“One must be chaste, sober and merciful.
Exalt mercy above judgment,
that one may obtain mercy.
Love the brothers and sisters.
In administering correction
one should act prudently and not go to excess,
lest in seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust
one breaks the vessel.
Keep one’s own frailty ever before their eyes
and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken.”
Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 64
No Earthly Good –
I believe this is such a beautiful description of leadership. I have no idea how many times I’ve read this section of the Rule of Saint Benedict (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Saint_Benedict) over the years that I’ve been a Benedictine Oblate, (http://www.osb.org/obl/intro.html) but each time it speaks to me in the deepest of places.
I think it stirs my spirit today because of the leadership changes we will soon have in our nation. No matter which side of the political landscape you occupy, it’s hard to make an argument that our President-Elect personifies the above description, or is a Christlike model.
This worries me. It worries me because of what it emboldens in others. Too often, harsh, rash, unbalanced leadership doesn’t cause people to reflect but to react. If you’re for a more “strong, forceful, expect respect, my way or the highway” type of leading and now witness that it can take you to the most powerful position on the planet you might be tempted to adopt the; “might equals right” attitude you are witnessing. If you’re on the other side you may take a forceful, coercive stance to object and resist.
I worry about my brothers and sisters who are so politically minded they aren’t much Kingdom good. They don’t, can’t see Jesus in our new leadership and don’t seem to be looking very hard.
So, I worry, reminded that the Master says; “Do not worry.” Though our Teacher does not personify worldly power his Kingdom will never pass away.
“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach
This morning I awoke early. This isn’t uncommon lately with so much to do before we move. I try not to let my thoughts get away from me when I wake before dawn in the hopes I can drift off to sleep again. Alas, this morning I could not so I got out of bed and began to get ready for an early breakfast appointment. Part of my morning routine is checking email and when I opened one today I was blindsided by grace.
The message was simple but it included an incredible gift to me and my wife. It was a profound and generous act that took an enormous burden off of our shoulders. It was both unexpected and deeply appreciated and we are very thankful!
At times we can become so focused on a task, an occurring or upcoming event that grace must come out of nowhere and jolt us out of our myopic state so we are able to see the incredible love and compassion that surrounds us.blessings, bdl
There are times in life when instability happens, an event we didn’t plan for, a choice with unexpected consequences, a season which blows winds of transition into our lives and we become blinded by the debris of change.
When we encounter these sections on the path of life it can be difficult to get our bearings and we wonder if we are wandering aimlessly. Will the way ever be clear again? Yes. Seasons come and go, the unknown soon becomes the new normal. The passing of time has a way of revealing what was once hidden.
Patience is required. A waiting for the path to reveal itself again and trusting the path maker watches over our steps.blessings, bdl
Here’s an interesting info-pic about different traditions celebrated by varying cultures around the world at Christmas…
Traditions can be wonderful but they can also bring the heaviness of the past and a longing to live there.
I recently finished my Christmas day calls & texts to family and friends. Some are doing well and others have had a rough 2013. Family members and friends separated by varying circumstances including death, traditions once highly valued now gone, have a way of making this day dreadful instead of joyful. I spoke to someone this morning who began to cry while saying she would “be alright in a little bit.” I told her not to make this day anything other than what it was, a hard one, and if the mourning of what has been is needed to get to what is and what will be, then embrace this season of change.
Traditions are wonderful and should be cherished but when they change or cease, as all things do, maybe the gifts of acceptance and letting go is what we need to unwrap this year.blessings of peace, bdl
I told the following two stories tonight at our campus. They are wonderful and tragic, heart warming and heart breaking, fantastical and truly depressing. I followed them up with 2 selections of holy texts and a plea to meditate and reflect upon what they mean on a night such as this.
The following has become a tradition at our Christmas Eve service. The telling of the J.B. Philliips’ story titled “The Visited Planet.”
Once upon a time a very young angel was being shown round the splendors and glories of the universes by a senior and experienced angel. To tell the truth, the little angel was beginning to be tired and a little bored. He had been shown whirling galaxies and blazing suns, infinite distances in the deathly cold of inter-stellar space, and to his mind there seemed to be an awful lot of it all. Finally he was shown the galaxy of which our planetary system is but a small part. As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis-ball to the little angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.
“I want you to watch that one particularly,” said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.
“Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” said the little angel. “What’s special about that one?”
“That,” replied his senior solemnly, “is the Visited Planet.”
“Visited?” said the little one. “You don’t mean visited by ——–?
“Indeed I do. That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps over clean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory.” And at these words he bowed his head reverently.
“But how?” queried the younger one. “Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendors of His Creation, and millions more that I’m sure I haven’t seen yet, went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?”
“It isn’t for us,” said his senior a little stiffly, “to question His ‘whys’, except that I must point out to you that He is not impressed by size and numbers, as you seem to be. But that He really went I know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that. As to why He became one of them – how else do you suppose could He visit them?”
The little angels face wrinkled in disgust.
“Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”
“I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”
The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
“Close your eyes for a moment,” said the senior angel, “and we will go back in what they call Time.”
While the little angel‘s eyes were closed and the two of them moved nearer to the spinning ball, it stopped its spinning, spun backwards quite fast for a while, and then slowly resumed its usual rotation.
“Now look!” And as the little angel did as he was told, there appeared here and there on the dull surface of the globe little flashes of light, some merely momentary and some persisting for quite a time.
“Well, what am I seeing now?” queried the little angel.
“You are watching this little world as it was some thousands of years ago,” returned his companion. “Every flash and glow of light that you see is something of the Father’s knowledge and wisdom breaking into the minds and hearts of people who live upon the earth. Not many people, you see, can hear His Voice or understand what He says, even though He is speaking gently and quietly to them all the time.”
“Why are they so blind and deaf and stupid?” asked the junior angel rather crossly.
“It is not for us to judge them. We who live in the Splendor have no idea what it is like to live in the dark. We hear the music and the Voice like the sound of many waters every day of over lives, but to them – well, there is much darkness and much noise and much distraction upon the earth. Only a few who are quiet and humble and wise hear His Voice. But watch, for in a moment you will see something truly wonderful.”
The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe, there appeared a light, tiny but so bright in its intensity that both the angels hid their eyes.
“I think I can guess,” said the little angel in a low voice. “That was the Visit, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, that was the Visit. The Light Himself went down there and lived among them; but in a moment, and you will be able to tell that even with your eyes closed, the light will go out.”
“But why? Could He not bear their darkness and stupidity? Did He have to return here?”
