Sunday, November 24, 2019

Christ the King of Forgiveness - Luke 23:33-43

This Sunday marks the end of the year.  For Churches who pattern the life of their worship around the cycle of the Christian Calendar, this Sunday is the last Sunday of our year. Next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning not only of the Advent season but the beginning of the Church year. 
Every year we begin our year anticipating the birth of Christ and every year we end remembering Jesus came to usher in the Kingdom of God, and reigns as King. Throughout his life, Jesus continually proclaimed the kingdom of God as near; as come, and yet reminded us to pray for God’s kingdom to come.  We stand in the time when God’s kingdom has come, is coming and is yet to come in full completeness.  We live in a time in which Christ has come, Christ has died and Christ’s resurrection has begun its work to sanctify and make the world holy in us, through and because of us.
This is the world of the already and the not yet.  And so as a Church we cycle round and round each year, remembering and re-remembering the work of Christ on this earth; reminding ourselves all things have begun to be made complete; we are participating in its ongoing completion and anticipate the time when all things will be made complete; when the holiness of God will know by all; when God’s love will be found in the hearts and lives of all who inhabit the earth; when the new Heaven and the new Earth will be found in their fullness and we all will truly know what it means for Christ to reign.
But what does this passage have to do with the reign of Christ? What does this tell us about how Christ reigns and what it means for God’s kingdom to come to this earth?  This is a passage which begins and ends with Christ on the cross.  It does not seem to offer much hope.  It does not seem much of a kingly representation of Christ.  Here we have Christ the dying Savior, the dying king, in all his kingly glory.  Christ the king on the cross, showing us what it really means to reign; showing us what it truly means to be a king; showing the nature and the truth of this kingdom of God, which we so often don’t understand.
Of course Christ is doing more, so much more, than dying here in this passage.  He is being God, he is being holy, he is not only showing us the nature of who he is and the nature of the kingdom he is ushering in, but he is also showing us what it means to be participants in this kingdom. He is showing us what it means to be patrons of his Lordship, people who live under his reign. 
Christ is dying, not just dying, this is not some poetic death scene of a movie, where the hero is cradled by the one she loves as she fades slowly into darkness, giving away his final words of wisdom, encouraging others to avenger his death.  This is a scene watch with a silent tear streaking sorrowfully down our cheeks. This is a cruel, heartless, gruesome death.  This is a languishing; death proceeded by hours of torture and seemingly endless pain.  This is the kind of death that is nigh unbearable to experience and to watch.  It is not a Hollywood kind of death, there is a reason why crucifixion is not a preferred means to kill the protagonist of our modern tales. But what Christ does and says is non-the-less movie-ending-worthy.
Jesus begins by forgiving “them.”  He is hung on a cross, spread out there between Heaven and Earth, between two thieves – alongside, equated with, seen as equal to. And what does he say?  He says, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  As he is dying his first words are words of forgiveness. 
He forgives “them.”  The word is wonderfully ambiguous in the Greek as well as the English. It is difficult to track down through the grammar the “them” to which the passage is referring. The chief priests, leaders or the people from the passage before?  The “they” to which Jesus was handed over?  The unnamed “they” who are presumably presiding over his death?  The crowd?  It is a wonderfully ambiguous, “they”.  But even as their actions are bringing about the death of the God of the universe; the savior of the world; the king of God’s glorious kingdom, they don’t know what they are doing. 
