Tag Archives: Zacchaeus

A Journey (on the threshold of the New Year – 2018)

Some thoughts – as we stand on the threshold of a New Year.

Colossians 3 verses 1-11

Luke 12 verses 13-21

The Journey

As I’ve mentioned before, when I lived & worked in Trinidad, a popular farewell to loved ones (as they embarked on some trip) was “May journeying mercies be granted to you!”

Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? More than a phrase; a hope, a wish. More than that – a blessing!

When I conduct a wedding ceremony, I often use that prayer for the newly-weds as they embark on their marriage journey – a prayer and blessing: “May God bless you as you travel down the years that lie ahead of you. Journeying mercies be upon you!”

It’s not just appropriate for weddings; we could wish the same of the school-leaver or the Graduate as he or she sets off into the workplace or career.

I guess we could use it (though I haven’t – so far!) at a baptism, when the infant begins her or his life as a child of The Way.

I’m reminded of that familiar traditional Celtic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

A wonderful man, Jamie Stuart, died a year or so ago, at the age of 96

What an extraordinary journey his was.

His life story reveals he had to survive endemic poverty, endless disappointment and the death of those closest to him. Yet, whenever faced with a real uphill challenge, he’s raced up them. Literally. In this James Stuart’s wonderful life he’s been a champion runner, a blanket salesman, an actor, an aircraft wireless operator, a social worker, a paper boy (at the age of 68) and a best-selling writer…….

……and, if you didn’t recognise the name at first, then, if I mention “The Glasgow Bible” – the Scriptures written in the vernacular, you’ll know him as the author of that wonderfully accessible work, full of flair, wit, and the insight only a Glaswegian has.

Among the many yarns that he re-tells is that of what is essentially the story of a journey – from curiosity, to interest, to faith……

Listen:

“When Jesus went oan inty Jericho, there wis this man cawd Zacchaeus. He wis the heid tax man for the district an so wis quite rich – in fact he wis really loaded!

“But though he had plenty o money, he wisny whit ye might caw happy, an he wis dead keen tae meet this Jesus he’d heard aw aboot.

“Zacchaeus, bein a wee man, canny get near oan accoont o the great crowd o folk roon aboot Jesus. So he decides tae sclim up a sycamore tree beside the road tae watch.

“When Jesus eventually comes alang, he spies Zacchaeus. Lookin up, he shouts, ‘Hi there, wee man – come doon will ye! Ah’ve decided tae invite masel tae yer hoose for a meal this efternin.’

“Tae say that wee Zacchaeus wis fair chuffed is pittin it mildly!

“But the rest o the folk, by the wey, wir no very pleased that Jesus wis gauny eat wi a bloke they cawd a crook.

“But already Zacchaeus is a chinged man! He says tae Jesus, ‘Lord, see me? Ah’m gauny gie hauf o ma money tae the puir. An ah’ll promise tae look efter aw the folk that ah’ve cheated, so ah will.’

“Jesus turned roon tae the dumfoonert crowd an telt them tae haud their wheesht: ‘This man wis a sinner,’ he said. ‘He’s fund peace at last.’

Of course, not all journeys go to plan. There can be obstacles in the way; there may be detours which we would rather not have taken; we find ourselves in cul de sacs; we may end up feeling that we can’t travel another step.

Sometimes we try to make the best of it, often in our own strength. Although we may succeed after a fashion, only occasionally does it reach anything like a satisfactory conclusion.

There are many stories in the Bible of people and tribes who have made the wrong decision. Some have come to the Lord to seek wisdom and direction; others have muddled on, unrepentant and confused.

Jesus gave some sound advice to his followers in the parables recorded in the Gospel of Luke, including the story of the rich man who stored up his abundant crops.

There is, also, for example, the parable of the beggar, Lazarus, and the Rich Man (“Dives”) who wanted to enter heaven, and the one about the Ruler who wanted to inherit eternal life.

They all wanted the ultimate, but their decision was wrong, and they left it too late to make that “U-turn” as it were on their personal journey.

One of the most gifted players ever to grace a football pitch was the great George Best. Sadly, we still remember how booze and birds eroded what was once a remarkable talent.

Doing the rounds of TV chat shows and the after-dinner speaking circuit, he woul tell a particular story against himself.

One evening he recalled, having won a large sum of money at a London casino, he and his then girlfriend, a former Miss World, booked into a luxury hotel.

He then explained how he spread the money – lots of it, in high denomination notes – on the king sized bed, before phoning room service for champagne to be sent up.

The waiter duly arrived. Open-mouthed, he looked in disbelief at all the cash that was spread over the bed. And agog at Miss World draped seductively over a chaise-longue.

Nervously, in a voice that was barely above a whisper, he said: “Mr Best, I hope you don’t mind me asking – but where did it all go wrong?”

An amusing anecdote (but, by the way, I once recounted this tale to an audience largely made up of wealthy businessmen and high-flying professionals – and their reaction was….. zilch, zero)

However, there is a lot of truth in that story. George Best’s journey began in humble but essentially decent circumstances, with a down-to-earth upbringing in a devout Northern Irish family home.

Blessed with a wonderful talent, he could have continued to travel a road accompanied, as it were, by thousands of youngsters inspired by someone who could have been an ideal role model….but….he chose another route that led ultimately to his own self-destruction.

{btw he was reduced to playing for Hibs as he reached the end of his playing days! Said he who is a staunch Jambo}

How often have we seen glittering careers tarnished by self-orientation, self-seeking, self-indulgence. Ruined because of living for the moment.

“Take your ease” said the rich man in Christ’s parable; “Eat, drink, be merry”

Tomorrow never comes – well, actually, it does….and often when we least expect it.

