Do you know the song? The Zacchaeus song? It seems like most folks who have been to Vacation Bible School in the last several decades, and maybe more, know the kids’ song and often the motions. I think partially because of the song, the lectionary reading for this week is very well known. Jesus breaks all kinds of decorum and invites himself over to Zacchaeus the tax collector’s house. The people are scandalized by this, and Zacchaeus responds to their skepticism/criticism and Jesus’ care for him by giving away half of what he owns. Jesus announces salvation for Zacchaeus and that he is a son of Abraham. This high praise would have been very disconcerting to the scoffers.
It reminds me a little of what we celebrate today. No, not Halloween. Reformation Day! Did you know Oct. 31 was the date Martin Luther publicized his complaints against the Roman Church by posting his list on the door of the Castle Church? It lead to the Protestant Reformation, and the great splitting of the Church in the West. Plenty of folks scoffed at Martin too. But he understood that giving, on the order of Zacchaeus, comes as a response to grace, not as a tool to buy grace. Jesus invites himself, offering mercy and salvation, into each of our lives, and no one can sell you that invitation. One of Martin Luther’s major complaints was the selling of forgiveness by the Roman Church. Today we remember that only Jesus can offer forgiveness, and it is freely given.