Peace be with you Brothers and Sisters. It is an honour and privilege
to be able to serve in Iona and this is my first sermon here. As
you all know, I am Hansel, a seminary student currently under the
tutelage of Reverend Biggs and this congregation. My life has been
an interesting one. I was born in Taiwan, lived in Australia for
6 years and eventually ended here in Canada. It has been difficult
writing this sermon, since it was tough to have a sermon for a congregation
who has more experience, wisdom and knowledge than me. It would
be an understatement to say that I am not nervous. I hope this sermon
is of help. And any feedback and pointers would be grateful, thank
was a bar tender who thought he was the strongest man around and
he offered others a $1000 standing bet. The bartender would squeeze
a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon
to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice would
win the money. Many people had tried over time (weight-lifters,
longshoremen, etc.) but nobody could do it.
One day this scrawny little man came into the bar, wearing thick
glasses and a polyester suit, and said in a tiny squeaky voice
" I'd like to try the bet" After the laughter had died
down, the bartender said OK, grabbed a lemon, and squeezed away.
Then he handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the little
But the crowd's laughter turned to total silence as the man clenched
his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As
the crowd cheered, the bartender paid the $1000, and asked the
little man "what do you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack,
a weight-lifter, or what?" The man replied "I am a tax
This would parallel with the situation during the time of Jesus
as described in Luke. Under Roman rule, the governor would be
determined by how much resources he can tax out of the people.
So, whoever promised the most funds for the government will get
the job. Unfortunately for the people, the governor would skim
a high amount of money from his province. But, in addition to
the corruption of the governor, the tax collectors under him would
have a cut for themselves. It is considered their right. So, life
was really difficult for the people. There was a low yield in
crops and with the heavy taxation, there were little left for
them. Sometimes, even more were taken away if they couldn't pay.
This shows why tax collectors were so commonly despised by the
population and would be considered a sinner because they are not
righteous by "participating in and profiting from a program
that robs and crushes other persons." (1)
If you're regarded as a sinner or unclean, then you became the
outcast of society and of low social status (2), underserving
of care, love or salvation. The tax collector is someone who is
hated and ignored. If it weren't for the protection of the Roman
Legions, their physical persons would be under threat. We see
something really significant here. Jesus continued his ministry
of love, acceptance and salvation by actively requesting to be
a guest of Zacchaeus. This shows that redemption also work in
individuals, not just in the community (3). God is genuinely interested
in our personal beings and salvation (4). Why would Jesus' action
be so surprising?
From this passage, we can see three different views about salvation
and could identify two. The first one we could identify would
be Jesus' view. He directly invited Zacchaeus to accept the all-embracing
love and forgiveness of salvation. The second would reflect the
views of the multitudes (especially the religious leaders). Their
belief was betrayed by their grumbling "He has gone to be
the guest of one who is a sinner". They believed that since
Zacchaeus is a sinner, then he is of no value, like the widows,
toll collectors, children, blind beggars and the praying tax collector
in the parable from the sermon 2 weeks ago. In case of not compromising
their own purity, they would set him aside. The only view that
we won't know for sure would be Zacchaeus'. But we know the end
result of his acceptance of God's gracious salvation; he started
to view others, like him, also as children of the kingdom of God,
people who are of closeness to him. By also describing Zacchaeus
as the child of Abraham, it shows that the others who are around
also "need the grace of God as much as Zacchaeus does"(5).
What is central here is the message, that no one is excluded in
this gospel and no one is excluded from the invitation to the
kingdom of God (6). How does it relate to us?
This is seen from Jesus' reaction. Jesus refused to see how the
world sees Zacchaeus, a sinner who does not deserved to be noticed.
But instead, Jesus views Zacchaeus, as what he views everyone
else, the lost children of God whom he loves and as people worthy
and deserving of salvation. The worldly view of worthiness of
salvation by the sole virtue of status was turned upside down
by the acceptance of Zacchaeus the sinner. It doesn't mean that
we should accept, encourage or agree with things that are wrong,
but to understand their views and their lives. It is not easy
to refuse to act how the world acts. In life, there's always some
kind of people who will rub me in the wrong way and sometimes
it is difficult to value them, despite their and our imperfections.
Either their actions or attitude makes me want to ignore or dismiss
them, just like what the crowd is doing and thinking to Zacchaeus.