“No, it wasn’t that” returned the senior angel. His voice was stern and sad. “They failed to recognize Him for Who He was – or at least only a handful knew Him. For the most part they preferred their darkness to His Light, and in the end they killed Him.”
“The fools, the crazy fools! They don’t deserve —-“
“Neither you nor I, nor any other angel, knows why they were so foolish and so wicked. Nor can we say what they deserve or don’t deserve. But the fact remains; they killed our Prince of Glory while He was Man amongst them.”
“And that I suppose was the end? I see the whole Earth has gone black and dark. All right, I won’t judge them, but surely that is all they could expect?”
“Wait, we are still far from the end of the story of the Visited Planet. Watch now, but be ready to cover your eyes again.”
In utter blackness the earth turned round three times, and then there blazed with unbearable radiance a point of light.
“What now?” asked the little angel, shielding his eyes.
“They killed Him all right, but He conquered death. The thing most of them dread and fear all their lives He broke and conquered. He rose again, and a few of them saw Him and from then on became His utterly devoted slaves.”
“Thank God for that,” said the little angel.
“Amen. Open your eyes now, the dazzling light has gone. The Prince has returned to His Home of Light. But watch the Earth now.”
As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated. And then as the Earth turned many times little points of light spread out. A few flickered and died; but for the most part the lights burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow over many areas.
“You see what is happening?” asked the senior angel. “The bright glow is the company of loyal men and women He left behind, and with His help they spread the glow and now lights begin to shine all over the Earth.”
“Yes, yes,” said the little angel impatiently, “but how does it end? Will the little lights join up with each other? Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?”
His senior shook his head. “We simply do not know,” he replied. “It is in the Father’s hands. Sometimes it is agony to watch and sometimes it is joy unspeakable. The end is not yet. But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important. He has visited it; He is working out His Plan upon it.”
“Yes, I see, though I don’t understand. I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet.”
This next story is ripped from the news headlines a few days ago…
The mother of a 3-year-old thrown to his death from a 52-story Manhattan apartment building said the father killed the boy — and then himself — out of spite.
Svetlana Kanarikov said in a statement that she had been nervous about her son’s visits with his father, and she initially wanted them to be supervised. But she relented after a Dec. 5 court appearance.
“The father never did anything violent against the child before,” Kanarikov said of the two previous visits in a statement issued Monday night through a lawyer. “Both times, Kirill was happy after seeing his dad. Skype calls were also going well.”
Police said Dmitriy Kanarikov threw the child from the rooftop of the building before jumping to his own death Sunday.
He had picked up Kirill at 10 a.m. Sunday at a Manhattan police precinct — a neutral site negotiated in advance by the parents — to spend time with him for the first time unsupervised.
The couple had been married four years and separated in August, and Svetlana Kanarikov said she had taken action after a domestic violence incident. Their split was acrimonious. In addition to Kirill, Dmitriy Kanarikov had wanted their house and other property, too, Svetlana Kanarikov said.
“He said he would take the child away and I will ‘shoot myself from grief,'” she said. “This was his sick way to take Kirill away from me.”
She said he had told his parents that he was taking the child to Grand Central Station but instead went to the building on the Upper West Side and killed himself and the child.
Officers responding to an emergency call reporting two jumpers from the building near Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center found Kanarikov, 35, of Brooklyn, and the boy on the lower rooftops of two separate nearby buildings.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene and his son, Kirill Kanarikov, was pronounced dead at a hospital, police said. A witness said the boy was wearing Christmas pajamas.
“Kirill was a very sweet, wonderful child, who was loved very much,” his mother said. “He will forever live on in my heart.”
1 O Eternal, our Lord,
Your majestic name is heard throughout the earth;
Your magnificent glory shines far above the skies.
2 From the mouths and souls of infants and toddlers, the most innocent,
You have decreed power to stop Your adversaries
and quash those who seek revenge.
3 When I gaze to the skies and meditate on Your creation—
on the moon, stars, and all You have made,
4 I can’t help but wonder why You care about mortals—
sons and daughters of men—
specks of dust floating about the cosmos.
13 No one has ever journeyed to heaven above except the One who has come down from heaven—the Son of Man, who is of heaven… 15 all those who believe in Him will experience everlasting life.
16 For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.17 Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction.
Both stories above illustrate great truths.
The first and most obvious is that we are capable of inflicting great pain and hurt through our own selfishness and desire for power and control.
The second is we need something greater than ourselves to show us how to be greater. We need a hope that is greater than our capacity for depravity.
We are made, designed, purposed to live lives of light in a dark world. Only when we shine can others find their way.blessings, bdl
The NY Post has a story about a man who was injured by a falling tombstone.
Apparently he was “paying his respects at a grave in a Brooklyn cemetery and was hurt Sunday — when the tombstone suddenly toppled over on him.” Read the rest of the story here.
Most of us can relate to this story. Though we’ve probably never been trapped by a death marker we’ve had experiences with things we thought were dead and buried only to have them come back and cause us pain. Maybe it was a habit we tried to kick, a relationship assumed fixed, a careless word figured forgotten, a prejudice rarely seen or a betrayal we were sure we had gotten over.
Oftentimes it can seem that just when we feel we’ve moved past negative, harmful and hurtful events in our lives, ready to leave the past for dead, they have a way of coming back to haunt us. When this happen we begin to wonder if we have made any real progress towards becoming wiser, stronger and more mindful.
The answer is “yes.” Life’s journey is rarely a straight path. It has a way of leading us to places we have been before to remind us of what we’ve learned and to teach us new things.
Remember, just because the past comes alive again doesn’t mean you have to live there.blessings, bdl
“May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
Growing up in South Carolina there was a large section of mostly undeveloped land behind my childhood home. As a kid it was a great adventure to hop the fence in the backyard and go exploring. Fields, forests, waterfalls, streams and gulleys kept me occupied for countless afternoon and weekends.
The problem was when you were the next “Indiana Jones,” fighting bad guys, saving damsels and humankind, you couldn’t be bothered with inconveniences like keeping your bearings. Fortunately for me there was a road that cut through my personal playground so no matter where I was, if I saw that road, followed it, I would end up back home. It was my compass.
In a world which continually seeks to guide us to who we need to be and what direction our life needs to take, we need clarity and mindfulness to discover and stay true to our purpose and calling.
Some of the most desperate people I’ve met are those with no bearings, no sense of who they are, no compass, no way to get home. They come in all shapes and sizes, young and old, male and female, educated and not. From leaders of large organizations to janitors, folks who aren’t sure what they’re supposed to look like, who they’re supposed to be.
Each of us needs help discovering who and what we are, it’s not a journey we can take by ourselves. We need friends, family, co-workers to travel alongside us, hold up a mirror of our true selves, help us see what we look like and if our lives need a course correction.
