This week, in our series, we shifted from our focus on community to a focus on mission, but this shift begins with a bit of a bridge idea. How do we, as a church, embrace our commitment to welcome and create space for whomever is next to partner with us on our common mission, our common journey behind Jesus?
We did this by taking a look at the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus, though he was rich, was an outcast. Everyone knew and considered him to be a sinner. When they called him a sinner, they didn’t mean it in the way we say “we’re all just sinners saved by the grace of God.” They meant it like “oh that person… good, honorable people don’t eat with sinners like that.” It was a way to talk about people and exclude them from good society. It was a way to divide.
Now, most people often talk about this passage as if it was primarily that Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd to see Jesus. But note, to say that Zacchaeus was “small in stature” could also mean, he was seen as socially insignificant. He didn’t have the clout to access Jesus. Indeed, just over a dozen verses before this episode in Luke, we meet the rich ruler (18:18-30), who has no problem breaking through the crowd to get to Jesus. That is his privilege (a privilege that he resisted giving up as a prerequisite to following Jesus). Zacchaeus did not have that privilege.
There are lots of ways we can talk about the sort of exclusion the crowd engages is (and I talk about a few ways in the sermon), but there is no doubt about it, the crowd is involved in dividing space, it emphasizing division, inside and outside, and keeping people from accessing Jesus. It defines who is in and who is out, and Zacchaeus is on the outside. Jesus, however, calls to Zacchaeus in a way that overcomes his spatial marginalization and brings him not just into the crowd, but to the center, the place of most importance and honor.
Then! Jesus doesn’t just invite him into “Jesus” space, Jesus goes into Zacchaeus’s space. He shares intimate community with him. Space here is created where Zacchaeus is no longer defined by the derogatory story of others, but he gets an opportunity to tell his own story in his own space.
Luke uses spatial metaphors a lot. Inside/outside; public/private; homes/crowds, and it is certainly telling that Jesus here emphasizes engagement in Zacchaeus’s space, that this is a space where the staging of God’s kingdom is realized, where salvation comes, and there is no more exclusion. The home, the small intimate spaces, is where the seeds of God’s kingdom are planted and grow.
We see something similar, spatially, in Acts 2:42-47. Here the early community is growing rapidly in Jerusalem, filled with the Spirit, praying, communing, and sharing their resources. They meet in two spaces. One public and of the whole group, that is the temple. But they also meet in each other’s homes in small groups. Here, they break bread together, the quintessential practice of God’s kingdom.
We meet in each other’s homes to extend our community beyond Sunday mornings, to build up our community, to provide a place for those who might otherwise be left out by the crowd, and to tell our stories.
As you listen to the sermon and think about these things this week, ponder these questions:
- How have you experienced welcome and inclusion at PMC? Are you still looking for further inclusion? How can we improve our hospitality?
- What can we do to create space and awareness of creating space for whomever is next to partner with us? How do emphasize inviting new people into the intimacy of our community?
For convenience sake, there is also a podcast available. You can find that here.