Seems like yesterday, but it was I guess, twenty or so years ago. I cut the big branches from the sycamore tree and laid them in the back seat. Leaves as big as my two hands together. I had a plan for my room. I was assigned the lesson on Zacchaeus.
The branches touched the ceiling in the tiny room where I created a scene to tell the children about how a man moved from the top of a tree hoping just to see Jesus, to having him as a guest in his home.
On the night I was to teach the lesson, the room disappointed. The church trying to save electricity had turned off the air conditioning. I was met by wilted leaves and a room that was consumed by humidity, a swampy smell. The “tree” I built in the corner was wilted, not special or impressive for the little children at all.
The tree was no longer a part of the lesson. Ten or so boys and girls sat in front of me in a circle on a rug we imagined was the tax collector’s home.
I taught them about the man who said yes to Jesus coming inside. They listened as I told them of the man up in the tree who never thought he’d meet Jesus, he just wanted to see unnoticed by others, the one who was spreading hope and love, a healer.
Then Jesus said, I’m not just passing by, I’m headed to your house today, climb down from that (ridiculous) tree.
The story continues with the criticism of others who knew Zacchaeus as a rich man, a cheater, a scoundrel you may say.
None of that mattered to Jesus. He set his sights on people unworthy from others’ perspectives.
I’m one of those.
Later, we’ll be having a big crowd at our house. We will celebrate a birthday. Children will swim in our pool, cousins will feel like it’s a reunion party. There will be noisy conversation, peach cobbler, baked beans, popsicles, etc.
My husband asked me if I was ready just now. He knows I’m an introvert, he’s familiar with the mystery of my yearning for quiet.
Almost a year ago, I began to wear this little bracelet. It’s paint covered sometimes, it’s a little soiled from my walking in this southern heat. It is stretched and weathered.
A tiny charm adorns it. One side says “faith” and the other, “my saint, my hero”. I don’t consider myself a saint nor a hero.
I do know that faith is my mainstay. I don’t need to know if the giver of this bracelet considers me her hero. I just need to continue in my faith and hope others who come around me see it. I need to remember Jesus as my hero. I need to live in a house of faith.
That when others come to my house, they might get a sense that Jesus had been by too, either in the waking prayer of morning, the first step outdoors to see the sun leave layers on the green or in the way I welcome them in.
Where I lack in hospitality, may there be the evidence of my faith.
“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:9-10 ESV
Zacchaeus, a rich man met Jesus unexpectedly in his home and then carried on from there more honest, more generous, more unashamed.
I get it. May my faith be like the tree climber.
Continue and believe.