In my childhood, since I was different than others due to being
a minority, I would be deliberately picked on and pushed aside
by others. Unfortunately, I would respond in kind, doing the same
things to them as they had done to me. But, as I grew older and
in my early teens, I realized and understood the scripture from
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one
and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but
have eternal life." God love us all, instead of a select
few. It also reminds me that we need God to love others, we simply
couldn't do it ourselves. Our sins would just make us continue
on a downward spiral which we will pass down the hurt, rejections
and sins onto others and they, in kind pass it onto another. This
hate will just continue on and get worse. With that revelation,
instead of viewing others as enemies and continuing on and passing
down the rejections, I view others as children of God. The first
thing I had to do in repentance would be to stop the things that
I was doing; rejecting others, putting down others and laughing
at others, actions which was done unto me. The interesting thing
is, many of these actions, either of ill intent or good will could
be considered "little things". One such example of "little"
acts of unintentional hurt on others would be the response "oh,
your experience is not so bad, I've seen worse". That hurts,
to be dismissive in that way. We all have experienced it and sometimes
we would be dismissive like this by accident. It wasn't easy to
stop doing the things I had done, I have acted like that for years;
so if I had done anything wrong, please forgive me, it is not
deliberate and please let me know. Salvation was possible through
the sole purpose of Jesus, whom we share and proclaimed in our
Gospel, who is "The Son of man (Jesus) came to seek and to
save the lost" as said by Jesus in the ending of this passage.
Jesus' hand is always outstretched for us, welcoming us.
Zacchaeus' repentance and his acknowledgement of his sins shows
the reversal of a value judgment on others and himself, as well
as a change in the concept on the requirements of salvation. Repentance
is not just by faith, but also of action. As it was mentioned
in James 2:17 "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is
not accompanied by action, is dead." Instead of the past
attitude of taking advantage of others, he embraced them instead.
His repentance and salvation bore fruit (7). He was healed by
God and he now willingly accepts and treat others as fellow brothers
and sisters. The pain of rejection has been healed by the love
of acceptance. He no longer pushes people away but embraced them.
This was shown in his going beyond the law's requirement of restitution
by repaying four times the value to the people whom he has cheated.
Paying four times the amount means that he is willing to repay
others beyond what is required and treating every case to as if
he has done deliberate destructive robberies on them; he doesn't
have to, but he did. He is treating them as he would treat himself.
How he viewed himself and others has changed for the better. He
no longer views himself as a sinner who cannot be saved and he
no longer views as himself as a person who has to oppress others;
he now loved himself. Instead, he now views himself and others
as the precious children of God in which God's kingdom is always
open to them. He views everyone as someone of value and as people
of value who claims their birthright as the children of God. He
acted like a disciple in this "discipleship manual"
(8) where he loved God with all his heart, soul and strength and
loved his neighbour as himself as described in Luke 10:27.
We will end with a story.
Once, a seminary professor, by the name of Fred Craddock, was
vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One morning,
while they were enjoying breakfast, an elderly man, approached
them and started a conversation. "Where are you folks from?"
the old man asked in a friendly voice. "We're from Oklahoma,"
they answered. "Great to have you here in Tennessee."
the stranger said. "What do you do in Oklahoma?" asked
the elderly man.
"I am a Christian minister" replied the professor.
The old man paused for a moment and said "I owe a great deal
to a minister of the Christian church".
And the old man began his story.
Pointing out the restaurant window, he said "See that mountain
over there. Not far from the base of that mountain, I was born
there to an unwed mother. I had a hard time growing up, because
every place I went, I was always asked the same question, 'Hey
boy, Who's your daddy?' "Whether I was at school, in the
grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question.
They would also say ugly things to me and I would stay and eat
by myself alone during recess.
I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to my church. Because
I was afraid I was not welcomed since I'm illegitimate, I would
always go in late and slip out early. But one day, the new preacher
said the benediction so fast that I had to walk out with the crowd.
Before I could make it out, the new minister caught me and put
his hand on my shoulder and our eyes met. I feel that he was going
to say something bad about my heritage and that I am afraid that
I would get hurt again and couldn't come back.
After a moment,
the preacher said, "Well, boy, you're a child of
he paused. I knew it was coming. He then continued "Boy,
you're a child of God. I see the family resemblance boy.".
With that, he patted me on the bottom and said, 'Now, you go claim
The old man continued, "I walked out the door a changed person.
I was never the same again. In fact that was really the beginning
of my life".
The preacher was so moved by the story and asked the elderly man's
name. And the old man replied "Ben Hooper".
This is the
Ben Hopper who was the governor of Tennessee twice.
1. Interpretation: Luke, p.218
2. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Stonehouse,
3. Luke: an introduction and commentary By Leon Morris
4. Luke: an introduction and commentary By Leon Morris
5. Interpretation: Luke p.219
6. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according
to St. Luke by Alfred Plummer
7. Interpretation: Luke p.219
8. Luke, John, and Acts: Background, Outline and Commentary By
Willis C. Newman