The sad, but obvious, thing is that you can’t take it with you when tomorrow comes. I’ve yet to see a Securicor van as part of a funeral cortège.

The thrust of Christ’s parable should speak to those who want to shop till they drop, those who put getting to the top regardless of the means to climb there, those so involved in the rat race that family life takes a back seat, those who travel on a personal journey that may be temporarily satisfying but leaves no room for the needs of others.

Does it boil down to faith – this journey?

It depends on how we define “faith” – “Seek the things that are above…” writes Paul; “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”

It’s all a matter of direction and priorities – as both Jesus in his Parable and Paul in his Epistle indicate.

The choice is ours.

Sometimes, we may miss the obvious route to travel; but sometimes – just sometimes, the Spirit may lead us to a better destination.

A story to finish – it’s about a journey; in this case, a voyage that went “wrong”

In Southern Tasmania, there is a promontory of land on the shore of the Huon River.

On one side is Castle Forbes Bay, named after the Irish ship “The Castle Howard”

In 1836, the Captain mistook the entrance of the Huon River for that of the Derwent River a few miles farther along the coast.

The Derwent led to Hobart Town, his destination, one of Australia’s finest deep water ports, and an important centre for the whaling trade.

From the census of the previous year (1835) Hobart Town contained 13,826 inhabitants, and the whole of Tasmania 36,505.

But they missed it; things got worse when sickness broke out on board, and fresh water was running out.

A terrible miscalculation on the ship’s journey.

They made landfall – miles from their original destination – and set up camp.

But there was no drinking water there, and the passengers were suffering.

However, after a while, desperately scouting the area, a fresh water rivulet was discovered.

They erected tents to hospitalise the sick passengers….. and to this day the area is known as Hospital Bay.

Although they settled this place by default, many of the female passengers remained and married the local timber workers.

And they prospered and many of their descendants still live in or around there.

Not all journeys may go to plan…..but God has plans for all our journeys.

May journeying mercies attend you all, wherever your life-travel takes you, especially as we enter this New Year of 2018.

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Zacchaeus

Just back from an excellent service at Dumfries Northwest Church, where four of us shared the conduct of worship.

The Scripture Reading (and the theme) was the New Testament story of Zacchaeus.

It reminded me of a story concerning Charles Spurgeon and a student in training for the ministry

 

 

Part of the training involved  the students preaching before their fellow classmates.

Spurgeon would call a student to the front of the class, hand him a text, and ask him to preach on it.

Once, the selected student stood up in front of the class and said, “I have been given the New Testament passage: Luke 19, verses 1-10.

“There are three things I would like to point out about Zacchaeus:

“I would like to say in the first place, he was a little man and so am I.

“I would remark in the second place, he was up a tree and so am I.

“And I would emphasize in the third place, he made haste and came down and so will I.”

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New Wine

What do the following have in common?  Zacchaeus, St. Paul, St Augustine, Francis of Assisi, John Newton the hymnwriter, Francis Thomson the poet?

All had a firm conviction in the power of Christ to change people’s lives.

Zacchaeus – from quisling to follower of Christ

Saul – from persecutor to Paul the apostle

Augustine – from wastrel to holy man

Francis – from self-centred indolence to friar and saint

Newton – from slaver to hymnist

Thomson – from hopeless drunk to Christian apologist

All changed , all made new –  like countless others before and since and yet to come – through the transforming power of Jesus Christ who makes all things new.

If you’ve looked at the Gospel according to St John even superficially, you will have noticed that it’s considerably different from the others.

It’s as if the author is seeing things from a different perspective.  He seems to get behind the facts, giving them a meaning and significance that are eternal.

He sees in the actions of Jesus something that is forever true; something that is still happening – happening even now.

The first miracle to be recorded by John is the story of turning water into wine.  Some versions of the Bible refer to this as the first of the ‘signs’ that Jesus did.

And John, who had had many years to contemplate on what Christ did – sees in it something of profound significance.

Dull ordinary water, common H2O can become rich rich wine, full of bouquet and sparklinmg with promise.

And if water can become wine, the ordinary man or woman can become something exciting and rich and effervescent.

John is trying to convey to us that whenever Christ comes into our lives, there enters into them a new quality which is like turning water into wine – new exhilaration.

But where’s the key to this?  How does life become new?

I once heard this story – a man was preaching at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  There was only a handful of disinterested listeners there.  But he preached on telling them about how marvellous Christ is.

A heckler interrupted him – ‘Here!’ he shouted ‘All this Jesus this and Jesus that…he’s been around for two thousand years and he’s done nothing for me!’

The preacher stopped and said ‘Friend, water has been around for several million years but by the look of your dirty face, it hasn’t done you much good either!’

Do you see it?  You need CONTACT if all is to change in your life.  You need contact if things are to become new.

And this contact?  Look again at the story of the wedding at Cana.  This is how Jesus revealed his glory says John, AND HIS DISCIPLES BELIEVED IN HIM.

Belief is the point of contact.

‘Behold, I make all things new’ says the risen and glorified Christ.  Do you believe it?  Can you dare believe it to be true?

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Shortest Sermon 2

Charles Spurgeon once asked a ministerial student to preach an impromptu sermon, the result of which deserved entry in the Guinness World Records for the shortest sermon ever preached. The student preacher proclaimed the entire sermon in three sentences. Appropriately, the topic was Zacchaeus:

“First, Zacchaeus was a man of small stature; so am I. Second, Zacchaeus was very much up a tree; so am I. Third, Zacchaeus made haste and came down; so will I.”

With that, the student sat down to shouts of “More, more!” from his fellows. “No,” said Spurgeon. “He could not improve upon that if he tried.”1

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October 21, 2012 · 05:33