Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Call for Radical Inclusion: Reflections on the 24th Sunday After Pentecost, Year C (Proper 26)

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I climbed to the very top of a tall maple tree with some friends from school. By top, I mean the very top. Imagine the seeing the heads and shoulders of three small boys poking up from the top canopy of a tree. It was all leaves and branches below. Above us was just clouds, sky...and God. Three distinct memories remain of that day: 1) a terrifying sensation of being that high up off the ground (we could see over the rooftops); 2) the disconcerting sense of being in the top branches of a tree that was swaying dramatically in the breeze (feet at a time); and finally 3) feeling exhilarated by this new perspective (we had never been this tall, as to look down on people's heads--we were accustomed mostly to seeing people's best).

As adults, unless we are dramatically shorter than average height, we forget just how dis-empowered and forgotten we can feel when we are lost in the crowd because we live under their gaze. It is a terrible thing, and height is only just one way we are able as a society to turn people invisible and this fail to see them as being a part of things at all.

The story of Zaccheus is a powerful testament to the calling we have in Christ to see the world through God's loving eyes instead of our own, usually prejudiced gazes. Jesus stops and sees that little man in the tree...up above and still hidden from being seen by others...who has climbed up to that perch in order to overcome the rejection of the crowd. Though hidden from the gaze of others, his desire to see the Son of Man leads to an encounter in which he is not only greeted, but honored and graced with the opportunity to extend his hospitality to Jesus and his disciples.

If you know the story, though...remember that Zaccheus is not only short, but also a tax collector. Moreover, when he is seen by Jesus...and when his sight is expanded by being seen, known and loved...he turns out to be a bigger man than we originally were given evidence to assume. He promises to restore to all he has defrauded, to all whom he has hurt, four times what he received.

Not such a little man, at all.

All it takes is a willingness to embrace a change in perspective: for us, to willingly climb the tree (mountain, hill or seemingly insurmountable task) and let our perceptions of God's intent for us expand; and for us to see and celebrate in others (regardless of status or stature) the great works god is doing through them.

Not such a little man, at all.

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