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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Church Matters, pt 2 (Luke 19.1-10)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - November 16, 2014
Text: Luke 19:1-10

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Hymn of Praise: "Bless the Lord/10,000 Reasons" (Myrin, Redmon)
The Word in Music: "We Seek After These Things" (Ruchonich/Zabriskie)
Song of Praise: "Doxology"
Song of Sending: "Blessed Be Your Name" (Redman)
Postlude:Rick Bean, jazz piano

:: Sharing
Early in the service I asked the congregation the same question I asked last week, "Where have you experienced the GOODNESS and GREATNESS of God at Good Shepherd?" To start off that sharing time I shared this video of three responses from church friends who are out of town right now - Cameron Cary, in Washington state; Jason and Tiffany Hinton, who are in Hungary; and Karen Katibah, who is at college at ASU. Here are there responses...

I think all three were done in the wee hours...   :)

:: Testimony (audio link)
I asked Shannon Klar to share her testimony as a "living illustration" of the scripture text from Luke 19:1-10, an example of what it looks like to encounter God's goodness and greatness and be changed (like Zacchaeus). Her testimony really served as the 'sermon' for today, so I'm including below the brief remarks I had prepared, but didn't use; and I'm linking her testimony here and on the podcast. 

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf): 
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. This particular week I prepared an abbreviated sermon to make space for a testimony in the service. What I actually said was even more abbreviated than below. I'm including this here as what I had prepared to say, but the testimony linked above really served in place of the sermon this week and as a "living illustration" of the scripture text.

Like last week, today’s sermon and service are a little different format than usual. It is our “Consecration Sunday” and we are talking about why church matters.

We’ve been talking about God’s glory. In an effort to better understand what that means, last week we broke that down into God’s GOODNESS (what God does) and GREATNESS (who God is). And there’s no place we see that goodness and greatness more clearly than in Jesus Christ. John 1:14 reminds us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Last week we looked at two biblical stories of people encountering God’s goodness and greatness through meeting Jesus. Those were the stories of the blind man in Luke 18 and Zacchaeus, the hated man, in Luke 19. We then heard testimonies and sharing from the congregation around the question, “How have you experienced God’s GOODNESS or GREATNESS through Good Shepherd?” We’ve also shared some more responses to that question at the beginning of today’s service.

The biblical stories raised three application questions for us last week:

1.    Are you expectantly looking for God to show up?
2.    Will you listen and respond when He does?
3.    How is that changing your life?

Today we are going to look at that third question of what happens when we encounter God’s glory – God’s goodness or greatness – how experiencing God has or is changing people’s lives. For that, and for time’s sake, I’m just going to look at the story of Zacchaeus, and then I’ve asked one of our members to share her story of encountering God and her life being changed.

The Tax-Man (Luke 19:1-10)

We talked last week about tax collectors being hated in New Testament times because they were Jewish people working for the Roman Empire, taxing their own people and free to overtax and line their own pockets. We understood that Zacchaeus was especially hated and despised because we are told he was a “chief tax collector and he was rich.” His wealth came from taxing his fellow Jews.

We saw that Zacchaeus went to check Jesus out… from a safe distance; but also that Jesus came TO him, in more ways than one. Jesus called up to him and called him by name. Jesus called him down; and then Jesus invited himself to his house: “Today I must stay at your house.” Now the change hadn’t happened yet; hospitality would have dictated that Zacchaeus welcome Jesus at that point. But we can sure guess that he was surprised, especially in the face of the public and expressed sentiment that Zacchaeus was a “man who is a sinner.” (v. 7)

All of this is the encounter with God’s goodness and glory in Jesus, but it is in the next verse that we realize Zacchaeus has been changed by it. It is not clear to me whether he says this there at the tree, on the way to his house, or once they are at his home… though the grumbling crowd does say, “He has gone to be the guest….” So, perhaps on the way or at his home Zacchaeus “stopped and said.” Maybe stopped on the way or stopped in the middle of dinner or conversation. But something happened; something in the encounter significantly changed Zacchaeus.

Up to that point Zacchaeus’ life had pretty well been defined by the accumulation of wealth, and at the expense of others. We don’t get to peer into the workings of the change, but it is clear that it has happened, because this man who was notorious for squeezing wealth out of others vows to give it back four times over AND to give half of his possessions to the poor. So there are themes of restitution and of compassion. It sounds so simple and Sunday school-ish to tell the story here, but it is transformation of the wildest kind. Take the worst known traits of the most notorious criminal and meeting Jesus has flipped those traits and that person on their head.

Stealing from children turns into running an orphanage.
Addictions lose their grip and families are healed.
One turns from mocking and hating God to a life filled with love of and service to God.

That’s the change. And it’s not once and done; it’s over and over again because God keeps coming to us in Jesus with His GOODNESS and GREATNESS. That’s why I love to hear your stories. They are the stories of God being faithful to show up.

With that I want to draw to a close, ask the ushers to come forward for the offering, and invite my sister-in-Christ, Shannon Klar, to some share her story with you.

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