We need each other to show us the way home when we get lost.blessings, bdl
“Only silence guards the mystery of the journey that a person walks with God.”
–Pope Francis, December 20, 2013
“Give us the grace to love the silence. In the history of salvation, neither in the clamour nor in the blatant, but the shadows and the silence are the places in which God chose to reveal himself to humankind.
The imperceptible reality from which his mystery, from time to time, took visible form, took flesh.
The Lord always took care of the mystery and hid the mystery. He did not publicize the mystery. A mystery that publicizes itself is not Christian; it is not the mystery of God. The shadow of God in our lives helps us to discover our own mystery: the mystery of our encounter with the Lord, our mystery of our life’s journey with the Lord.
Each of us knows how mysteriously the Lord works in our hearts, in our souls.
The cloud (of mystery) in us, in our lives is called silence, the silence is exactly the cloud that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, of our holiness and of our sins. This mystery that we cannot explain. But when there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guard the mystery with silence.
Silence is that which guards the mystery, for which the mystery of our relationship with God, of our journey, of our salvation cannot be… publicized.”
Pope Francis concluded; “May the Lord give all of us the grace to love the silence, to seek him and to have a heart that is guarded by the cloud of silence.”
Over at HuffPo there is an interesting article with 20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Eyes
The best that a human eye has been recorded to see is around 20/10.
There’s a word for fear of eyes.
Eyes heal quickly.
It’s possible for your eyes to get sunburned.
It’s possible for your eyesight to get “better” with age.
Your eyeball is slightly smaller than a gumball.
The lens in your eye is about as big as an M&M candy.
Developing a cataract in your eye is kind of like developing a peanut in that “M&M.”
Having 20/20 vision isn’t the same thing as having “perfect” vision.
The length of your eye helps determine what kind of eyesight you have.
Your eyeballs get bigger as you grow up.
Reading this article I began to reflect upon other “truths” about eyes: they can be “windows to the soul,” “bigger than one’s stomach,” “pop out of one’s head,” “twinkle,” “located in the back of one’s head,” “cried out,” “roving” and “gleam.”
Our eyes can also be fixed… on money, reputation, power, fame, revenge, love, grace, kindness or (fill in the blank )__________.
“Let not your heart be prideful, your eyes fixed on raising yourself high. Do not occupy your mind with things always out of reach. Calm and quiet your soul, like a child lying on its mother’s breast. Be still and look to the One who is faithful.”
Where we fix our eyes, place our focus, determines our destination. Let’s make sure it’s where we need to go.
Most of us dare to believe that when the chips are down, the right situation presents itself, our inner hero will emerge.
Several years ago I worked as a staff volunteer and supplemented my income as the janitor of a large church which was composed of several buildings, including a couple of houses for small groups. I often arrived very early in the morning, before the sun came up, to clean.
The church didn’t have an alarm system and the thought of, “what if someone has broken in and I surprise them?” often creeped into my mind. Assuring myself that I would be able to handle it, the skittishness soon passed once a few lights were on and the sun appeared on the horizon.
One morning, entering into one of the campus houses by way of the garage, a cat jumped out from behind some storage and startled me. Actually, it scared the bejeebers out of me! I hollered, stumbled back, tripped and almost fell on the floor. I steadied myself, looked the cat in the eye, caught my breath, relaxed, and then had a good laugh thinking, “oh, you handled it alright!”
No matter how prepared we think we are sometimes life takes us by surprise and other times it scares the mess out of us. Unexpected events and circumstances can make us feel unable to handle the pressure and stress which often accompany anxious times. Mindfulness can give us the ability to still ourselves, look the threat in the eye, and know that fear might be our first response but it doesn’t have to be our only one.
It was the Nightmare After Christmas (from the New York Post).
A Manhattan woman claims in a lawsuit that she was toppled by a pile of rotting Christmas trees left out on a sidewalk.
Gwendolyn Deluca was strolling by 752 West End Ave. in January 2011 when she passed as many as 30 used Christmas trees left in “a large, unstable pile” on the sidewalk “without so much as a sign warning passers-by of the looming danger,” she charges in Manhattan Supreme Court papers filed last week against building management.
The stack of pines stood 5 feet high and “created severely dangerous” conditions for pedestrians, Deluca claims.
Deluca became a victim of the timber terror when the pile collapsed and “caused her leg to be trapped by Christmas tree(s),” tripping her on an already icy sidewalk and causing “permanent” injuries, according to court papers in which she accuses the building of negligence.
Deluca is seeking unspecified damages, and says the incident has left her unable to do “activities that she once so dearly loved,” including playing musical instruments and singing.
It doesn’t take long before the holidays threatens to topple us all and take from us “activities we once so dearly loved.”
A few weeks ago I posted the pic below on my facebook feed:
Some folks asked my why I didn’t like the holidays and my response was, “I love Advent, it’s Christmas I’m not so sure about…”
Advent is a time of peace, joy, waiting, silence, hope and light. Christmas has become something quite different in our culture. It seems to bring anxiety, grumpiness, impatience, loudness and despair to so many.
I encouraged my group Wednesday evening to take time to be still this last week of Advent as others are dashing about, look for light and not be blinded by the commercial glitz, keep your feet and don’t get toppled as we near the finish line.blessings, bdl
We do not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them; we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good. But this is only a secondary end. The one end that includes all others is the love of God.
When we bow our heads in gratitude, we acknowledge that the works of God are good. We recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, save ourselves. We proclaim that our existence and all its goods come not from our own devices but are part of the works of God. Gratitude is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us even now.
Thank you for the new day.
Thank you for this work.
Thank you for this family.
Thank you for this daily bread.
Thank you for this storm and the moisture it brings to a parched earth.
Thank you for the corrections that bring me to growth.
Thank you for the bank of crown vetch that brings color to the hillside.
Thank you for the necessities that keep me aware of your bounty in my life.
Without doubt, unstinting gratitude saves us from the sense of self-sufficiency that leads to forgetfulness of God.
Praise is not an idle virtue in life. It says to us, “Remember to whom you are indebted. If you never know need, you will come to know neither who God is nor who you yourself are.”
Need is what tests our trust. It gives us the opportunity to allow others to hold us up in our weakness, to realize that only God in the end is the measure of our fullness.
Once we know need, we are better human beings. For the first time we know solidarity with the poorest of the poor. We become owners of the pain of the world and devote ourselves to working in behalf of those who suffer.
Finally, it is need that shows us how little it takes to be happy.
