Just as God has provided simple flowers that peak through the snow to let us know winter is coming to an end, He provides the Gospel story of Zacchaeus to remind us that Great Lent is just around the corner. If we desire to see Jesus and to be saved by Him, it will require some effort and planning on our part. Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed up a tree to see Jesus. What are going to do to be ready for Great Lent so you can see Jesus?
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
As I mentioned in the bulletin, one of the benefits of growing up up north is that the changing of seasons provides little glimpses, and little hints, and little signs along the way. In Colorado, right about now, peeking through the snow are these little crocus flowers ever so delicate, and they make their way and they peek up through the snow and you know that spring is close. Not yet, especially in Colorado where it can still snow for three more months, but it gives that little reminder winter is coming to an end and soon enough it's going to be springtime. I've only been down here for a couple of years so I'm not quite sure what springtime signal we get. The rain today feels more like winter rain so I'm not quite sure, but the gospel today is one of those moments.
Each year this particular gospel lesson, the story of Zacchaeus, comes to us and it reminds us that there's a season change coming. When we hear the gospel of Zacchaeus we know that Lent is just around the corner. It's a beautiful opportunity because, as we have said so many times, the life of the church, the calendar of the church, the daily practice of prayer and fasting and taking care of the poor and reading the scriptures, all of these things have a spiritual benefit for us. They help us to focus our attention on God, and this morning's gospel is one of those, 'You better get ready' because Lent is not too far away. It doesn't start tomorrow, but it gives us the opportunity to start thinking how am I going to be ready for the beginning of great Lent in just a matter of a month, a few weeks. The Triodion period, the pre-Lentin period will begin in three weeks in the middle of February. So, for the rest of our life now we can know that when we hear the gospel story of Zacchaeus lent is right around the corner.
Think about what Zacchaeus did. I'm going to just remind us for a moment. He sought to see who Jesus was. He was a rich man, Zacchaeus was. He sought to see who Jesus was but he could not because he was of short stature. He was a short man and he knew that Jesus was coming near his village, but he was never going to be able to see through the crowd. So he runs all the way up ahead and climbs up into a tree. He got himself ready to see Jesus Christ.
Think about just a few weeks ago in our celebration of Epiphany. Many people went early to the bayou to prepare just the right vantage point to be able to see the blessing of Spring Bayou. Preparing our life, we anticipate things in our life. We get ready. Whether it's decorating our house for Christmas. Whether it's something as simple as finding our Bible. "Oh, my gosh. Lent is coming. I better go find that book that I read every year during Lent", or, "Do I have my Holy Week Book? Do I remember where I put my Holy Week book?" Every year we go through this cycle, "If only I had remembered". So this year is that opportunity. We can go home today and we can say, "Am I ready for Great Lent to begin in a month? What do I have to do with my family to be prepared?"
Zacchaeus ran up and climbed up into a sycamore tree. He raised himself above the crowd. We have that opportunity to raise ourselves above the crowd. Not thinking that we are somehow better, because we're not, but that somehow we have to get above all the darkness and above all of the mud and the filth of the world. If we can rise ourselves above that, lift ourselves up. How do we do that? Prayer and fasting and taking care of the poor, the life of the church. Reading the scriptures, bringing our tithe, bringing 10 percent of everything that we have to God. All of these things are ways that we prepare ourselves to encounter God. It's our way of being like Zacchaeus, to climb up into the tree.
Christ is walking by. He says, "Zacchaeus come on down. I'm going to stay at your house today." Was his house ready for visitors? Think about that. How many of us, if we found out, "Okay. I'm going to be at your house in three minutes", we would run to the house to make sure that everything was clean and ready for the visitors. Are our hearts ready to receive Christ? Have we cleaned the soul? Cleaned our house as it was to get ready for Christ to come and have an encounter with us because there is going to come a time when he says, "Come Thanasi, come down here. Come on we're going to go now together." We have to be ready to welcome him into our hearts just as Zacchaeus was prepared to welcome Christ into his home.
But it didn't stop there. Zacchaeus ... Remember now, the crowd is murmuring about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus I guess was this not so good rich guy. He had some shady dealings maybe. Maybe he stole some things. The crowd is murmuring that Christ has gone in to be in the house of a sinner. It says here in the scriptures, "Lord I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation I restore it fourfold." When Zacchaeus welcomed Christ into his home he had a life-changing experience. He was not the same Zacchaeus as he was when he woke up that morning. By encountering Jesus Christ, by welcoming Jesus Christ into his home, by doing the advanced work to be ready for him, he was changed. He was no longer the same old Zacchaeus.
What does Christ say? "Today salvation has come to this house because he is also a son of Abraham. Because the Son of Man came to save the lost." We have that same opportunity my brothers and sisters, to be saved by God, to allow ourselves to become new people. To create that opportunity requires advanced planning, and so today my challenge for you my brothers and sisters, don't wait for Lent to start to get everything ready. Start a list from now. How am I going to prepare myself? How am I going to get myself, my family, my home prepared and ready to welcome Christ in during Holy Week, during Great Lent, during the Triodion period. Then, when we walk home on Anastasi with our candle singing Christos Anesti, Christ is risen, we will be changed. We will be new people. We will be the ones who Christ says are saved. We will no longer be lost.
Imagine all of that story if Zacchaeus had just stayed where he was, short and sinful. He wouldn't have seen Christ. Christ wouldn't have invited himself to his home. He wouldn't have been transformed, and ultimately he would have stayed there lost. If he didn't do just that little bit to get ready in advance.
Let's go home and be Zacchaeus today. Let's go home and put things in order to prepare to meet Christ. Then, it's like a thrill ride from there. When Christ says, "Come down. I'm going to stay in your heart. I'm going to stay in your house", and we will be forever forgiven and saved by God.
Glory to God for all things.
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