’ve got the story of Zacchaeus on my mind. You know, that “wee little man” who climbed up the sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus coming through town. “And 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.’” The verses that have captured my thoughts are Luke 19:6-7:
“So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’”
What’s the culture of your church, sinners who joyfully receive Jesus and let it show? Or religious people who grumble about others? Every place has its own culture, its attitudes, assumptions, spoken and unspoken ways of acting. A place’s culture is not spelled out in the bulletin or official words but is something you sense, you experience. I recall going to guest preach at a church in Illinois. Got there before the service, obviously! I stood in the narthex with my robe in hand and no one, no one came up to greet me. I felt like a leper with my white leper’s robe in hand! “Good luck if you’re not one of us.” What kind of culture does your church have?
At the root of this problem, too common in churches, I fear, is the deception that our outward religious life makes us better before God than others. False. I’m the sinner, you’re the sinner who needs Jesus to stay with us. Hurry down from your lofty perch. Contribute to a culture of joy.
Pastor Ingo Dutzmann