November 11, 2007 Luke 19:1-10
DIVIDENDS FOR GOD
Delivered at Summit Presbyterian Church by Jim Eby
As you look at our Presbyterian Planning Calendar, this Sunday is designated Stewardship Commitment Sunday, a Sunday when congregations of many Presbyterian Churches will be bringing indications of their financial intentions for the coming year so Sessions and Trustees can build a working budget for the next year. Among preachers, it’s also known as the Sunday to preach the Sermon on the Amount.
It can be very tricky, if you are preaching from the texts suggested in the Lectionary, that orderly reading through the scriptures that follows a three year cycle. For example, the Gospel text for this morning is the passage in Luke where the Sadducees, who said there was no such thing as a resurrection, came to him with a problem in logic about marriage, hoping to embarrass Jesus. I’m not sure just how you would preach that, but Jeanne had a good idea. You could preach about “You can’t take it with you!”
So, I’m glad Jeanne didn’t use the Zacchaeus text last Sunday and left it for me this Sunday. For this account does provide us a glimpse of discipleship that grows out of thankfulness. A glimpse of what joyful response to blessings looks like.
I can’t help wondering, why did Zacchaeus want to see Jesus? He had everything one could ask for. He had a secure position as tax collector. As long as the Romans were around, he had a job. And, he was successful. He was one of the chief tax collectors. He had underlings. And, he was in probably the largest taxation center in all of Palestine. No wonder he was a rich man. But something was missing! Evidently his wealth, his position, even his family did not provide the sense of peace and satisfaction and pay the dividends he wanted. Something drove him up a tree.
And what did Jesus mean when he said, "I must stay in your house today?" Usually, when we invite ourselves into someone's home, we use language like, "I'd like to visit you. I hope, someday to see your house." But Jesus didn't say that. He said, "I MUST stay at your house today - right now." It was a command, wasn't it? A command that caused Zacchaeus to discard any concern about respectability and shinny down the tree and joyfully lead the way to his house.
Zacchaeus wanted a look - Jesus wanted a disciple. And, as he had done with James and John, with Peter and all the rest, Jesus looked straight into the eyes, into the inner person and said, "Follow me. Be my disciple."
What happened that caused the conversion of Zacchaeus? Was it simply that invitation? Or did they go to the house of Zacchaeus and break bread and share a cup, even as we do in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper? Luke doesn't tell us. But something happened that changed Zacchaeus. He had been a liability to all those around him as he collected taxes for Caesar. Now, suddenly, he was a profit to the community. Something happened deep inside him. Suddenly, like a wall of water from a broken dam, he was flooded with joy and peace that caused him to share half his possessions and to become concerned about justice. Something happened that caused him to realize all God had invested in him. And with that recognition came the realization that God expects a dividend on his investment. A healthy dividend from all the love and ability and opportunity for growth placed in each of us.
How much of a dividend are we to God? A tithe, 10% isn't enough. 25% is too little. 99% still isn't what God desires. Only 100% will do. God, through Jesus Christ, doesn't ask for a return of an hour, or a day. God asks for every moment of our life - all we have and all we are - our sleeping, eating, playing, worshiping, singing - all we do is to be done to glorify him.
Carl Sandburg said it this way:
"'In God we trust' It is so written.
The writing goes on every silver dollar.
The fact: God is the great God who made us all.
We is you and me and all of us in the
And trusting God means that we give ourselves, the whole Unites States of America to God, the Great One.
YES.... Perhaps.... Is that so?"
It seems to me that any thinking we do about stewardship, about discipleship, has to start with that understanding that all we have belongs, ultimately, to God. I have a fantasy that realization may have been what happened to Zacchaeus that day. Perhaps he had mistakenly thought he was making money for himself, that what he was doing would insure economic security for his whole family. Maybe he assumed if he just worked hard enough and long enough, everything would be alright.
My fantasy is that as he was confronted by Jesus, he came to the realization that his efforts had not provided his wealth, his work had not provided his security, his working overtime would not ultimately insure peace for himself and his family. His meeting with Jesus somehow must have brought him to a realization that this is our Father's world. God has given us a few moments and a place in this magnificent creation. God has invested us with the riches of time and ability and the gift of community. God has done all that so we can joyfully provide GOD a dividend on God's investment. The kind of dividend Zacchaeus became when that meeting with Jesus changed something in him and made him declare, "Half of what I have, I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone, I will repay them four times what I took."
Zacchaeus was transformed from a liability into a dividend. Jesus recognized that and declared the benediction: "This day, salvation has come to this house." Jesus didn't say, "Zach, now you have the right idea. Keep working on it, and things will work out some day for you, and maybe even for your family." Jesus didn't say that. He said, "Today". And Jesus said the salvation had come for the whole house, not just for one individual. For if just one person is changed, suddenly the whole family is affected. It's like something contagious. But this is the kind of contagion that leads to health rather than to illness. This contagion is the kind that leads to generosity and joyful giving of self and wealth. This kind of contagion leads to becoming the larger dividends God intends us to be.
There is the story of a pastor who got up at the beginning of the huge stewardship rally for their congregation, held up his hands for silence and said, "Friends, I have a marvelous announcement to make about our building fund and our stewardship program for the coming year." He paused for the full import of his opening remark to sink in. He then added with dramatic phrasing, "Friends, we have the money!" A buzz of excitement went through the congregation. He held up his hands for quiet once more. He finished, "Yes, we have all the money we need. Now all we have to do is give it!"
That's true, isn't it? We have all the money to do what God wants us to do. All we have to do is give it.
All we have to do is be the dividend we can be.
Go into the world to be God’s dividend for others.
God, help each of us to hear the voice of Jesus say, "I must come to your house today." And then by your Spirit, open each of us so that we can be obvious and generous dividends of all you have invested in each of us. This we ask in the name of our Lord who came so we might be part of your peace that passes understanding. Amen.