Rev. Isaac Lawson is the Associate Pastor at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford, CT.
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10 (NRSV)
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 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.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, 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.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Reflection: Churches and Un-Churched
One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, directed by Steven Spielberg. In one scene, Shug Avery, an un-churched “blues woman” is singing at an outdoor juke joint. In earshot a short distance away, church folk struggle to hear the preacher’s sermon over the music emanating from the juke joint. In response, the church’s choir decides to sing a song.
Something in the song – something familiar and deep – stops Shug. She begins to sing out, “Speak Lord, speak to me!” Shug, followed by everyone from the juke joint, make their way down that old, country dirt road. Converging in a little one-room church, the “saints” and the “sinners,” the “churched” and the “un-churched” join together in a blues-infused, soul-stirring gospel rendition of “God is trying to Tell You Something.” Shug goes up to the pastor, throws her arms around him in a one-sided embrace and whispers, “See daddy, sinners have soul too.” Her father gradually wraps his arms around her in return.
Like Shug, something moved inside of Zacchaeus. He knew what his “place” was in society, he knew that he was a “sinner,” but also like Shug, he threw off that stigma! He climbed that tree to ensure that he did not miss a glimpse of what God was doing through Jesus.
I’m sometimes disappointed that transgression is not a fruit of the spirit. Jesus was willing to transgress societal stigma and norms that told him he shouldn’t dine with people like Zacchaeus. While Zacchaeus was willing to transgress the stigma and norms that he wasn’t worthy of Jesus.
The theme for the lectionary this week is “transforming love.” However, we cannot have transformative love unless we are willing to transgress that which denigrates the “other” and silos us into over-and-against dichotomies. Through some delicious transgression, perhaps we too can discover a new level of radical welcome that will inspire a deep commitment to solidarity and justice as it did with Zacchaeus!
Gracious and loving God, thank you for the diversity of your creation. Thank you that we are not all the same. Help us to lay down our prejudice, our –isms, and other obstinate places of hate in our hearts that we may instead be open to experiencing the imago dei within and without. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those affected by the wildfires in California
- For those grieving or suffering after a shooting near a Texas A&M campus in Greenville, TX
- For the safety of the young people enjoying Halloween activities this week
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For those who offer prayer to others
- For Mission Co-Workers who work in war-torn environments to advocate for peace
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
The United Church of Chester
First Church of Christ Congregational, UCC
Colchester Federated Church
Columbia Congregational Church UCC
The United Church of Christ in Cornwall
This Week in History:
October 28, 1919 (100 years ago) Congress passes the Volstead Act creating a unit of the Treasury to enforce the 18th Amendment, also known as Prohibition. The 18th Amendment, ratified in January 1919 prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The movement began through temperance societies which evolved into strong political forces. But the amendment ultimately failed to stop the business of selling alcohol in the nation. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
The Rev. Isaac Lawson is the Associate Minister at Immanuel Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, CT.