By: Rev. Tommy Prud’homme
Pastor, Hillsboro FUMC
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. -- Luke 19:5-6
I didn’t want to be there. My wife, Kirsten, had recently tricked me into attending the local Methodist church and the oldest of my two girls was participating in the youth program. It was the closing of OneNow, a multi-day service and worship experience for the church’s youth. The wrap-up service was at the Family Life Center and Kirsten was busy, so she sent me to pick up our daughter.
I arrived a little early and it was cold. So, rather than risk carbon monoxide poisoning out in the car, I decided to venture into the FLC. But it was a hard choice. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t know anybody. And anyway, I didn’t really “believe” in Jesus. I thought he was a good man who did and said good things, but that was about it. So, I had this vision of walking in to the FLC, the music screeching to a halt, the lights all coming on, and everyone turning to me, pointing their fingers, and yelling in unison, “Not one of us.” I’m still not sure why I went in.
But I did. The music didn’t stop, no one pointed their finger or yelled at me. In fact, it seemed to me that no one noticed me at all. I was relieved not to be cast into the outer darkness, but I suddenly felt very alone. Everyone else seemed to know one another, and I knew no one. So, I hid in the darkness at the back of the room.
But, as it turned out, I had been wrong when I thought no one noticed me. Within a few minutes of my arrival, a lady named Cheryl introduced herself. She asked who I was, how I was involved in the festivities, if I had any kids participating, and on and on. She took a genuine interest in me and my family. She saw me and she welcomed me.
This story reminds me a little of the story of Zacchaeus. As he sat up in that tree, Zacchaeus must have felt kind of like I did when I walked into the FLC—an outsider and an outcast. He was the chief tax collector and no one wanted to have anything to do with him.
No one, that is, except Jesus. Jesus saw him up in that tree. Not only did he see him, he welcomed him. I’ve always thought it was funny how Jesus flipped the script on Zacchaeus. It should have been Zacchaeus welcoming Jesus, but it was actually the other way around: Jesus welcoming Zacchaeus—to Zacchaeus’ own home! But far more importantly, Jesus was welcoming Zacchaeus into a new home—into God’s kingdom.
And, of course, that welcome had a huge impact. Zacchaeus immediately pledged half of everything he owned to the poor, and promised to pay back anyone he had cheated fourfold.
And, in its way, Cheryl’s simple “welcome” at that OneNow program all those years ago had a similar impact on me. Certainly nothing as dramatic as what happened with Zacchaeus. But that welcome opened a door in my heart that had until then been closed. Church was no longer a scary place inhabited by a bunch of angry, judgmental, and somewhat Stepford-like people. That welcome was one of the first steps in a process that eventually led me to become an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.
And I can guarantee you, Cheryl had no idea that her simple welcome would have that sort of impact. She just did it because she wanted me to feel at home. She did it because it’s what we, as Christians, are called to do. Never underestimate the power of a simple welcome.
February 19th, 2021 – Waco, TX – 9:00-3:30
REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT: