Luke 19:1-10 and Excerpts from The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
Sunday October 30th, 2022
Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost
By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Good morning again on this final Sunday in October. I can’t believe that! Thank you for being here and what a gift to be able to be here on this beautiful morning. I invite you now to take some deep breaths as you are moved, tune into your heartbeat, to let yourself arrive a bit more fully and as you are moved I invite you to hold this prayer with me from the Psalms.
Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock, and our Redeemer Amen.
As he came to the front and moved up the steps, so everyone could see him, the gathered crowd began to grow silent.
The laughter and clinking flatware stopped, and the attention turned to the front, to this very elderly man, with leathered skin, silver hair and a drum in one hand.
It was a fundraiser in a special spot, in a precious part of Orcas Island. And this man had been asked to give a blessing, a prayer to open the evening, to celebrate that this mix of people had come together like this, to raise money for a good cause.
And so he moved to the front and stood there, at first in silence. He looked out at the colorfully decorated tables with flowers from the garden and salmon freshly caught for the occasion. He looked out at the tables filled with mostly white people, with mostly good intentions and good resources and he began to drum.
And he began to chant.
And where once there might have been expectations of a poetic “Native American” blessing of our meal, there was now unfolding before us, a glorious and loud and unapologetic proclamation of truth- truth that I am not sure many or any of us there were ready for.
As a member of the Lummi Nation, a community that I have shared about here some before, a people that for nearly 12,000 years, built their villages near the sea and throughout the mountainous areas of what is now Washington State, his drumming and chants and movements told us plainly what we already knew.
It wasn’t new, but it was unexpected and through a kind of prayerful pounding, a thumping of the drum that we could all feel even to our hearts.
It was a song that he sang out and he told us the land that we were dining on, delighting in, was his… that this was the land of his people and that he was so glad to be back on it. Now this is my sister in law’s property and some of us looked around. A bit awkwardly. Some of us were tearful but there was an edge to the gathering. Were we hearing what we thought we were hearing? He kept on with his proclamation: that this was the land of his people, he was so glad to be back on it, he hoped to have it back some day. Did we hear what he said?
The whole thing was simply prophetic and the energy was both of confusion and gratitude; it was something that struck us with awe and also it was super awkward.
When he was done, we applauded and many of us just kind of sat there and took it in. We were on the one hand supposed to carry on with this super fun party, and on the other hand invited to at some level take in what we had heard, to hold this painful truth more fully as we shared a meal together.
I have thought a lot about this night.
In a time when our country is extremely divided and apparently, political scientists say that we are approaching a dangerous level of polarization, what if something as small, but as significant as being in relationship with and hearing from those with entirely different experiences, what if that can quite literally change the world?
What if part of how we pave the way for peace in our big and little worlds is giving an ear and opening our hearts to those whose stories might upset how we are telling our own stories?
What if part of our call as people of faith, of compassion and conscience is to be connected with those who some say are “on the other team” the other party, the other team?
What if what we all need right now, even though it might be difficult or make us uncomfortable, is to connect across some of the barriers that we have created?
It’s so much easier to just cut out the voices that discomfort us, but I am thinking that Jesus modeled something else.
As we see when we meet him today in this parable in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus quite literally “calls out” a man who became rich through tax collection. As you know in 2022, when you call someone out, you “issue a direct challenge to something they’ve said or done, usually in public and with the intent of exposing the person’s wrongdoing to others.”
So Jesus does call out a man named Zacchaeus, a man whom many dismissed because of his vocation, because he had become wealthy in a way that many believed to be unjust. The crowd was so disgusted by the fact that Jesus was not only going to spend some time with him, but Jesus invited himself over to his house. The text says that the crowd was grumbling, how is that “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
And as the parable unfolds, we read that after some time together Zacchaeus tells Jesus that he will give half of what he has away and that if there is repair needed, he will do that too. And Jesus responds with this kind of huge theological declaration that a sort of holy healing has arrived! He says, “Today salvation has come to this house…”
Instead of shaming him or cutting him off and clarifying for the crowd that indeed this rich guy is out of touch and lost, instead Jesus calls him out of a tree and asks to share some time together.
Now I don’t mean that we are called to maintain relationships that cause us harm, I think Jesus offers a good example of holding good boundaries. But what I mean is that I think even though it might be difficult, our call is to connect across the chasms of this moment.
Researchers from USC’s new Center for the Political Future wrote that, “Too often in America today, we are trapped in an angry public square where those on the other side are seen not as opponents but as enemies, and the loser in affect tries to burn down the stadium. This is a fateful danger to democracy…”
And maybe also a danger to life in depth? What if something important, something beautiful, something holy can happen when we make a point of hearing from those who challenge our way of thinking? Or connecting with those on the other side of things?
I love what Brene Brown wrote, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.” It’s about recognizing “our shared humanity.”
I bet for our drumming prophet, it would have been easier to say no to offer that blessing, that invitation to repair, it would have been more comfortable for him to dismiss all of us white people as people who wouldn’t listen or who wouldn’t care, but instead he offered compassion and spoke to all of the wounds. He called us out and asked us to hear and what if some of us did?
Even across the chasms of this time, across the divides of class and culture, even in this election year, I haven’t seen things change by trying to get others to think like we do, with ads or lectures or blaming and shaming, I have seen things change and I believe things change at the pace of relationship, at the pace of connection and community, when we live our shared humanity over meals and drinks and conversations, being the guests in each other’s lives.
May we be able to say that today salvation has come to this house, not because we all agree, but because we agree to keep showing up for one another and for the world we know God wants. May that be so. Amen.
©Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche