Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

A Vulnerable God and a Vulnerable Chruch

November 4, 2018
Mark Chapman

In our men’s group on Wednesdays and on Sunday night

we’ve been looking at vulnerability.

And women you would understand vulnerability in ways

men would never do

certainly all our mothers have in the process of child birth

they became very vulnerable

maybe that’s why God is presented in the Bible as like a woman giving birth to people.

So this morning some thoughts

first the blind man,  second Zacchaeus

thirdly Jesus, and then lastly us, you and me.

Jesus is coming into Jericho and a blind beggar hears he is going by.

So something about him.

We believe that he is unclean for a number of reasons

he handles money

he may be cursed by God – some would say.

He doesn’t get to church, nor would he be welcomed in church.

So right away he has a dilemma.

The God people don’t want me.

Jesus is a God person, he is a Rabbi.

Do I call out to Jesus?

What if he doesn’t answer?

Do I need more rejection?

And yet he cries out – Jesus son of David have mercy on me!

The crowd in essence tell him, shut up! You’ve got to be kidding if you think

the Rabbi – is going to help you.

So something about the crowd.

They would have heard that the Rabbi Jesus was coming to town

there would have been hospitality prepared for him and his disciples.

They have gone out of Jericho to meet him and escort him into Jericho.

He is a Rabbi and a teacher of the Law of Moses

all the good, card carrying God people, are looking forward to hearing Him.

Nothing’s changed much - we all like it when someone comes from overseas

to tell us what we already know.

So they tell the blind man to back off

but he persists and Jesus hears him and he says ‘bring the blind man to me.’

And then he asks him, what do you want me to do for you?

And I wonder if he is thinking

do I make myself vulnerable?

Do I tell this Jesus what I really want?

Can I take rejection?

Will I get a lecture?

Remember when you proposed to your husband to be? Wife to be?

Why was it traditional for men to ask?

That was moment of vulnerability right?

You probably didn’t say:

“Dear  I’m thinking about asking you to marry me, but before I do

I’d like to know what your response might be, not that I’m asking you

but ….. . Just checking.

You’re not going to get a lot of brownie points for romance. Right?

Actually I was running this by the men’s group and they all admitted

that – they were pretty sure that the answer would be yes before they asked!

So vulnerability!

We are vulnerable when we place ourselves in the hands of another.

When we ask something of another, our spouse – whoever.

So the blind man – I want to see again!

So in Jesus day the man is wondering what will he require of me?

Will he ask how I got blind,

will he ask what will I do if I can see again?

Will he ask me to be baptised first

will he ask me to come to church first?

Will he ask me to clean myself up first?

And then the loving heart of God goes out to the man

and Jesus says: “Then see – your faith has saved you

You knew if you could call out to me and I would hear you.”

Here’s the point – only his vulnerability

brought him to the point of connection with Jesus!

Second Zacchaeus.  

He is a toll farmer – he has a number of toll collectors working for him.

He works for the Romans. He is very rich.

Again, he would not be welcome in a society

who considered themselves good church people.

He couldn’t go to the synagogue.

Every time he handles money

which is daily

he makes himself unclean religiously.

He is a collaborator with the Romans -

everything is against him.

In the same way the blind man is shunned –

he must have done something wrong to be blind!

So Zacchaeus is shunned.

Extreme ends of the social spectrum.

The blind man wants to see; Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus

because as many, many people have found,

when they climb as far as they can go

on the corporate ladder

and there is nothing more they can have,

they can still feel empty.

Zacchaeus goes to the edge of town and climbs a tree!

He makes himself vulnerable.

What if people see me?

What if they laugh?

What if they abuse me?

What if what if, what if?

But he does it. Why?

There is something we all long for and that’s connection.

We need to be needed.

We need people who love us unconditionally.

But to have connection to be known, we need to be vulnerable.

We need to say, I love you,

I need you, I miss you.

Zacchaeus wants connection with Jesus.

To have connection he must be vulnerable. So he climbs a tree.

And  Jesus sees him. And so does the crowd.

Who by the way aren’t that happy with Jesus because

Jesus apparently has not attended the special function they would have prepared for him.

The focus of the crowd will be on Zacchaeus.

Is he making a fool of himself?

He’s put himself out on a limb!!

Jesus would hear what people are saying about Zacchaeus.

So to take the focus off of him

Jesus makes himself vulnerable.

“Zacchaeus – come down. I’m coming to your house today.”

Now the anger is turned on to Jesus.

What? Social suicide dude!

This man has gone to the home of a sinner.

You see everyone knew what Jesus should have done.

Jesus should have said,

Zacchaeus I would like to come to your house

but you are an unclean sinner.

I will be back in a couple of weeks

in the meantime

clean yourself up.

Offer the right sacrifices for your sin

and when I come back, if you have done all that is required,

I will come to your house.

Clean yourself up and I will love you!

But Jesus is compassion, not religion.

Jesus does what Jesus does.

Jesus wants connection with him.

The crowd  - the so called religious people will hate Jesus because of this.

Because of His grace and mercy and love;

and one day they will kill him because of it.

We don’t like a Jesus who breaks all the rules

and touches lepers and eats with tax collectors and prostitutes.

But this is the vulnerability of God!

That’s the meaning of the cross!

But for the blind man; for Zacchaeus, for so many others

rejected and outcast

Jesus is the one who embraces them just as they are

and whose love transforms them.

There are people in this community who are looking for hope

and to be able to believe that they are worthy of love.

And they may have become hardened.

And some may feel condemned by religious people.

And the idea of a church might scare them.

And the idea of God might put them off because the only picture of God they have had is fear.

And they might need to find rental accommodation

or a job or a food basket

or a place of positive joy and hope for their children.

But they don’t need to be told their sinners

they already know something is missing.

If I was to drag myself in here this morning with a broken leg

and a bone sticking through my trousers

I don’t need someone to say: Mark, you’ve got a broken leg!

Nor how did it happen

I need to be reached out to in love and ministered to.

Lost people don’t need to be told they are lost

they just need to know

they have been found.

So let me invite you into the story.

Who are you?

Are you the crowd?

Glad to see Jesus and pretty sure you are acceptable to God

you’ve been baptised,

you’ve made the confession

but there are people you know or hear about that you would definitely reject until they clean their act up

and become like you?

And you’re pretty sure that  the blind man or Zacchaeus

are not worthy of Jesus’ love.

Or are you the blind man?

Getting through life on pity

and never thinking you are good enough to be part of good society?

Or how about Zacchaeus –

you’re an honest business person

and life is great yet

there is a longing within for connection

- to be truly known and still loved?

Both aware if life is to change, if I am to find real connection, real love

I must be vulnerable..,. but dare I be?

Or are you Jesus?

Knowing what the crowd, the church, expect of you

how you are to act

how you are to remain in some kind of ivory tower,

and yet sometimes your heart becomes so broken

that you go where the decent people never go

and touch the people they would never touch.

And you weep when some dies

and when you find yourself alone because

your friends desert you

and so you eat with tax collectors and prostitutes and outcasts

because God is there too.

But to do that you will need to be vulnerable

and risk being crucified.

So who are we?

Amen.