The Smallest Gesture of Repentance

Sunday, January 8/21, 2018
33rd Sunday After Pentecost

1 Timothy 4:9-15
Ephesians 4:7-13
Matthew 4:12-17
Luke 19:1-10
Sunday after the Baptism of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

2167592729_a5fe59317bIn the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Beloved in the Lord, “One Lord, one faith, and one Baptism,” has led us all to the, “… unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” as it says in this morning’s epistle proscribed for the Sunday after Theophany, the Feast of Our Lord’s Baptism which we celebrated last Friday. Look around yourself this morning to behold the evidence of this unexpected unity. Because of Our Lord’s Baptism, He sanctifies human nature and makes possible a community of people from so many unexpected places. As St. Paul says in his first epistle to the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (I Cor. 1:26-29) Which of these despised categories did we once belong before Baptism, separate from one another by the caste system of worldliness, and now look and behold, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)

Zacchaeus was a despised one in this morning’s Gospel. Of lowly physical stature, he had to humble himself also spiritually. In order to see Jesus, he had to do something impulsive and boyish, quite unbecoming for a man of his age and dignity: He climbed the nearest tree in order to see Jesus. He humbled himself, and as a consequence was raised up both physically and spiritually. For the Lord from afar saw his ridiculous gesture of desire for repentance and honored him with a visit to his house. And even the naysayers were unable to stop the Good Shepherd of our souls from his mission, “… to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

zacchaeus-icon-1024x1011And what of us who the Lord has gathered together by means of one Baptism into a single parish community? Though we possess no tax collectors like Zaccchaeus (do tax advisors count?), we too, like the disciples of Christ, are a motley crew of folks from all walks of life and from various socio-economic backgrounds: rich and poor, weak and strong, noble and less noble parentage. Yet we are all despised tax collectors when we come to be Baptized in the name of the Lord of Glory, and praise be to His name that when we humble ourselves as such, he exalts us. And the story of Zacchaeus and his sycamore tree, a thing which Blessed Augustine calls “that tree of silly fruit” tells us that the Lord and Master of Our Life requires of us only the smallest gesture of repentance before He comes running to our aide. Nay, He comes not just to our aide, but approaches the very house of our soul to seek and find all within us that is lost and without purpose.

So on this Sunday after Theophany and on the first of the Pre-Lenten Sundays, let us renew our Baptismal vows to renounce Satan, and all his service, and all his works and all his pride and unite ourselves to Christ in whom we are joined one to another in, “the unity of the faith, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” (Nicene Creed). Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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