Jesus 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 sycamore 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. –Luke 19:1-10
Sometimes the most unexpected decisions can change your life. I remember almost 30 years ago sitting in a choir practice in the alto section. A friend of mine had just returned from a silent retreat. I said, “That sounds interesting. Where did you go?” Fast forward, and that small interchange meant I found my spiritual home, Green Bough House of Prayer. As I look back on that exchange, I realize several things were present. One was the camaraderie I shared with my fellow singer. She was someone I had laughed with, rehearsed with, and spent time with. Our friendship made me genuinely want to know about an important experience she had had and possibly try it out myself. I was also curious. I heard enough from her to wonder how I might like something like the experience she described. Finally, I had enough time to pursue the interest and risk trying something new. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity.
This well-known story of Zacchaeus requires we step away from the well-known words of the song we learned as kids. (Though I’m happy to admit I’ve been humming about a wee little man all week!) What is striking to me this week is that Zacchaeus had to have a posture that allowed him to have the encounter with Jesus. He is curious about what is drawing the crowd’s attention but is limited in his view by his stature. He could have given up at this point, but he’s curious enough to pursue a different perspective up in the tree. Having made that effort, Jesus is free to act. He looks up and invites Zacchaeus to come down because he “must stay at his house.” I don’t know about you, but that requires another level of welcome by Zacchaeus. I’m not fond of unanticipated and uninvited company. I would have immediately been worried about the state of my house and whether I had food to serve. But Luke tells us Zacchaeus was “happy to welcome him.”
What do you need in your life to have a spirit that allows you to welcome the unexpected? For me it is relationships, curiosity, time, and trust in the Spirit. Jesus is willing to go to extreme lengths to invite himself into our lives. We just need to be ready to say yes to the invitation. And I suspect joy is a good place to start!