Play Service

Luke 19:1-10 – Smile & Wave

A good conversation starter a few weeks ago was, “How much of the Queen’s funeral did you watch?” I know some of you didn’t watch any of it, and some of you watched it all the way to Windsor castle. Others fell in between. I turned it on, promising Grace and Zach we’d just watch till the first hymn, then till the end of the service, then just a little bit more (at which point Grace left us) and Zach and I watched the whole procession.

It brought back memories of being in London with the kids in 2017, and even more of being there with my parents in 1985 for the Trooping of the Colour. We arrived very early for a good spot, were very impressed by the Queen’s guards with those incredible hats (another favourite funeral question – which was your favourite hat?) and waited and waited until finally the Queen rode by.

It was much more low-key when we went to see the Queen arriving at Government House in October 2011. We parked in Yarralumla, walked through the reserve, and, thirty minutes later, the cars appeared… But, just as quickly, disappeared! I’ve shown you this before. Thanks to the tinted windows, that’s the best view of the queen we got.

But that’s how a parade works isn’t it? You just smile and wave. They just smile and wave. They go on their way and you go on yours. Jesus continues on his way to Jerusalem and Zacchaeus, having for a few moments been part of all the excitement, the intrigue about who Jesus is, goes back to his duties as chief tax collector in Jericho.

Except…that’s not what happens! Jesus stops. He looks up at Zacchaeus. He calls Zacchaeus by name, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Jesus brings the whole parade to a screeching halt.

I am not sure how I would have felt if the Queen had ordered the car to stop, there on Dunrossil Drive, wound down the window and called out, “Belinda, hurry home because I must stay at your house today.” That would have been a shock! Because there are rules, there is protocol, there are reasons for why people meet the Queen.

And the crowd here are shocked because Zaccheus is not the sort of person they think Jesus should meeting with. Definitely not staying with! He is a tax collector and tax collectors were despised for their collusion with the Romans. They were known for exploiting the poor. In rabbinical literature tax collectors are akin to robbers. So, the crowd begin to grumble, and it’s the same word, the same kind of grumbling that Israelites did against Moses in the wilderness. Jesus is paying a high social cost for associating with Zacchaeus for “being the guests of one who is a sinner”.

But Zacchaeus, too, I think, is shocked. All he had wanted was to see who Jesus was, to see him. Not to have Jesus see who he was…

I have told you this story before, about my friend, Tim, who was in the CBD, in Sydney, many years ago during a papal visit. He’d been shopping in Myer (Grace Brothers it was then) before that building was completely renovated, when it still had a few odd entrances and exits, and he popped out of one of these onto a completely deserted Market Street. As this realisation was dawning on him, he saw the police cordon at the end of the street, and at that moment, the pope mobile came around the corner and Tim being the only person standing on the street, the pope smiled and waved at Tim. Not the other way around!

But Jesus does more than smile and wave. As I mentioned earlier, he looks up and sees Zacchaeus and tells him to hurry and come down because he is coming to his house today!

“Hurry!” The language here indicates that this is not a chance encounter. The same Greek word is used in Luke 2 to describe the shepherds’ haste, having heard from the angels, to find the baby Jesus in the manger. And, “For I must stay”, the language of necessity, indicates that this encounter, Jesus meeting Zacchaeus and inviting himself to Zacchaeus’s house, is not a deviation from the parade schedule, but an integral part of Jesus’ kingdom mission; an elemental expression of God’s desire to know and be known by everyone – even those designated as “tax collectors and sinners”, of God’s love for every one of us.

So this gospel story reminds me then – not of seeing the queen or being waved at by the pope – but of far more significant encounters; of being in bed, aged eight, and realising that God’s call on my life was not filtered down through my parents, but came to me directly, of realising, age 14, that the God who been so faithful to me, so sustaining for me, needed to be publicly acknowledged in some way and being baptised at Frenchs Forest Baptist Church, or, in my early 20’s, having a powerful experience of knowing that God was the ground of my being…and all the years of finding my footing on that ground that have followed.

So, does this story remind you of such an encounter in your life? Was it an altar call – when you were challenged to commit to Jesus – or a significant conversation with a significant person or a verse that suddenly leapt from the pages of Scripture – God speaking directly, unambiguously to you – or was it a series of events or a realisation that just rose up quietly and steadily and compelling within you until its truth for you could not be denied?

Perhaps that moment is now. Perhaps that moment is coming. Because it is coming! “Hurry,” says Jesus, “For I must stay with you today.”

This is what it means to be Christian! We celebrate that God loves and calls every one of us – every one of us, tax collectors and sinners, pastors and sinners, teachers and public servants and retirees and students and sinners. We are all sinners. But we are all loved, and all called.

