirit & Life

Grace in Unlovely Times

Psalm 119:137-144
You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are just.
The rules that you have given are completely fair and right.
My anger burns in me like a fire, because my enemies disregard your commands.
How certain your promise is! How I love it!
I am unimportant and despised, but I do not neglect your teachings.
Your righteousness will last forever, and your law is always true.
I am filled with trouble and anxiety, but your commandments bring me joy.
Your instructions are always just; give me understanding, and I shall live.
Luke 19:1-10

Jesus went on into Jericho and was passing through. There was a chief tax collector there named Zacchaeus, who was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was a little man and could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to Zacchaeus, “Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay in your house today.” Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed him with great joy. All the people who saw it started grumbling, “This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner!”
Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Listen, sir! I will give half my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times as much.” Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Wealthy, corrupt and unscrupulous. Shocking the gathered crowd and righteous folk. Unsettling Law, tradition and culture. Sharing food and wine as if friends or even family. Why would he do that? I mean Jesus.
As he journeys towards Jerusalem, Jesus befriends the ‘unacceptable’, is often criticised for being offensive or contradicting Jewish Law. He has the uncanny knack of seeking out the most unloved, unpopular and ‘sinful’ person, and befriending them. Luke 18: 9-14 tells of an anguished middle-man tax collector, seeking forgiveness. Zacchaeus may very well have been his ‘boss’.  Zaccheus must have felt SO honoured that this travelling charismatic preacher of Good News, sort him out particularly, invited himself to Zaccheus home, and expected to be fed and rested.
Perhaps, Jesus was doing something else entirely – noting the one on the edges of society, whose immoral way of living, warped sense of justice, greed, manipulation, coercion and disrespect for others was legendary. Perhaps, Jesus was demonstrating God’s Way – beyond custom, culture and Law, by loving his ‘neighbour’ and showing Zaccheus a better way to live in community through respect and honouring others; by demonstrating to the crowd how to approach even those who are despised. Forgiving the ‘least lovely’ does not mean accepting the way they live; though can open them to a new way of being in God…which is exactly what happened.

Prayer – Confessional Vulnerability

It is SO hard, God of all,
to show ‘love’ to the arrogant, abusive, brutally ruthless, and ‘unlovable’.
I marvel at your Way of love, Jesus,
that offers a different and compassionate approach.
We are weakened and frozen by our own judgements and fear.

Yet, the same sun shines on the good and the bad.
Your new Way of being speaks to all of us.

Teach us how to address our vulnerability, hurt and anxieties
as we engage with the worst of people and their damaging ways.

Teach us when to step in or when to stand aside,
when engagements could lead to unhealthy relationships,
when we need to let go and be the best that we can be.

Spirit of Grace, renew us with your Wisdom
so that we grow in understanding.
Brother Jesus, travel with us on this rocky path
so that we know how to navigate these uncertain journeys.
Loving God, open us every morning to your unconditional love
so that we overcome our vulnerabilities in a healthy and strong way.
For we long to be your people of grace and peace
and Followers of The Way.
Amen, Amen, Amen.

© Rev Anne Hewitt 26/10/2022
This reflection may be shared as long as the original writer is credited.

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