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Saturday, 9 May 2020

His face to shine upon you

In recent weeks, the virtual church's version of Kari Jobe's "The Blessing" has gone viral. With good reason. It is a beautiful song, and beautifully sung. A testament to the life and goodness of God and the connectedness of his church even in this strange season of our buildings being closed. 

The lyrics of the song are based on the priestly blessing found in the book of Numbers:

"The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you,
and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

Many months ago, on one particularly cold morning, I cycled out to Crosby. Cycling to the beach is one of my favourite things to do. It has been one of my greatest joys in moving north to live so close to the sea. The ocean never fails to calm me. It never fails to put whatever worries and stresses and tensions I am carrying in perspective. It never fails to remind me of the vast unfathomable depths of God and my own relative littleness and insignificance. 

On this particular morning, I had not really dressed appropriately for the weather. The cyclists amongst you (or which I am not particularly!) will know that there is nothing worse than cold sweat and that, once the initial cycle adrenaline has worn off, you are usually left feeling pretty chilly. I hadn't remembered to pack an extra jumper so once I'd got off my bike and started walking down the beach, I realised that I was in fact, rather cold. Freezing in fact. And, increasingly, grumpy. I am not good in the cold. I hate it. And, once I'm cold, I find it really very difficult to maintain any kind of good grace. 

I was even grumpier because this was meant to be my break. This was meant to be my time off the kids, my time to connect with God. And instead of relishing it, I was sulking my way through it. After about 20 minutes of walking in a strop I decided to give up and walk back to my bike and cycle to a coffee shop instead. In the instant that I turned around to walk back down the sand, I realised that the sun had escaped from behind the sullen clouds and it was pounding down on the beach. It had been soaking on my back but, as I turned round, it was so bright and so unexpected that I was momentarily blinded. I could not look the sun, but I could feel it beating down upon my face. I could feel the beauty of its warmth, and I remember tipping my head up towards it and walking, eyes closed, head lifted back, along the beach.

I must have looked pretty strange, but in that moment I was so happy. And in that moment, God reminded me of the words from this blessing: "The LORD make his face to shine on you." May God pour out his radiance, and his goodness and his glory straight from his face and onto your own so that you can feel it. And that's what it did feel like: as though God's goodness was being poured out onto my upturned face. 

I have been humming Kari Jobe's song for days, and have thought again of that day on Crosby beach where, for much of my time, I had been completely oblivious to the nearness of God's goodness, to the truth of his face turned towards mine waiting to bestow light and favour. I had walked along in ignorance, unaware of the presence of God. 

And that, I think, is how I (we?) go through most days. Unaware. Preferring to sulk in our own thoughts instead of focusing on the face of God, ever turned towards us in his son, Jesus. 

And my prayer for this beautifully sunny Bank Holiday, when it is easier to remember God's goodness than in the dreary rain of February, is that we would turn our faces to meet his, that we would soak a little while in the sunshine, and feel the warmth of his peace. 







Friday, 24 April 2020

Come and have breakfast

This week, I have been thinking about what is usually called the reinstatement of Peter. It is the story recorded in chapter 21 John’s gospel where Jesus forgives Peter for his betrayal (John 18:15-27) and reassures him that his past mistakes will not be held against him; he will still be given an important job to do in God’s kingdom. In fact, he will arguably be given the most important job: starting up the church and taking care of those within it.

It is a beautifully crafted story. There are so many carefully included details – the mention of a charcoal fire (21:9), reminiscent of the one Peter warmed his hands around as he was denying that he knew Jesus (18:18); the exact number of fish that have, yet again, been miraculously caught (21:11); the fact that Peter is so excited by seeing the figure of Jesus on the shore that he jumps straight into the water and swims to meet his friend instead of waiting until the boat has been rowed back to land. (21:7)

But my favourite moment – and perhaps one of my favourite moments in all of scripture – is Jesus simply saying, “Come and have breakfast.” (21:21) When you think about it, it is the most astounding thing for God to say. It is so utterly normal. So mundane. And yet, it is an action filled with love, compassion and a profound understanding of what is actually going to help Jesus’ confounded and terrified friends in that moment: they need some grub. 


This story reminds me of another moment in scripture where God focuses on the basic bodily needs of his people rather than attending to deeper, spiritual matters. Those can wait. The story is that of Elijah underneath the broom bush (1 Kings 19) Elijah is having a bad day: Jezebel, the tyrannous wife of the king, wants him dead and he has fled from her clutches into the midst of the desert. He is physically exhausted and emotionally at breaking point. So low are his spirits in fact that he asks God to take his life from him because he cannot see the point in living anymore. He collapses underneath a nearby bush and falls asleep.

And what is the very first thing that God does for him? God does not try to talk him out of it. He does not try to give him some kind of profound theological framework for understanding what is going on. He doesn’t pull him up by his boot straps and tell him to get on with it. God knows, although we are often quick to forget, that what is most needed when someone is in crisis and in deep pain is precisely not trite words or reassurances. And so, God sends an angel to give him some breakfast instead:

“All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.” (1 Kings 19:5-6)

I wonder what the modern day equivalent of making someone breakfast is….