All the “theys” out there who are doing harm, who are perpetuating the occurrences of sin and evil in this world, all of them are forgiven.  All of those who sin, all of us who fail Christ in a large and our, oh so common, small ways, all of us who hurt others, all of us who let down our friends and family, all of us who are all too aware of how we do not always love God with our whole hearts, all of us who do not always love our neighbor as ourselves, all of us who so often choose the things we want over the things of God, we are a part of this ambiguous they, the they who participate with the chief priests, leaders, crowds of people, and soldiers who brought Christ to the place of the scull that day.  The wonderfully, gloriously ambiguous “they,” which reminds us, through imprecise grammar, we also participate in the death of Christ. Our failings and our sins bring Jesus to the cross, just as surely as if we were actually there with hammer in hand, raising up the Christ laden cross.  And Christ is right, all too often as we make our poor choices, as we fail, time and time again, we do not know what we are doing, we do not always realize the gravity of our own actions, and we surely do not often stop and contemplate our sins and remember that it is THIS action which brought Christ to the cross. WE do not know what we are doing!
And do you know what?  Christ asks the Father to forgive “them.”  There on the cross, in pain, in agony, experiencing that which we hope we will never know, Christ pauses and asks “they” be forgiven.  Christ asks for all the “thems” to be forgiven.  And from what I know about God, from what I know about Christ’s relationship with the Father, I can say with confidence that they-we are, indeed, forgiven.  We, do not know what we are doing, we fail, we sin, we participate in Christ’s death and we do not know what we are doing. Christ asks the Father for them; for us. And they-WE are forgiven!  What a glorious thought. Our sins forgiven! Our failings, forgiven!  When we do not love God fully, we are forgiven!  When we do not love our neighbor, we are forgiven!  When we do that which we know we should not, we are forgiven! When we do not do that which we should, we are forgiven!  Whenever our actions in large, or even some very small way participate in the evil in this world, and thereby participate in the death of Christ, we are forgiven. 
There as Christ ushers in the kingdom of God, Christ calls for our forgiveness.  Christ shows us what it means for him to reign by declaring us forgiven.  For Christ to reign means sins are forgiven, sinners are pardoned. Christ’s reign means WE are forgiven!  Even when we do not know what our actions are doing, the full implications, the full extent to which we fail at being who God calls us to be, to be the love of God in this world, we are forgiven.  Forgiven; always, in all ways forgiven! 
And I could end there.  That would be a glorious ending to my sermon.   We could end our Church year, we could all go downstairs and eat our communal Thanksgiving dinner and we could all go home resting assured in our forgiveness.  But the passage does not end there.  Even if we think it could not get better, even as it seems there could be nothing more to say, there is more!
We have an example how this forgiveness works.  We see the reigning Christ pardoning the sinners of one who is there with him, one we know who has failed, and who has not lived up to the kind of life God has called him to live.  There on a cross next to him, likewise dying as Christ is dying, one of the two thieves between whom Jesus is hanging, turns to him and essentially asks for this forgiveness for which Jesus is asking the Father, to be extended, to him.
The thief asks for pardon, asks for Christ to remember him as Jesus comes into his Kingdom. Jesus essentially tells the thief his request has been granted, he has been forgiven, he will join Christ in his kingdom this very day.  This man will know paradise in the forgiveness of the Father and acceptance into the eternal kingdom of God.
Forgiveness is requested and it is granted.  He admits his sin, his guilt, and essentially requests forgiveness and he is forgiven.  Christ asks for God’s forgiveness to be extended and immediately we have an example of how that forgiveness works, as they thief is forgiven. He repents, he admits his failing, he acknowledges how he fails to be the person he knows God requires him to be and asks for forgiveness and is forgiven.
This is how we can also experience God’s forgiveness in our own lives. We admit our failings, the ways in which we are lacking in being the people God has called to be. We repent and ask God to forgive us and we are forgiven. Christ has asked and declared our forgiveness. To participate in the forgiveness which Christ gives to all of us who unknowingly participate in the death of Christ through in our own sins, in our not loving God wholly or loving our neighbor fully; to accept Jesus’ forgiveness, allow for it to come to us when we like this thief come to Christ, we must admit how we fail, own up to our actions and ask to be forgiven, just as this man does here in this passage.  Then we will be immersed in the great stream of father’s forgiveness, which Christ calls down up on the world while he was on the cross.
The truth this morning is, Christ reigns; God’s kingdom has come, is coming and will soon come in all its fullness.  And God’s kingdom is a kingdom in which the one who calls for us all to be forgiven, for all humanity to be forgiven reigns.  The king of forgiveness is king of God’s kingdom, forgiveness himself reigns. Just as through failure to love God and the people around us, our in mis-actions, our not acting in ways we know we should, our blatant disregard for others, and in the unintentional ways we hurt others, we participate in the death of Christ. We can also participate in the forgiveness he offers as he died, by simply asking for it, by turning to him, owning up to how we fail and asking that we too may know the forgiveness he gives, that we too may know him in paradise, that we too can help bring his kingdom to fullness by participating in his new life, his love, his truth in this world instead.  We can immerse ourselves in the vast sea, the never ending stream of his forgiveness, simply by like this this asking. 
Let us declare together this morning Christ forgives and Christ reigns.  And join together living in that forgiveness and participating in Christ’s kingdom by living lives that glorify God, lives of love and kindness, lives that bring God’s love and forgiveness to all those we encounter each and every day.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Hard Questions - Luke 20:27-38

This passage is a passage of hard questions. And as we read this passage today, this is just one question we have as we walk away from this passage. It is the question of every widow as she stands by the grave of her husband. It is the question every widower when he finds that the lady he has sat next to a Bingo all these year is not only a lot of fun to be with but had really pretty eyes, and thinks to himself maybe, just maybe I can try this marriage thing again. What does marriage look like when we come to heaven? In many ways by extension, it is the question every child has when the inevitable happens and most assuredly the question of every parent in the unimaginable occurs. What does family look like or mean in Heaven.
When we find ourselves in these situations 99% of the time we can find solace in scripture and comfort in the words of Jesus, but in this passage and its mirror passages in Matthew and Mark, the passage seems to hold answers we don’t like. This passage is full of hard questions not only about eternity but about how eternity touches our lives here and now.  So many hard questions arise from this passage, and I am not sure I have answers for them all.
As we come to this passage the first question which needs to be answered is, “What is a Sadducee?” Well, they were priests therefore Levites; a subset of priests whose main duties were to take care of the temple. As temple priests they were thought of as ranking higher than other priests. They also had internal and international political duties one of which was serving on the Sanhedrin. Thy also tended to fight with Pharisees over differences of belief mainly revolving around purity and inheritance rights. They adhered only to the Torah and rejected the idea of the afterlife which means they did not believe there were any rewards or penalties after death. This put utmost importance on living rightly in this life, for God now. The only way you lived on was by making name for yourself through children who would carry on your line and remember you once you were gone. 
The Sadducees rejected the belief in resurrection of the dead, which was a central tenet believed by Pharisees and by Early Christians. Furthermore, the Sadducees rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. Rather, they saw the Torah as the sole source of divine authority. They were generally well off individuals who not only held a lot of the wealth but also the power 1st century Jewish society. The written law, in its depiction of the priesthood, corroborated the power and enforced the hegemony of the Sadducees in Judean society.
The Pharisees on the other hand came from the all echelons of society, believing that closeness to God was not determined by birth, but that those who could become teachers and scholars of the Scriptures was open to anyone who studied the law and applied it. They taught not only the Torah as Holy Scriptures, but also the writings, and the prophets; the books we would consider the Old Testament. They also found in the oral interpretations of scripture which had been handed down through the generations. They adhered to an idea that the holiness of God was not confined to the temple but God desired to sanctify all aspects of life. The holiness of God could be brought to all places, to all people. There is no part of our lives, no matter how mundane, which could not be sanctified and made holy by God. (Perhaps we Nazarenes are close to the Pharisees – at least in this belief- than we realize.) They believed in the afterlife. What a person did here; how they lived and whether or not the way they lived aligned with God had eternal consequences. We do not merely live on in the lives of our children and how they remember us, but be we literally live on experiencing the consequences of our lives in a living eternity.
