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Salvation Has Come To Your House Today

September 29, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 19:1–19:10

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
September 29, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 16
130th Anniversary of Christ Lutheran Church

And he entered Jericho and was passing through and, behold, there was a man there named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.

And he kept trying to see who Jesus was but could not due to the crowd, and because he was very short.

And so he ran ahead [of the crowd] and climbed a sycamore tree so that he might get a look at him for he was about to pass that way. Now as soon as Jesus came to that place he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus! Hurry! Come down! For today I must stay at your house, so he hurried down and welcomed [Jesus] with great joy!

But when they saw it the whole crowd began to complain: "He has accepted the invitation of a man who is a Sinner."

But now Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord: "Lord, this day I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone I pledge to restore to them four times the amount."

Then Jesus said to him: "Today salvation is come to this house since he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost." (Luke 19:1-10)

Today our fathers in the faith rejoice in heaven, rejoice as their spiritual children offer endless praise to God on high, because he so richly blessed what was, in the late 1880’s only a dream. A hope. A vision. A prayer.

A series of small meetings held around wood burning stoves on chilly winter evenings … that grew larger and larger with this purpose in mind: that a house of God should grace the landscape of Cleveland Ohio; to be a symbol of hope for all peoples; and House of Prayer for all nations! The place where dazzling heaven and dingy earth might kiss, and bring forth many children - you are those children!

But what happened then, and what still happens here today, is nothing more than a repeat of today’s gospel! What we might call the: the liturgy of St. Zacchaeus.

But lest we should romanticize about the “wee little man” that we all learned about in Sunday School, let us remember that Zacchaeus was no kewpie doll. But a lusty greedy man who collected oppressive taxes from his own people on behalf of their pagan overlords. There was no greater sin than that in the eyes of his contemporaries.

But he was not simply tax collector, and therefore Sinner. But “chief tax collector,” and therefore in the eyes of the people, “chief of sinners.”

Zacchaeus took food from the mouths of children; made the hair of fathers turn prematurely grey, and caused mothers wash their pillows with tears each night. But something miraculous happened that day!

Sinner learns about Jesus. Sinner investigates. Sinner hears the Lord’s call. Sinner responds, sinner repents, and sinner loses his appetite for earthly gain that he might gain the riches of Christ!

For, you see, what St. Luke records for us here is not simply an interesting episode in “The life and times of Jesus the Messiah.” But the liturgy of salvation played out in every age in churches just like ours.

Today we are Zacchaeus! And we are here because we have heard amazing things about Jesus, and have come to see for ourselves. Come to experience the power of the One who knows our names. Who knows our thoughts. Who knows our deepest needs: salvation from the sins that ruin us. And who in holy baptism says to each of us:

Zacchaeus!

Hurry!

Come down from your branch!

Today we will dine together. Today salvation is come to your house!

Yes, we are Zacchaeus! We may not be short of stature like he was but Scripture concludes that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23); and so we need of the same Salvation that came to Jericho that day to make the walls of sin fall down.

We need Jesus who put an end once and for all the mortal sins that have robbed us of our humanity, our reason, our peace, and that distort the beautiful image in which our race was first created.

The catalogue of deadly sins is very long but today we can focus on just one: Greed. Not need, which is natural, but greed!

The love of money which is the root of all evil. Especially money gotten by illegal or immoral means.

Why money? Because if you have enough of it you can exempt yourself from some of sin’s curse.

In Genesis 3:17 ff. the Lord says to Adam. "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you. In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you … By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

But when you control enough money you can pay other people to sweat for you. To suffer the curse for you while you sail away on beds of ease.

Is it any wonder that we are as greedy as we are?

That we are unhappy with St. Paul word, “Let him who stole steal no more, but work with his hands that he may have something to give for those in need.” (Eph. 4:28)

And with the word of Malachi (3:8) who asks, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me … by withholding your tithes and offerings.”

And so we have much to learn from Zacchaeus today as we praise our God for the gift of Christ Lutheran Church; that was brought into being, and still stands today, by the tender mercies of our God.

But not apart from the sweat of the brow, for this too is the will of God. Nor without the tithes and offerings of God’s people, that too is part of God’s will. And not without Zacchaeus, then and now, who instantly pledged to give one half of his goods to the poor; and to restore not double, or even treble, the damages he’d done, but four times! What a man, what a saint!

Is it any wonder that Jesus says to him: Today salvation has come to your house? But here Lutherans must be careful.

We tend towards “antinomianism” which means that we are quick to highlight faith over the good works it produces. But both are vital to salvation, and one cannot exist without the other.

Zacchaeus became a new person that day! And may we become new persons this day. Different than we were yesterday. Not in order to extort mercy from God, for that is slavery. But because he has graciously extended mercy to us in Christ without money, without cost – and indeed even without our prayer. But we love him because he first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)

And so may we dedicate “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to the One who also climbed a tree. The tree of the cross. From which he saw Zacchaeus. Sees us. And by which he gained redemption for all. Redemption from greed, death and the devil. Salvation mediated through the church. This church. For 130 years! Christ be praised! Amen.