And this is what we – as I mentioned two weeks ago in Sunday to Sunday – celebrate as Baptists, that because God calls every one of us, we can respond to that call, and witness to that call and our response by being baptised. Baptists believe that baptism is so full of meaning (identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection, being cleansed from sin, being born into the family of God, acknowledging God’s call on our lives) that it should be a conscious experience in every Christian’s life.

But the call doesn’t end there. Jesus doesn’t smile and wave or exchange a little polite chit chat, God’s call changes our whole lives, the rest of our lives.

We read this in Zaccheus’ response to Jesus in verse eight “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.” His salvation includes attitudinal changes, behavioural changes in relation to wealth, impacting all of his life. The use of the Greek present tense here tells us that Zacchaeus’ commitment is ongoing. This is not something he will do only once – perhaps it is even something he has already been trying to do – as he was trying, verse three, to see Jesus.

And the same is true of us and celebrated in our Baptist tradition that we are a priesthood of believers. Believers who must keep doing – not just once – but all our lives holy work, keep seeking to be holy people as salvation has come to our houses. Are you mindful of this? Are you aware that salvation has come to your house, to your workplace, your leisure time, your relationships, your budget? Did you just smile and wave at Jesus or has Jesus invited himself home and is transforming you and the world around you?

I have mentioned before the words inside the cover of my grandfather’s Bible, my father’s father – two dates and two simple lines. Under one date it reads, “The day I became a Christian.” And under the second it reads, “The day I started doing something about it.”  Perhaps Pop could have added, “And again, and again, and again, and again!”

We are called to follow and to keep following. To be changed and to keep being changed. Not just smile and wave but to welcome – to welcome the God who welcomes us – the God who not only meets us where we are but follows us home – makes a home with us forever.

Prayer of Intercession

Loving God, we give you thanks that you invited yourself into Zacchaeus’ house and into Zacchaeus’ life, and that you do the same with us.

In the doorways of our lives, we ask, that you keep the doors of our hearts ajar,

Always that bit open,

so friends and strangers may experience your love in our welcome.

May you watch over our comings and our goings

and be our constant companion on every journey.

In the lounge rooms of our lives, Gracious God,
we give you thanks for places for unwinding,

for enjoying the company of other,
May we find joy in our relaxation and always be generous hosts.

In the kitchens of our lives we pray that you supply our every need
according to your great riches,
we ask that you feed all the hungry with good things

that you help us desire good things.

Gathered around our tables, we give thanks that you welcome us to your table
that you share your life with us and invite us to share our whole lives with you

And to see this wholeness and life for others.

We pray for those around the world at this time whose lives are so broken

We lift up to you the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and pray for peace

We lift up to you those other parts of our world impacted by this conflict

The people of the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria facing famine,

We pray for all who grieve around our world at this time.

May our world know your peace.

In our bathrooms, Creator God, we give you thanks that you made us

Our bodies, minds and spirits —and called us good.
Give us a proper respect and care for our bodies,
and be with those who are sick in mind or body or spirit today,

We pray for those who are anxious and for all who are grieving.

We ask that you hold in your hands those who are having or recovering from treatment

  • Anneke, Alan Howe, Richard, Val, Warwick and Siriphan,

That you are with those whose bodies are frailer who are in care

  • Eunice, Val and Grant, Dorothy, Keith, Jean, Merle, Max, Don and Dawn

And be with others, friends and family, who come to mind for us.

In our bedrooms, Sheltering God, be the true rest for your people
cover each person with the shelter of your wings.
Bless us in our hours of rest and refreshment,
that sleeping we can rest in peace,
and waking we can rise to serve you.
We dedicate our houses and our lives to you
May they be filled with joy and laughter and freedom,
may they and us offer rest for the weary,
healing and comfort for those broken and hurt,
encouragement for all who desire peace and justice,
for all who seek you and your kingdom. Amen.

Offering Prayer

Loving God, like Zacchaeus, we know your love can work through us

transforming and enabling us to live in your way.

We offer these gifts for the transformation of ourselves

and our world for the good of all. Amen.


On your hearts and on your houses -the blessing of God.

In your coming and your going -the peace of God.

In your life and your believing – the love of God

At our end and new beginning – the arms of God to welcome us and bring us home.


House Blessing

May God give blessing
To this house and all who come here.
May Jesus give blessing
To this house and all who come here.
May Spirit give blessing
To this house and all who come here.
May all who come here give blessing
To this house and to all they meet here.
Both roof and frame
Both brick and beam.
Both window and timber
Both foot and head.
Both gate and door
Both coming and going.
Both man and woman
Both parent and child.
Both young and old
Both wisdom and youth.
Both guest and host
Both stranger and friend.
Peace on each window that lets in light
Peace on each corner of the room.
Peace on each place that ushers sleep
Peace on each plate that cradles food.
Peace of the Father, Peace of the Son
Peace of the Spirit, Peace of the One. (Iona Community)