So why do the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask Jesus this question?  What is their motivation? It is pretty simple really. They were trying to verbally trap and poke holes in Jesus’ theology. But why?  Well you might find this surprising, Jesus was a Pharisee. It is not all that surprising really, most of Jesus’ theology and teachings we in line with Pharisaical belief. The points of conflict are minor. This is one of the reasons they were always around. He was one of them. They cared about what he taught. The instances where they disagree mattered to them and they wanted Jesus to “toe the party line,” so to speak.
In many ways we divorce Jesus from the very groups and people to whom he belonged. In our minds we often pit Jesus against the Jews. But Jesus was a Jew. He was raised Jewish; he went to synagogue on Saturdays. He knew the Torah, celebrated all the holidays set by God in the scriptures and he even when to Jerusalem for Passover. In the same way Jesus was also a Pharisee. His general theology and beliefs aligned with theirs. He taught many of the same things they taught. When Jesus was correcting these people, it was not so much that he was confronting the opposition, but that he was lovingly correcting his own. Working to bring people he loved and cared about into a proper understanding of God and what our relationship with God can be.
 As a Pharisee Jesus held many of the theological beliefs that were the rubbing points between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. So when the Sadducees come to Jesus in this passage, they are coming to him as a member of the opposing party. They want to trap Jesus verbally; to show silly it is to think that people will be raised from the dead. So they tell this story about a woman who ends up married to seven brothers wondering, when she is resurrected, who will she be married to?
But the first question before we move on to the question the Sadducees are ask, we should probably answer a different question, “What Levirate marriage is?” It served two purposes in Jewish society. First of all, it allowed for a man to live on in his heirs, for his name to be carried on, to be remembered. If you have children they will tell your story they will remember you. Most people at that time believed that if you were remembered, if your children and you’re your children’s children told your stories, your life had meaning and value after you are dead. If you had sons your family line continued and you would be remembered in their genealogies as your family would go on.
Secondly, levirate marriage was a needed social construct in a society where women had no agency of their own. It served as protection for the widow, ensuring that she would have a male provider responsible for them. This was a positive in a society where women are not allowed self-sufficiency and must rely on men to provide, especially in societies where women are seen as under the authority, dependent on, in servitude, and/or possessions of their husbands. Having children enabled the inheritance of land, which offered security and status. A levirate marriage might only occur if a man died childless.
Our next question then is, are the Sadducees really concerned about women and what their eternal plight might be, if the resurrection is really a thing?  No they are not concerned about women. Nor are they even concerned about this (hypothetical) woman!  They are concerned about to whom she belonged. She was ultimately the property of a man. Women were property. What they are actually asking, if the resurrection is a real thing, which husband gets to claim her in the resurrection?  Who gets her for all eternity?  She is merely a belonging, an asset, part of the “wealth” one of these men could claim for eternity. Perhaps you can’t take your stuff with you into the eternal kingdom, but since it is populated by people you could take the ones who are yours with you. But she is only one woman. Which one of the seven men gets to claim her as theirs for eternity? After all, a woman can’t be married to seven men (even if a man could be married to seven women).
When we come to this passage the question most of us what to know, “Is Jesus telling us that we will not be married in heaven?” Because if there is no marriage in Heaven, “Will we get to be families in Heaven?” “Will we not be connected to those we love in eternity?” “Will God separate me from Mike in the life to come?” “Will our children know us?” “Will my father still be my father?” “Will all of us live disconnected from the love and affection we know in this life?”  The short answer is, “No, that is not what Jesus is saying”
God will not separate us from our loved ones. But what that looks like in the afterlife is something we do not know, as long as we are on this side of eternity. All I can say with any confidence is that life in the world to come will be as different from life here and now as life in the womb was different from the life we now know.  I can also assure you that this passage and this discussion, which Jesus is having with the Sadducees here is not answering this question. The Sadducees were not wanting to know the nature of familial relationships, whether that be our true love who passed before we did, or those of our children or parents, in the world to come. When Jesus gives his answer that is not the question he is answering.