Once we know all of those things we have come face-to-face with both creation and the Creator. It is the alleluia moment that discovers both God and goodness for us.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post
This week, America will kick off the sixth holiday-shopping season since the economy melted down in 2008. As everyone sits down to be thankful Thursday, too many people are still struggling to recover. Here’s a free-market way that everyone can show their concern about inequality: Don’t shop on Thanksgiving.
More than half a decade on, we’re still missing 976,000 jobs — and we’re missing 12 million jobs if you figure that jobs should grow as the population grows.
But it’s one thing to be economically afraid. It’s another to be cut off from fully celebrating America’s all-race, all-religion family holiday because you and your fellow Americans are fearful economically.
That’s what’s happening to millions of retail workers who’ve had to work on Thanksgiving for the past half-decade.
Stores aren’t opening on Thanksgiving because they’re doing well. Just the opposite: They’ll open because they’re not doing well.
And that’s because their customers aren’t doing well.
Consider: Walmart starts “Black Friday” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, pushed from 8 p.m. last year. Though it’s long offered drugstore-style round-the-clock hours at some stores, the company has grown markedly more aggressive since 2008, with Black Friday promotions on Thanksgiving Day.
And what Walmart (with its 150 million customers) does, other stores imitate.
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the Davidowitz & Associates retail consultancy, calls it a “war-zone” retail mentality. The reason: Retail sales have recovered — but that recovery mirrors what’s going on in the economy. “The top 10 percent do 40 percent of the spending,” notes Davidowitz.
The top 10 percent are doing fine — so Tiffany and Saks are doing OK. What about everyone else?
Sales at Walmart’s US stores have fallen for much of the past year.
Before 2008, people could take money out of the rising value of their homes to pay for shopping, says Robert E. Schulz, a retail analyst at Standard & Poor’s. Today, people will buy a car if they need one, but they won’t buy a closetful of cheap clothes.
Discerning shoppers mean desperate retailers.
Other retailers “being open on Thanksgiving is almost inevitable, given what we’ve been seeing,” said Kristina Koltunicki, also of Standard & Poor’s. Plus, this year’s Christmas shopping season is one weekend shorter than usual.
But why should being open on Thanksgiving help?
Behavioral economics. Get people in for a “one-time only” deal, and even if “doorbuster” stuff is gone early, they’ll buy something to justify the time wasted.
This “doesn’t make any sense for anybody,” says Davidowitz. The stuff on sale now will be even cheaper in a few weeks.
And wealthier consumers know that. Davidowitz says the top 10 percent are “definitely not out there” on Thanksgiving. (The exception may be the foreigners who pour into Manhattan, but they can wait a day.)
There’s nothing wrong with marketing ploys. But there is something wrong with preying on people’s impulses to the extent that they are sacrificing time with their families for one day that shouldn’t be commercialized. Time is the real gift.
And it’s worst for people who are in the stores involuntarily.
Sure, firefighters and police officers have always had to work on the holiday. But they make good pay. Plus, saving someone’s life is different than selling someone a LeapPad2. (And yes, restaurant and hotel workers toil, too — but that’s no reason to make more people work than necessary.)
Some stores do stay closed — and their employees appreciate it.
Rob Petrella, the store manager at a PC Richard & Son in Manhattan, says this is “the one day out of the year I see everyone in my family.”
This year, he’s looking forward to seeing an aunt he hasn’t seen in several years — because she’s been working at Walmart.
Omotayo Riley, who works in sales at the same store, notes that with the day off, he’ll “go to my mom’s house and my wife’s mom’s house.” He’ll enjoy his mom’s cooking, and his mom can enjoy her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter and the toddler’s teenage sister. It would be “just terrible” to work, he says.
Gregg Richard, the PC Richard CEO, says that his firm has been running an ad noting their closure for 18 years. But people have only started noticing in the past few years — as more and more stores either open or lose sales to Walmart or to online-only retailers. “We feel it is a family day for our 3,000 employees,” he says.
It’s shoppers, not the government, who should force stores to close.
If you’re tempted to skip pie to go buy a cheap tablet, remember that the tablet will be obsolete by next Christmas — and your kids, too, will be a year closer to being grown up.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post
Four blind men longed to see the wonders of the world. Wanting to help, a local Elephant owner arranged for the men to “see” the magnificent beast. The four blind men approached the elephant, arms extended, to investigate this wonder they had only heard about.
The first blind man touched the elephant’s leg and thought it must be like a tree, tall and sturdy. The second blind man touched the elephant’s side and surmised it to be as a great wall. The third blind man felt the elephant’s ear and noted it was similar to a large rug. The fourth blind man grabbed its tail and thought it as a great rope.
When they were done the owner asked them to describe the elephant. The blind men began to argue. For though each experienced it they could not agree on what it was…
32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiahof God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Today is Christ is king Sunday. Fittingly Jesus is hailed as king in our scripture.
Here is what is happening in our text. Luke bases his account on Mark 15 and Matthew 27 but Luke also gives the story his own spin. When Jesus is crucified the Gospel of Mark uses the Greek term for a “political criminal” or “insurrectionist.” Luke uses a word that means common criminal, thief. This fits with Luke’s overall theme. Throughout his gospel Jesus identifies with the common people. Luke is not afraid associating Jesus with the lower class. Luke places Jesus in the company of prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors. Jesus’ friends have made him infamous.
Isaiah 53 says;
10 The Lord says, “It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness…My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them. 12 And so I will give him a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful. He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men. He took the place of many sinners and prayed that they might be forgiven.”
Isaiah describes God’s chosen one being numbered among the sinners. Luke shows Jesus’ relationship with the lowly ones even in his death.
Luke 23:34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots for his clothing.
Jesus clings to his relationship with the Father. He prays the Father will forgive those who “do not know what they are doing.” He trusts the Father who has led him to this cross.
Last week we talked about Luke being written near 85AD to the second generation of Christians. Jesus, through Luke’s writing, is demonstrating to these who are facing increasing persecution how to be faithful. While suffering, Jesus prays forgiveness for his abusers and trusts God. The followers of Jesus are to do likewise.
The “them” Jesus asks the father to forgive in verse 34 are the Jewish leadership. These would be the same ones who would be persecuting the second generation of Christians.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many encircle me, surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For they are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the death,
my life from their wickedness!
In Psalm 22 the writer pleads with God to rescue him from his abusers, those who mock him, surround him, cast lots for his clothes, and are killing him.
Casting lots for clothes was the soldiers way of telling a condemned man “Guess you won’t be needing these anymore.” It was mockery. The Psalmist laments; “I am a worm and not human.” Similarly, Jesus is no longer a person in the eyes of the soldiers.
