Proper 26C

Last revised: October 28, 2016
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PROPER 26 (Oct 30-Nov 5) — YEAR C / Ordinary Time 31
RCL: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; 2 Thess. 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10
RoCa: Wisdom 11:22-12:1; 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4


1. In the Catholic/Lutheran option of the Revised Common Lectionary, this same passage falls on Proper 22C, just four weeks earlier. See the reflections on this text at Proper 22C.

2 Thess. 1:1-4, 11-12


1. James Alison, Raising Abel, p. 120; the skipped-over verses, 2 Thess. 1:6-8, are quoted as an example of apocalyptic language from Paul. Alison takes on the view that Jesus was wrong about expectations of the coming of the Lord’s Day. See an excerpt of his basic argument from pp. 124-127, “The Apocalyptic Imagination.”

2. N. T. Wright is also challenging the view going back to Schweitzer and Bultmann that Jesus was wrong about apocalyptic expectations. He argues that Jesus used apocalyptic and prophetic language to correctly predict the “earth-shattering” events of the Roman-Jewish War as the logical end to insistence on military revolt as the way to liberation. For more on this, see Part III of “My Core Convictions” essay. (Another good source on Wright’s views here is his Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians.)

Reflections and Questions

1. Once again I wonder about deleted verses — in this instance, verses about apocalyptic expectations that especially make sense out of verses 11-12.

Luke 19:1-10


1. James Alison, Jesus the Forgiving Victim, pp. 371-79. In an essay entitled “Inhabiting texts and being discovered,” section 4 gives a close reading of the Zacchaeus story. Alison brings out how Jesus incarnation of God’s loving desire enables Zacchaeus to separate from the crowd:

But Zacchaeus is no longer cowed, no longer hiding, no longer small, no longer run by the way he was tied in to the crowd before. Luke emphasizes the physical gesture: Zacchaeus stands tall, and immediately sets about reconstructing a whole new way of “being together” with his fellow citizens, not concerned with his goodness or badness, happy to work through the details of accusations of impropriety, about which the murmuring crowd will have had more than a thing or two to say, but more than that, completely concerned with his new way of belonging to Israel.

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”

And this is what Jesus emphasizes here, as in our previous passage from Luke, where the straightened woman is also a daughter of Abraham: YHWH delights in including people in, in bringing the most improbable, and indeed unsuitable, people back in; YHWH has no delight in resentful righteousness.

“For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke ends by pointing up something which was, I hope, also clear in the Emmaus passage which we looked at in Essay 2. There the two travellers thought they we the hosts and Jesus their guest, only to find that he was hosting them, and had been the protagonist of the story of which they had thought themselves knowledgeable, all along. Part of what the presence of Jesus in the midst of people feels like is just this curious inversion of perspective, and of protagonism. At the beginning of our story here, it is Zacchaeus who seeks to see who Jesus is, working around all the complexities of his relationship with the crowd so as to get a glimpse. But from the moment that Jesus looks up at him, calls him by name and tells him he must spend the night in his house, it is clear that the whole protagonism has been inverted. Not only is it, once again, the apparent guest who is the real host. But all along, it was the regard of Another other that was deliberately seeking out this particular person, Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus’ seeking of Jesus had been real, if still embryonic; it was the seeking of someone who was tied up in a very complex pattern of desire. Perhaps the beginning of Zacchaeus’ being found lay in the fact that, as part of his lostness, he had had to begin to uncouple himself from the immediacy of crowd desire, just so as to be able to get a look at Jesus. Even that uncoupling, leading to his moment of unexpected vulnerability, is part of the process of his receiving the regard which recreated him, is part of what being sought and found by Another other looks like. (pp. 377-79)

2. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from November 4, 2001 (Woodside Village Church).

3. Sermons/blogs from a Girardian perspective by members and friends of Theology & Peace: Tom Truby, a sermon in 2013, titled “It’s Always about Jesus“; a sermon in 2016, “Cataract Distortions.”

4. Andrew Marr, Abbot of St. Gregory’s Abbey (Three Rivers, MI) is a long-time reader and writer on Mimetic Theory and in his blog, “Imaginary Visions of True Peace,” made these reflections on this passage in 2016, “Zacchaeus and His City.”

5. Vitor Westhelle, “Exposing Zacchaeus,” an essay in The Christian Century, October 31, 2006 (in pdf at Westhelle’s website).

Reflections and Questions

1. In 2010 I’m seeing this passage as a companion to last Sunday’s Gospel (Proper 25C), the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. Luke’s redaction places the end of Mark’s journey to Jerusalem (Mark 10) in between these two uniquely Lukan passages about tax collectors. But the lectionary skips over the Markan material to bring these passages together in consecutive weeks, making it easy for the preacher to connect them. If a tax collector such as the one in the parable, for example, goes home delivered from his sin (“justified”) and empowered by the Spirit to live a life of repentance, is Zacchaeus an illustration of what that life looks like, by his promising to pay back his ill-gotten profits to the poor?

Here are some further comparison’s between the two stories:

  • Instead of a Pharisee who lives by human justice based on divisive categories such as righteous-unrighteous, we have Jesus following God’s justice of mercy and reconnecting Zacchaeus to the family of Abraham and Sarah (and Hagar?).
  • Instead of the Pharisee looking down his nose in judgment on the tax collector, we have Jesus literally looking up in mercy at Zacchaeus in the tree.
  • Instead of a tax collector going to God’s house, the temple, praying for salvation, we have God in Jesus going to the tax collector’s house, proclaiming salvation.

2. In 2004 we moved this lesson up a week to use for our “Commitment Sunday” (stewardship pledge campaign) since it otherwise falls on either Reformation Sunday or All Saints Sunday in the most common of Lutheran practices. It speaks well to the claim that discipleship makes upon one’s life. Jesus calls Zacchaeus to be follower and that makes immediate changes upon how he must live out his vocation: “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much” (Luke 19:8).

We paired this text, however, with a different text from the Hebrew Scriptures to help ring out our overall stewardship theme of “Sharing Our Blessings.” That text is Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Link to a sermonBlessed to Be a Blessing.”

3. “I will bless you, so that you will be a blessing” has also been a personal/family motto as we adopt (in April 2005) two children from Liberia. Link to an article that appeared in our local Racine newspaper under the banner of this verse, “‘You Will Be a Blessing.’

4. In 1995 I preached a sermon, indebted to Robert Capon‘s work on the parables (Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, Part 3, Ch. 6, pp. 412-425), entitled “Salvation Makes a Housecall.”

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