We know this because real question the Sadducees are asking is own of ownership, “If there is a resurrection, in which we all live on, who does this woman ultimately belong to. . . for eternity?” (can I just say all my modern sesiblities, say “Ewww.” This is a bunch of men standing around discussing the eternal fate and ownership of a woman – hypothetical she may be) So what is Jesus’ answer? He says, “she does not BELONG to any of them!” Jesus frees this woman from the societal need for her to bear a son in this life, and her enslavement to these men in the life to come. (Hallelujah! She is her own woman!) This woman does not BELONG to any human being not here on earth and definitely not in God’s eternal kingdom. She is her own person, she does not belong to any of them and she will not belong to any of them in the world to come.
When Jesus says, “No one will be marry or be given in marriage”, what he is saying is, “No one will take another in marriage and no one will be given to another.” No one will be taken or given. Paul said something similar, In Christ Jesus, there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free.” We are set free in Jesus Christ, set free from the bondage of sin, and set free from the brokenness sin has brought into our societies and systems. No one belongs to anyone else, not now, not ever; not in this life and not in the time of the Resurrection.
Jesus is actually telling them. “Wrong question!” The Sadducees cannot trick Jesus with this question because the very premise of it is wrong. The resurrected life is just like this life only unimaginably better and it is not at all like this life because the ways in which it exceeds what we know and how we think about life, are nearly incomprehensible. The resurrected life is life as it should be, if we lived in a whole and holy world. It is life without sin, without brokenness. It is a life lived without economic disparities, without the harm we experience at the hands of others. Life lived in unbroken communion with God. Where we get to really know and understand what it means when Genesis says they walked with God in the cool of the evening. It is life lived as we can only imagine. It is life lived in ways we could never imagine.
Now don’t get me wrong just because we no one belong to us, that does not mean that we do not find belonging in Christ and in Christ’s church. At the end of the passage Jesus tells us who we truly belong to.  God is the God of the living, in the end, after the resurrected, we will all live again. God is the God of all. This passage is about to whom we belong. Jesus tells us, when it comes down to what really matters we cannot be possessed by one another. Yet we find belonging in God, in God’s people, together with one another, belong together.
We like to stake our claim on one another. We say, “This is Brenda, she is my mother.” “This is Drew, he lives in our basement.” Explaining our connections to each other is not inherently wrong, but generally speaking we do not know how to speak of those connections with our exerting a sort of belonging over that person. In a world which continually seeks to possess and own everything around us, this is just another way of exerting our dominance over even those we love and care about the most. Jesus says these ideas of dominance and possession do not matter in eternity. This woman does not belong to any of these men. We do not belong to anyone who seeks to dominate and possess us, nor does anyone belong to us. We do not get to own anyone in Heaven. We are all our own human beings so to speak.
I say, “So to speak,” because although, we do not ultimately belong to one another. To whom do we belong does matter, in eternity? Because in the end belonging to God is what really matters. All life is God’s but do we belong to God? Have we lived lives which exemplify God’s holiness, righteousness and justice in this world? Have we given all of who we are, all we ever hope to be and who ever we may one day become over to God? Have we lived lives of Holy excellence; seeking to bring God’s redemption and holiness in to all the place we live. Have we allowed God not just to sanctify all aspects of our lives, all we do, all we say, all our actions and our interactions? Jesus sides steps the Sadducees debate about the resurrection and asks a more important question, “Do we belong to God?”

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Being Saints: An All Saints Sunday Sermon - Luke 19:1-10


“Zaccheus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. . .”

         I can still hear my father singing this well-known Sunday School song to me and to hundreds of Sunday School children down through the years.