To be bullied, insulted, pushed around, stripped naked, and not be able to escape, is true powerlessness. Even a condemned criminal joins in. How low must Jesus feel for someone in the same position to partake in the taunts?
Unlike Mark, Luke does not have the people, the crowd, mock Jesus. In his gospel, Jesus and the people have an intimate and lasting connection.
The rulers, the religious élite, have no such qualms about insulting and reveling, enjoying, Jesus’ suffering. They mock him, jeering for him to save himself the same way he saved others.
The religious aristocracy, the Roman government, a criminal, all tell Jesus to save himself, prove he is the Son of God. From the lowest of society to some of its highest officials, Jesus is roundly condemned.
In Luke, chapter 4;
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
At his temptation, Satan says to Jesus, “if you are the Son of God…” directly attacking the words spoken by God the Father who, following Jesus’ baptism, in Luke chapter 3, said;
…and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;with you I am well pleased.”
36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,
The Greek words here do not mean sour. More accurately they mean watered down. In other words it is cheap wine, common people’s wine, the drink of the lower class. The soldier’s mockingly give it to one who is “the King of the Jews.”
In the midst of all this suffering, mocking, and impending death a lone voice of sanity speaks. It is the voice of the other criminal. One has mocked Jesus, now the other one has something to say. He tells the other crook to pipe down! Like Pontius Pilate, this crook notices something unique about Jesus in comparison to him and his crooked companion. Jesus is innocent.
Then, this lowly criminal, recognizes who Jesus is…Not the religious élite and their “thou shalt and shalt not” regulations & stipulations regarding who can and cannot be a child of God. Neither was it the Roman government and their desire to rule the world who don’t recognize real power when it’s staring them in the face. Definitely not the disciples who don’t get Jesus, even though they’ve been around him for three years. Everyone of them are upstaged by a crucified, crook.
A man who sees Jesus as his only hope. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. A guy looking to save his own skin, redemption of a life wasted, in his last moments on Earth, has the audacity, the gall, to want to hang out with Jesus in paradise. Jesus tells this low life thug, “okay.”
Let that sink in.
Isn’t that just like Jesus, with his last breaths and his first act as crucified king, to save a lowly, common, no good, person?
Truly something to be thankful for…
Psalm 46: “O God, You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Help us not to fear, though everything change. When nations are in an uproar, and Earthly kingdoms totter; You speak and show us Your power. O God, You are with us, You are our refuge. May we see the works of the Lord. You have brought peace to our world through Your Son. Let us, “Be still, and know You are God! And You are with us, You are our refuge. Amen.”
“The roar of the flames streaming far and wide mingled with the groans of the falling victims…one would have thought that the whole city was ablaze…With the cries on the hill were blended those of the multitude in the city below, and now many who were emaciated and tongue-tied from starvation, when they beheld the sanctuary on fire, gathered strength once more for lamentations and wailing…Yet more awful than the uproar were the sufferings.” Luke, David Tiede.
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.
What’s happening in our text
Though Luke bases this teaching of Jesus on the gospel of Mark he also makes some changes
In Mark 11, Jesus rebukes a fig tree as being no good, incapable of bearing fruit. Following this Jesus makes his final trip to the temple and then leaving symbolically rejecting the temple.
Luke on the other hand doesn’t have Jesus leaving the temple. Mark has a grim view of the temple and it religiosity. Luke 21 has Jesus teaching in the temple every day during the week leading to his death.
Luke almost has Mark’s exact words in regards to the temple being destroyed. Luke’s gospel was written some 15 years following the actual destruction of the temple. The Jew‘s were abused and taken advantage of by the Roman empire. They would revolt, cause trouble and at times engage in open warfare with the Romans. Finally this resulted in the Jewish/Roman war which ended with the Jewish people getting crushed by the Romans.
“The Roman-Jewish War lasted from AD 66-70. In the beginning, the rebellion was widespread. As the Romans brought military pressure to bear in the north, however, the Jews were forced back into “Fortress Jerusalem” in AD 69.
AD 69 was a very strange year. Within Jerusalem, the Jewish defenders were divided. In hopes of a ceasefire, some advocated for accommodation with the Romans. Some of the more fanatical Jewish defenders, on the other hand, took an “apocalyptic” view. If they could just hold on awhile longer, they thought, God would intervene and smite the offenders.
These more fanatical defenders gained the upper hand in the city.
Jerusalem put up a stout defense, and the Romans had a hard time subjugating the city. When they did, it wasn’t pretty. They destroyed everything they could destroy. Blood ran in the streets.” Progressive Involvement Lectionary Commentary
The annihilation of Jerusalem, the temple, many of its leaders, the religious and political élite, had a huge impact of the Jewish people. Luke has some of the disciples asking what many readers at the time of Luke’s gospel being written would be wondering; “when is this suffering going to be over? How long will it last?” Jesus answers both the disciples and the readers of his gospel, this suffering; “will last until the proper time, until all has been fulfilled.”
Jesus says in Luke 21;
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; 24 they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
In verse 7 of Luke 21 the disciples asking Jesus; “when will this be?” inquiring about the destruction of the temple. However, a reader of Luke’s gospel wouldn’t be concerned with something which happened 15 years ago but would be concerned with how long the Jewish people would be under persecution and how long until God intervened on behalf of his people.
Jesus tells them in Luke 21v8-9 …But they asked him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things be? And what (will be) the sign when these things shall come to be?” And he said, “See that you might not be deceived, for many will come upon my name, saying, ‘I am’ and ‘the time has come near.’ Do not go after them.
During the Jewish/Roman war some thought God would come down and rescue his people, defeating the Roman empire. Even 15 years later there were still those who wanted to engage in another “Holy War” against the dreaded Gentiles. Luke has Jesus speaking to the disciples and to the readers of his day saying “Do not go after them!”
Jesus continues, Luke 21v9, “When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”
Notice Luke edits Mark’s version with the word, “immediately.” It has been 15 years since the destruction of the temple. This was not the end, but the beginning. Luke is telling the readers to be patient, there is more to come.
Jesus then says, Luke 21v10, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky.
In other words there’s going to be an increasing build up of problems, difficulties and hardships.
Added to this will be the suffering of Jesus’ followers
Luke 21v12-15 “But before any of this happens, they’ll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. 16-19 “You’ll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of me.”
Just as Jesus was abused so will his followers suffer at the hands of those in power.
The Greek literally says; “They (those in power) will lay epiballō (throw) their hands on (seize) you and persecute you.”
When Luke is writing his gospel the Jews and Christian relations had turned sour. There were those who blamed the Christians for the Jewish/Roman war being lost.
