(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.' "
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
My excitement was triggered by an email from my friend Paul - 'Nigella Lawson has a new cookbook out and is doing a book signing in town.' You have to understand that I have every cookbook Nigella has written and I frequently make her culinary delights. A new cookbook was exciting enough, but to actually see her in real life? That would be pure ecstasy. Plans were made, maps were printed. Routes were rehearsed. She was appearing somewhere I'd never been before, so I made a preliminary trip just to make sure there would be no problems on the day. (See blog entry here)
I know comparing my culinary 'savior' to the Savior of the Universe might be in bad taste (taste? Get it? GROAN), but when you consider somebody important enough that you want to meet them, you make preparations. I printed maps and drove to a neighborhood I had never been too before, Zacchaeus climbed trees. When you value you someone enough to want to see them you don't let a little thing like unfamiliarity with the territory or the size of a crowd get in your way.
All of us desire an encounter with God - I think the fact that we are sitting here in the Contemplative Service is evidence of that. There is a deep underground current that flows within each one of us that desires that holy connection. We get little nudges of its existence from time to time, a conversation, a poster for a Retreat, the title of a book on a shelf. All little prompts, invitations to go tree climbing.
We can also discount our tree climbing desires easily. We label them as embarrassing, not what respectable people do, immature, inappropriate. We may discount them, bury them or become numb to them but they don't go away because God wired us that way...
...and so, at just the right time, you'll see an employee of the IRS in a sycamore tree.
We celebrate Zacchaeus climbing, his desire to just see Jesus. He doesn't climb the tree because he's heard that Jesus will stay at the home of someone sitting on a tree limb. He doesn't climb the tree because of the consequences; he climbs simply so he can get a better view of Jesus...
...and if we look carefully, and are willing to acknowledge it when we find it, we discover there is something of Zacchaeus in all of us.
How is the desire to climb trees showing itself in your life at the moment?