By all accounts my father was truly a man of God, a saint. I am biased. I am his daughter. But others seem to think so as well. At his funeral someone had arranged for people to post stories on a wall, about how my father’s faith had made an impact on their lives. Story after, story, life after life he had touched. There were too many to read, it was nearly over whelming. At the viewing people waited in a line that was over 2 ½ hours long to pay their final respects to him and to us, his family. He lived a life which exemplified Christ’s love in all things. His faith was an example to all he met and served to encourage many to walk closer to God and to follow Christ in their own lives. Kids he taught in Sunday School, Caravans, or youth quizzing, have grown to be pastors, missionaries, teachers, and doctors; you name it, faithful men and women of God. You all met him, you knew his warm heart and his generous spirit. I do not believe there is anyone who ever met him who did experience the love of Christ in his actions and his words.
It may or may not surprise you that my father related to Zacchaeus in a lot of ways. My father was short of stature as well and my father, like Zacchaeus remembered a life of which he was not at all proud, before he met Jesus. Some of us come to know and follow Christ early in our lives, we cannot speak much about the lives we lived prior to coming to faith. All we knew were the sins of a child still finding their way in the world.  But others lived quite a bit, were adults, made choices which shaped their lives in ways that were not always positive. My father came to Christ in his mid-twenties, which is not old but he had done quite a bit of “living.”
Obviously I was not acquainted with the man my father was before that fateful day when my mother decided they were going to go to the revival she had seen advertised.  I know very little about what kind of person he was prior to that day, but I know a few things. Upon learning my father had lived in Germany when he was first in the military, I asked him to teach me some German, he told me the only German he knew was the kind of German a young man learns in a bar and was inappropriate to share with me. I know my parents lived together for at least a year before they got married. I know he was rough in high school and prone to fighting. I can still remember him saying, “You messed with one of the Henson boys, you messed with all of them.” Which is just another way of saying he settled things with his fist and not his words. At this point I think it would be suffice to say, he was not entirely proud of who he was prior to coming to know Jesus.
Zacchaeus, prior to his encounter with Jesus that day, was also not an ideal citizen either. He was not only a tax collector, but he was the chief tax collector. In our system taxes are set up by the government and are based on how much you make in any given year and some formula. Being a world without turbo tax and tax accountants to figure out the formula, in the first century, the tax system was a little less sophisticated. Each tax collector was expected to collect a certain amount from the people in their jurisdiction. A tax collector was not bound to only collect the amount he needed to turn into his superior, so they often collected more than what was needed, as a sort of surcharge. Zacchaeus had managed to get very rich off this “surcharge.”
As you can imagine nobody liked a tax collector. Not only were they not known to be the most honest of men, collecting more taxes than was required of them, but they were a constant reminder to the Jewish people that they were subject to Roman rule, were not their own nation and were essentially not free. Needless to say, they were not the most popular people in town. They were considered sinners simply because of their occupation. They were not allowed in the temple or the synagogue. They were considered to be on par with thieves, gamblers and dishonest herdsmen. They were deemed to be unredeemable by the law of Moses. There was nothing for them. Even when they did their job fairly, they were still despised and hated.
We don’t know why Zacchaeus wanted so desperately to see Jesus that he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree, but he did. He is there in the tree when Jesus sees him and invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house. People in the crowd don’t like this. Of all the people Jesus could choose to go home with, he chooses the tax collector, not only is he a sinner, but he’s an unpopular sinner, the kind of sinner nobody likes, and nobody wants to be around. Not a single person there would choose to go home with him. Zacchaeus is unworthy of their company, why would Jesus decide Zacchaeus is worthy of his company? There are so many more worthy people all around him, but Jesus goes out of his way to call the tax collector down out of the tree and invites himself home with him. Zacchaeus hurries down from the tree and welcomes Jesus into his home. Meanwhile the people are upset, because Jesus has shown favor to the tax collector! What is Jesus doing?