Up until this time the Jews and the Christians coexisted but following the destruction of the temple there were some who thought the Christians were idolaters because they worshiped Jesus as God and as a result God was punishing the Jewish people for blasphemy.
Mark’s gospel has Jesus predicting they will be taken to the “synagogues” but Luke adds the word “prisons” showing an increase in tension and penalties for the followers of Jesus.
Luke 21v12 “(you, the disciples, will be) “delivering up to synagogues and prisons, being brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake;”
When, not if, this happens Jesus tells them;
Luke 21v13-15 “You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters.”
Luke 21v13 “…and it shall become to you for a testimony. 14 `Settle, then, to your hearts, not to meditate beforehand to reply, 15 for I will give to you a mouth and wisdom that all your opposers shall not be able to refute or resist.”
Mark’s gospel has the Holy Spirit giving the persecuted words to speak but Luke has Jesus. Luke is writing to a new generation of Christians and he wants them to make sure they know Jesus is personally is with them. They are being persecuted, as Jesus himself was, and like him they will be able to stand strong, be a faithful witness.
Jesus comforts them;
Luke 21v17-19 “Even so, every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.”
Luke 21v17-19 The Greek reads; “You will be hated by all because of my name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
Remember what Jesus said to his followers in Luke 12;
4 Then Jesus said to the people, “I tell you, my friends, don’t be afraid of people. They can kill the body, but after that they can do nothing more to hurt you. 5 I will show you the one to fear. You should fear God, who has the power to kill you and also to throw you into hell. Yes, he is the one you should fear. 6 “When birds are sold, five small birds cost only two pennies. But God does not forget any of them. 7 Yes, God even knows how many hairs you have on your head. Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many birds. Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Faith 8 “I tell you, if you stand before others and are willing to say you believe in me, then I[a] will say that you belong to me. I will say this in the presence of God’s angels.
Notice Jesus doesn’t answer their question. He didn’t give them specifics of the end times, what to look for, a code, a certain way or inside knowledge of deciphering when everything will come to an end. Jesus spoke to them about his faithfulness and their need to remain faithful, to endure. Remember Luke was written to a group of people who were being persecuted, blamed and increasingly shoved out of their community and nation.
As hard and difficult as this was Luke assures them the same Jesus was with them to turn their suffering into times of witnessing and no matter what they endured they were secure in the faith the same God who raised Jesus from the dead was the God who would be with them.
In other words, don’t be focused on what might happen tomorrow be focused on being a faithful witness today.
As I pause offer your prayers to God…
Psalm 118: “We give thanks to you Lord, for you are good. Your steadfast love endures forever! Out of our distress and hardships today we call on the Lord; and He answers us. He sets us in a stable place. With the Lord on our side we do not fear. What can this world do to us? The Lord is on our side. He helps us. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in the things of this world. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in ourselves. Amen.”
TWS Contributor: Doug Blair
Have I seen
Around the corner
Young mother in wheelchair
Pushed by sensitive son
Legs limp and thin
After the accident?
Or at the store,
Frail, neatly coiffed elder
Mere inches from the eyes
Hiding her blindness?
Or young man
In the one good suit,
Seeking again today
That job of promise
In the wake
Of broken promises?
Or single mother
In the parking lot,
Trying to contain
Who cry, compete
For so long they were invisible.
But then came
A Great Pain,
And in connection.
A slip from the ranks
All in the mercies of Providence.
And I see them now,
And I feel the pulse
And reach out.
-written by Doug Blair
TWS Contributor: Mark Dohle, OSB
When young it was hardly noticed or thought about,
though it would be forced upon consciousness when someone’s time had come,
their number called and appointment time arrived,
causing a pause of sorts in our lives, but soon gone.
This waiting can be experienced in many ways,
some pleasant, others not, yet there always;
like an itch seeking our attention and perhaps contemplation,
though I suppose it is something not welcome most times.
The inner silence speaks to us in quiet whispers,
“listen to me, this is important”, yet often the voice ignored,
as the appointment moves forward a little closer
to its meeting point with us.
As the years fly by the voice harder to shut down,
for some fear grows, others a peace of sorts takes root,
many still able to ignore its gentle reminders,
to seek what they are really about, what they are for;
that life has deeper meanings than many suppose.
Some leave early, others late, very late,
yet when the moment comes and the meeting happens
it perhaps seems as if it was always so,
so fleeting the intervening years.
-written by Brother Mark Dohle, OCSO, of Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, GA
A priest was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life. They honored him and when he would visit a nearby village they would ask him to bless them while complimenting him as being a great man. The holy man would simply respond “is that so?” In the area there was an unwed, beautiful girl whose parents owned a food store. One day the daughter shocked her parents with the news that she was pregnant! Her mother and father were devastated and demanded to know who had dishonored their daughter. Embarrassed, she did not want to say. Her lover, and the father of her child, was a stock boy at her parent’s food store and fled in fear of his life. Finally, after much harassment, she named the priest as the baby’s daddy. The parents were irate, going to the priest’s home and accusing him of being a vile, dirty, disgusting old man! “Is that so?” was his only response.
The parents kicked the daughter out of her home. Discovering she was homeless the priest invited her to stay with him him until the child was born. The priest took care of her and never asked why she had brought this trouble upon him. Every time he went into the village he was mocked and cursed, accused of being a pervert, unholy, sinful and wicked. The priest always responded, “is that so?” Even after the child was born he allowed the young mother to continue to live with him in spite of the constant ridicule.
After a year, the stock boy, the real father, returned to the village, confessed his deceit and cowardice and asked the parents for their daughters hand in marriage. News quickly spread and soon the priest’s reputation was restored. The next time he visited the village people lined the streets to apologize, beg for mercy and tell him what a wonderful person he was because of how he took care of the unwed mother and her child. All he said was: “Is that so?” The priest understood reputations, like people, are flicked.
19v1He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Here’s what’s happening in out text…
Throughout the Gospel of Luke Jesus something unexpected seems to happen when Jesus comes onto the scene. Right place, right time, something unexpected. Isn’t that like God? We want to be in the right place at the right time for the expected, God, as usual, does it the other way around.
Zacchaeus doesn’t know it, but he’s about to become a star! Not a star in his own right but a star in Jesus’ upside down, least of these kingdom. Jesus is popular and people flock to him. Zacchaeus is hiding in a tree! How does Jesus even see him? As usual, Jesus is looking for the least of these, the ones that don’t fit in, the ones who aren’t welcome. The ones others don’t want to be around are the ones Jesus is looking for.
Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Saint Luke, has Jesus doing and saying amazing things. From healing the blind to predicting his death Jesus has kept the disciples, the religious leaders and the rubberneckers on edge while making his way to Jerusalem.
19v1 Jesus was going through the city of Jericho. 2 In Jericho there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a wealthy, very important tax collector. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was. There were many others who wanted to see Jesus too.
Chapter 19 tells us Jesus arrives at Jericho and is passing through. Remember, since Luke 9:51, Jerusalem is the destination. Luke even tells us Jesus is “passing through.” In other words he’s not taking his “sweet time” he’s moving on. Even though he’s not “stopping to smell the roses” there is a crowd. Everywhere he went there were those who needed to be healed, wanted to hear what he had to say, wanted to see what he was going to do. The closer he came to Jerusalem, the more heavily populated the area, the larger the crowds grew.
In Jericho there was a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus who was large in terms of money but small in terms of stature. This tax boss had many who worked under him and collected funds from a large area. This means he was very unpopular with a lot of folk. He couldn’t go too many placed where people weren’t cursing under their breaths, turning their faces in disgust, and wishing a series of unfortunate events to visit him.
A chief tax collector was employed by the Roman government to collect a certain amount of money. Anything over this amount was the collector’s business as long as Rome got their share. Last week in Luke 18:9-14 we met another tax collector who would be employed by a chief tax collector such as Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus IS rich. Zacchaeus is NOT popular. He might not have reached into the pockets of the people but his hands were just as dirty. His wealth, by seemingly dishonest gain, would put him on the “do not associate with” list of almost everyone. Zacchaeus had a reputation of dishonest, untrustworthy and wicked. Luke 18 shows us tax collectors were isolated and viewed with disgust.
How Zacchaeus became a tax collector and the pariah of his area we don’t know. We do know he was tops in his chosen field because he was a chief collector and rich. Often, people who feel small want to do big things. They want to be large in peoples’ eyes and push themselves to excel. This might be the driving force behind Zacchaeus’ success.
So, when Jesus came to Jericho, this small man, who wanted to be big in people eyes, scaled a tree. Why? There might be sharp elbows in this crowd or something much more sharp and deadly. At the very least no room was made for him. Zacchaeus, being who he was, found a way to rise above it all.
19v3 Zacchaeus tried to see who Jesus was. But Zacchaeus was a small man, and he couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd. 4 So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a fig tree to see Jesus, who was coming that way. 5 When Jesus came to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down! I must stay at your house today.”
Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, in other words he was rubbernecking with the rubberneckers. He didn’t know who Jesus was but Jesus knows him. Jesus “looks up.” The Greek word is anablepo which brings the image of lifting one’s head to heaven or having an idea. Zacchaeus is busted! No highfalutin, society type should be climbing trees! This is embarrassing but Zacchaeus couldn’t help himself.
19v5 When Jesus came to where Zacchaeus was, he looked up and saw him in the tree. Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, hurry! Come down! I must stay at your house today.”
Jesus singles him out and reveals him to the whole crowd, calls him by name, “Zacchaeus! Get down out of the tree I’m going to your house today!” and, as a child being scolded by his parents, scurries down. The tension is on the rise. Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector. A job ripe for bribery and thieving. He is an enemy of the common folk. People just plain don’t like him and Jesus just invited himself to his big house, eating his scrumptious food, enjoying his many luxuries, that were paid for by the very people watching this exchange take place. Trouble is a’ brewing.
19v5-7 …Zacchaeus (was) delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone (else) who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”
1 startling invitation, 2 very different reactions. In one declaration, Jesus accepts Zacchaeus and alienates the crowd. One made to feel loved and included by Jesus while others distance themselves from Jesus. Jesus’ love and acceptance ticks off his once doting admirers. This tax collector, who would not be welcome in most homes, now has the honor of having Jesus in his. By going to Zacchaeus’ home, sitting down and eating with him, Jesus is legitimizing his place in society and among the family of God.
Zacchaeus understands what Jesus is doing and so does the crowd. How quickly they turn. A portent of the shift from Palm Sunday where he was welcomed to Good Friday where he was jeered and given over to crucifixion.
Jesus knows, as Emily Dickinson once quipped,
“Fame is a fickle food upon a shifting plate.”
They begin to grumble, complain, raise their voices. “How dare he? Doesn’t he know? Doesn’t he care? If he knew who this was, what he did…” Sounds suspiciously similar to Luke chapter 7, when a…
7v36 A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him, and Jesus went to his house and sat down to eat. 37 In that town was a woman who lived a sinful life. She heard that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee’s house, so she brought an alabaster jar full of perfume 38 and stood behind Jesus, by his feet, crying and wetting his feet with her tears. Then she dried his feet with her hair, kissed them, and poured the perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives!”
As the crowd rakes Zacchaeus’ reputation over the coals he argues in favor of himself. In many translations the future tense of the verbs “I will give, I will pay” but the tense is present, “I do give, I do pay.” Zacchaeus is trying to convince Jesus of what he is already doing!
The Message Bible translation does a great job in translating this verse:
19v8 Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”
Jesus doesn’t confirm or deny Zacchaeus’ words or works. This isn’t just about the tax collector but the whole crowd. It has to do with restoration, radical acceptance and what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God. All are welcome at his table, in his kingdom, in his presence.
19v9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”
19v9-10 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
19v9-10 And Jesus said unto him — “To-day salvation did come to this house, inasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus is restoring Zacchaeus to the community! This is why Jesus came, to restore and reverse the curse of being outside looking in, unlovable, up a tree without a way to get down. The lost are the least of these, the despised, the looked down upon.
What’s telling is how quickly the crowd, full of the least of these, is infested with that Pharisaic yeast that Jesus warns his followers to beware and stay away from in Luke 12. It is a virus of judgment and condemnation which easily infects its host.
Who would you grumble against Jesus accepting today? The politician from another party? The womanizer? The unwed mother who refuses to be abstinent? The homosexual? The person on food stamps buying cigarettes? The least of these are all around us. Those we turn away from are the very ones Jesus is looking for.
Psalm 32 – “I will tell my sins to God. I will not hide my guilt. I will confess my faults to the Lord and He will forgive me. Let us, the children of God, offer prayers today. In times of distress and chaos we will not be overwhelmed for God is our hiding place; He saves us when we are in trouble. O’ Lord teach us the way we should go, keep Your eye on us. May we not be stubborn and insist on our own way but trust in the steadfast love of the Lord. Amen.”
