Who Deserves to be a Child of God?

Who Deserves to be a Child of God?



We are looking for authors to write Starting With Scripture devotionals for December.  A survey will go out soon for the 2023 schedule, but we are accepting authors now for December. Please let me know if you are willing to write a devotional, like the one below, within the next few weeks: cochranem@sneucc.org

Shelly Stackhouse served in parish ministry and seminary education for 40 years, the last 16 in Connecticut, and now is the Senior Director of Programs at Partners for Sacred Places.

Scripture: Luke 19:9-10 (NRSV)

“Salvation has come to this house. For [Zacchaeus], too, is a son of Abraham. For [I have] come to seek out and save the lost.”


Reflection: Who Deserves to be a Child of God?


In the UCC, we pride ourselves on being those who walk in the way of Christ to “seek out and save the lost.” We engage in critical ministries to seek out those who are hungry, in need of safe housing, abused, oppressed, without health care, in prison, in need of mental health services, to name but a few, as a denomination, as local churches, and as individual members. We proclaim that everyone is a child of God; we say loudly that everyone is welcome in our worship services. And so we should, as a church that says in its very name that we are “of Christ.”

Zacchaeus, however, is a bit of a problem for us, as he was for the crowds around Jesus that day in Jericho. Like the crowds that day, we might want Jesus to call out this corrupt government official who lays heavy burdens on people while he lives in comfort and security. We want him to be pushed to the back of the crowd and let the people who could really use Jesus’ help move to the front. We want to see Jesus going to eat with the folks at the soup kitchen or sharing bread with those who sit under highways on cardboard boxes. We surely do not want to imagine Jesus sitting in the fine dining room, eating off the good dishes, in this awful man’s home!

And yet, Jesus did exactly this more than once in his brief presence among us. Why would he waste the little time he had with these people?

Perhaps because they, too, are children of God. We are eager to tell the powerful how they need to change, both in their personal lives and in the kinds of policies and practices they carry out which damage so many lives. And we should; Jesus did that, too. I wonder, though, if we are slow to eat with them, to acknowledge their humanity and oneness with us. We complain, but do we connect? Our society has moved into a series of screaming matches between opposing sides with seemingly no room for genuine conversation. Are we truly willing to believe those we see as even worse than a first century tax collector might find paths to new insights and changed commitments?

We don’t know the end of the Zacchaeus story. We don’t know if he followed through on his bold statement of a conversion of heart and mind made that day in the presence of Jesus. Maybe Jesus was naïve to think he would; maybe we are so cynical that we are sure he didn’t. The poet Emily Dickenson once wrote: “I dwell in possibility.” That day in Jericho, so did Jesus. Can we?


Gracious God, more gracious than we want you to be sometimes, expand our understanding of the “lost” that you sought and saved. Help us to make a way where there seems to be no way. In Jesus’ name, 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 Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~35,670 gun violence deaths in the US this year
  • For the friends and family of the Rev. Rollin E. Johnson Jr. who died September 29, 2022. Rollin served various churches in New England as a Congregational minister, including Baldwinville, MA; Lawrence MA; Ashby, MA; Halifax, MA; and Farmington, NH.
  • For the people of Australia, Chad, Bangladesh, and other areas recently affected by severe flooding

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

 This Week in History:

October 24, 1945 (75 years ago):  The United Nations (UN) international organization was established with "an aim to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,…to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,…to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom...." [Britannica

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

rochellestackhouse - copy.jpg
Shelly Stackhouse

The Rev. Rochelle A. Stackhouse has served in parish ministry and seminary education for 40 years, the last 16 in Connecticut, and now is the Senior Director of Programs at Partners for Sacred Places.

October 23, 2022
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