But while they are grumbling something amazing is going on in the tax collector’s house and in his heart. After his time with Jesus he declares he will give away half his possessions to the poor, and he will restore to those whom he defrauded, he will return to them four times what he took from them. And apparently he is not doing this simply because he wants to impress Jesus, but because he has truly had a change of heart, because Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus chooses to change his actions because Jesus has changed his heart.
Jesus reminds us that he came to seek and save the lost. This lost one has been found. The shepherd went looking for him, found him in a tree and by going home with him was able to bring him home.
The story of Zacchaeus tells us two things. First it tells us that no one is beyond the reach of Jesus. There is no person whose sins are so awful, who is so far gone that they are beyond the seeking eyes of the Good Shepherd when he goes searching. It does not matter what they have done, does not matter how bad, or how many people they have harmed. It does not matter if nobody likes them, if everybody has given up on them, or if not a single person is willing to give them a chance. Jesus wants to seek and save everybody who is lost.
The lost woman searched the whole house, sweeping all the corners, lit a lamp, and looked carefully until each one was found. Jesus does not desire for a single person to remain lost. Jesus is seeking everyone, all of them, each and every single one. No one is too far gone, no one is too bad or deemed unworthy. The fact is none of us are “worthy”, none of us are “good enough” but Jesus loves all of us and desires for each of us to come, desires for each of us to believe, to be in relationship with us. Jesus wants us all to come to him, allow him change our lives, so that we too can reflect the love, the mercy, the forgiveness, goodness and the holiness of God in our own lives.    
The other thing we can know is, Zacchaeus’ story is a saint’s story. Zacchaeus’ life was changed. His life was transformed. He became a follower of Jesus Christ. This is his story and it is the story of all saints. They once were lost but now are found. Jesus changed and transformed each and every one of their lives. They were no longer who we once were.
This is the story of each of the people we honored this morning. Jesus touched them. Their lives were transformed. Their life, their ministry, their faith, their witness has touched the lives around them. The light of Christ shone forth from within them. Their lives, their actions, their words, pointed others, pointed US to Jesus Christ, their faith increased our faith. Many of them were champions of Jesus Christ, super heroes of the faith. Their lives are a testament to this fact and we follow them as they followed Christ because we could see how Jesus had changed their lives and we too want to be transformed into Christ’s image just as they were.
But their stories are the same as Zacchaeus’ they once were lost but now they are found. It is the story of my father. This is why my father saw himself in Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus’s story was my father’s story and my father’s story is really everyone’s story. No matter who we were before we came to Christ. No matter what we have done, our story is the same. We once were lost and now we are found.
The same is true for all Christians; for all saints of the Church. No matter how much we look up to someone else’s faith, their knowledge of the Bible, their ability to live the love of Christ in all they do; no matter how holy they seem, no matter how perfectly they exemplify the life of a true believer, no matter how clear their reflection of God appears to be, their story is the same, the same as Zacchaeus’, the same as my Dad’s, the same as sister Beckles or sister Warrick, the same as JoAnn’s or Lucille’s. They once were lost and now they are found.
All who believe are like Zacchaeus in this way and all who believe are saints. The key is we have to live like Jesus, to look to Jesus as our example of what a life totally committed to God looks like, to see Jesus as the person into whom God is daily transforming us. We are daily becoming saints. As we live lives committed to Christ, as we continue to allow ourselves to be made holy, wholly giving ourselves to God so that we can reflect the character of God in this world, so that we can be Jesus here and now, we are being transformed into saints.  
Our faith is the faith the next generation looks to show them what it looks like to be Christ. No matter how much we feel we might fail, no matter how much we might hope nobody is following our example of what it looks like to be a believer, someone is. These is always someone newer in the faith, or someone who does not yet believe who knows we are a Christian, who sees who we are and sees our life as an example of what it means to be a believer. As we remember and honor the lives of all those to whom we look as examples of Christlikeness lived on earth, we too much live as they lived knowing we are the saints others look to, to point them toward Christ. Let us all be lights that lead others to Jesus.