One day a young man, journeying home, came to the banks of a river swollen by recent torrential rains. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on how to cross such a wide barrier. Beginning to despair, resigning himself to the impossibility of the feat, he was about to turn around when he saw a great teacher from his village on the other side raging rapids. Surely this wise one will know the answer to my dilemma! The young man, cupping his hands over his mouth to be heard, yells at the top of his voice, “Sir, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?” The teacher stood still, pondered for a moment, smiled and called back, “My son ‘you are on the other side”.
What was impossible for one to see was easy for the other.
9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Here’s what’s happening in out text…
Luke tells us in v9, Jesus begins speaking about:
Of course we automatically think of the religious leaders listening in, those who are trying to gain more power, notoriety, prestige, money and political strength. Jesus, however, is peaking primarily to the disciples, others who want to be his followers.
Jesus knows who’s in the crowd and has used religious leaders as examples, warnings, of how NOT to follow him. In Luke 12v1-2 Jesus cautioned his disciples against “the yeast of the pharisees.” He knows religious snobbery, religious hypocrisy, can worm it’s way into any would be follower.
The disciples exhibit the “snobbery virus” in:
Luke 18v15 Some people brought children to Jesus to have him hold them. When the disciples saw this, they told the people not to do that. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Don’t stop the children from coming to me! Children like these are part of the kingdom of God. 17 I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives it will never enter it.”
Jesus understood the condition of the human heart that tempts humankind to compare ourselves to others. One of the central teachings of Luke is the Kingdom of God is inhabited by the least of these. Treatment of the undesirables reveals our love for God. To think of oneself as better than, higher than, more worthy than, not as bad as, more holy, more Godly than…well, anyone…is to violate one of the key tenets of the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus tells the crowd a story…
…about a religious leader, a Pharisee, a pinnacle of societal and religious prestige and a tax collector, an enemy, a traitor and thief. You could not be more different than these two. All who listened, including the disciples viewed the Pharisees as respected and honored by all and the tax collector a money grubbing, low life who steals from hard working Israelites.
18v10“One time there was a Pharisee and a tax collector. One day they both went to the Temple to pray. 11 The Pharisee stood alone, away from the tax collector. When the Pharisee prayed, he said, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not as bad as other people. I am not like men who steal, cheat, or commit adultery. I thank you that I am better than this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of everything I get!’ 13 “The tax collector stood alone too. But when he prayed, he would not even look up to heaven. He felt very humble before God. He said, ‘O God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner!’
Jesus begins his tale by speaking of something most in the crowd have done many times, go to the temple to pray.
Two men, at the same place, at the same time, not the same attitude…
“The Pharisee, (and) the tax man enter the Temple. The proud, religious leader, assured of himself and his exceeding righteousness clears his throat, dusts off his clothes, looks around, hoping someone might be eavesdropping, and begins…‘Oh, God! I am so incredibly grateful today that you have made me…well me. I am so relieved that that I am not like other low life types, robbers, thieves, crooks, sexual miscreants, or (rolling his eyes, fanning himself, throwing up a little in his mouth and shuddering at the thought), heaven forbid (pointing, not daring to look), like this, ugh, tax man.
Just in case you forgot, weren’t paying attention, or know how good I am so you worry about other less desirables, I fast twice a week and tithe on ALL (elongating and emphasizing words) ‘MY’ (isn’t this word telling?) my income.’” Finishing his prayer, smiling like a Cheshire cat, clearly pleased with himself, he snorts at the absurdity of sharing the same air with the tax collector, hikes his nose high in the stratosphere and goes home.
“Meanwhile’, Jesus says softly, ‘the tax man, stays in the shadows, not daring to stand up straight, his face in his hands, not daring to look up embodying the spirit of
Psalm 51, ‘knowing he has a bad record, guilt that needs to be scrubbed away, sin stains which need God’s laundry. He knows how bad he’s been; his sins are staring him down. He’s violated God’s laws and knows God sees the full extent of his evil. If God judged him as worthless and sent him to hell it would be a fair sentence. He’s been out of step with God for a long time and in the wrong for as long as he can remember. He knows he’s dirty and is nowhere near ‘snow-white.”
He needs a fresh start. Barely able to get out the words for fear of being struck down he whispers; ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
We know the outcome of the story but imagine you are hearing it for the first time. What are you thinking? What’s Jesus’ point? Who’s coming out of this story on top? The Pharisees are known for their hypocrisy and lacking in the fundamentals of God’s Kingdom but the tax man is still worse, right?
Who’s Jesus going to hold up as the example?
18v14 Jesus (says), “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”
18v14 (Jesus declares) …(of the two)… men walking back down the road to their homes…. it’s the tax collector who walks home clean before God, and not the Pharisee, because whoever lifts himself up will be put down and whoever takes a humble place will be lifted up.
18v14 (Jesus concludes) I tell you, this (tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the (Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The tax man goes home pure and right before God, not the religious elite and if the same situation takes place again the following week, same attitudes, same outcome. The one who is humble, not the one who keeps every law, is right before God.
Remember Jesus says in…
Luke 17v3&4 “If a believer sins, correct him. If he changes the way he thinks and acts, forgive him. 4 Even if he wrongs you seven times in one day and comes back to you seven times and says that he is sorry, forgive him.” 5 Then the apostles said to the Lord, “Give us more faith!”
He wouldn’t instruct his disciples to be this way if he, God, wasn’t this way.
It didn’t make sense to the disciples in 17, the crowd in 18 or to us in today in 2013. We are fine with the tax man getting grace, the uppity Pharisee his rightful “smack down” but we want both of them to amend their ways, get a fresh start, and then become good little rule followers.
Once again, in Jesus’ upside down kingdom, the church goer, the rule follower, the socially and religiously acceptable one is worse off than the outright, no excuse, low down sinner. Jesus takes a bat to our pinata of goodness and whacks it until the illusion of anything good in us spills onto the ground. We are not ever capable of standing in God’s presence and claiming to be better than anyone!
This is either disappointing or delightfully good news! For those who are certain there’s something good in us, at least a little better than some of the worst of the worst, this can be hard to swallow.
For others who know the depth of their depravity it takes the weight of hell off our shoulders.
So not only is being righteous before God, being seen by God as clean, pure, impossible in our own power, so is understanding God’s Kingdom ways.
Shifting faith from a what (laws and good works) to who. Not in ourselves, a rabbit trail of delusion which leads to nowhere, but in Jesus who’s going to Jerusalem to make all who are dirty, that’s everyone, clean.
Psalm 84 – “How lovely is your presence, O Lord, God Almighty. We long for the presence of the Lord today. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are Your ways and who trust in Your love to make us clean in Your eyes. May we know a day trusting in You is better than a thousand trusting in our own power to save us. O’ Lord, do not withhold Your goodness from us. Blessed are those who trust in you. Amen.”