One of the hardest things about our current situation is the helplessness that most of us feel. We cannot comfort those that need to be comforted – or at least not in the ways that we would want to; we cannot be with those that we love; we cannot hold people’s hands and sit together quietly on the sofa and say nothing at all . But the simplicity of Jesus’ action with his friends has got me thinking about what we can do.

This week, I have been feeling a little glum and praying for encouragement and it has come in three beautifully simple ways. One Monday, a friend dropped round cake, chocolate and wine; on Wednesday a friend sent the loveliest and kindest text message; and then this morning we received two storybooks in the post for our girls from Sarah’s godmother.

I’m sure that none of those doing these acts thought that they were particularly special or that they would make much of a difference, but the impact on my week has been profound. And it has encouraged me to think more creatively about what it means to support others during this pandemic. Perhaps we cannot meet the deepest needs of our friends, but Jesus didn’t start with that either. He started with something simple: he cooked them breakfast.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

See my hands


Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, is not there, in that locked room, when Jesus first appears to his friends again after his resurrection. We don’t know why. Was Thomas too dejected and hurting even to bear the company of his friends? Was he so disillusioned by watching Jesus’ crucifixion that he’d given up keeping company with a group now united by nothing save a disgraced and dead leader? We don’t know. But he is not there and so he misses the awe-ful encounter with the risen Jesus.

He’s told about it, of course, but he simply cannot believe it to be true: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

Thomas wants evidence. He wants proof. But, interestingly, what he wants proof of, in some sense, is not only Jesus’ resurrection, but his suffering. Thomas does not simply want a risen Saviour; he wants a risen Saviour who still bears the marks of his sacrifice. He wants to know that this man who the others claim to be Jesus really is Jesus. And the only way he can really be Jesus is if he really did die. If he really was beaten and whipped and humiliated, if he really did have a soldier’s spear pierced through his side (John 19:34). If he really was nailed to a cross.

When Jesus does appear to Thomas a week later (20:26), he goes straight over to his friend and offers him his wounds: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and out it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (20:27)



It is strange, really, that Jesus should have scars. It is strange and it is also a deliberate choice. God could, of course, have given Jesus a perfected resurrection body that was wound-free. Instead, although this is a perfected resurrection body, the wounds it bears are not seen to be in conflict with its perfection or its beauty. In some sense, Jesus’ woundedness is part of his glory; it is necessary to it.

In Revelation, when John – the same John writing this account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance – sees a vision of Jesus in heaven with God, the Father, he is described as “a Lamb, looking as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). This slain lamb is now the centrepiece of heaven, the one who every creature bows down before. The risen, ascended King of Kings looks like a murdered lamb. Even in heaven, Jesus bears the marks of his brutal slaughter.

At a time like this one, when we are surrounded by pain and suffering and death; a time when our hearts are grieved and hurting, when we mourn the loss of friends and family, I do not think I could worship a God who was not wounded. I could not worship a God who did not understand pain and suffering, who had not entered into everything it means to be human, even the awful bits, the uncomfortable bits, the very worst moments felt by the human heart, and endured by the human body.

In her astonishing book, “The Crucifixion”, Fleming Rutledge asks the question of why Jesus was crucified. Not only the question of why did Jesus die, but why that death, why crucifixion. Her book is beautiful and dense and complex and she does not offer an easy or simple answer to that question, because it is a question that has many answers. But, in one particular chapter, she talks about the godlessness of the cross, the scandal of it, the sheer unthinkable-ness of a God who allows himself to be murdered and shamed and strung up on a cross. She says this:

“This was the destiny chosen by the Creator and Lord of the universe: the death of a nobody.
               He was despised and rejected by men…
               As one from whom men hide their faces
               He was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
Thus the Son of God entered into solidarity with the lowest and least of all creation, the nameless and forgotten.” (The Crucifixion, p.92)

I cannot really get my head around this. But as I read the news, as I hear stories of people dying all alone cut off from loved ones, of nurses being forced to work in intolerable and frightening conditions, of care homes being decimated by covid19, I find comfort in the wounds of Jesus. Wounds that he will have for all eternity, wounds that mark not only what he bore for us, but his solidarity with us.

Jesus is a “man of suffering, familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). He knows pain, he endured it, and he will forever bear the marks of what it did to him.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Again Jesus said

I have been suffering with the post Easter blues.

I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a thing. Certainly, as a Christian, it feels rather strange to admit to be struggling after the celebration of the resurrection. But this week has been difficult.

Lock-down continues. The death-toll in our country rises. We live in a state of uncertainty and, for many of us, anxiety. And Easter hasn't changed that. Not in the surface of things anyway.
It is difficult to hold on to resurrection hope in the midst of a pandemic.

Since Sunday, I have been reading the end of John's gospel where John recounts the ways in which the risen Jesus appears to his friends. It is quite beautiful:

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:19-22)

There is something so incredibly human about this account. One of the things I love about the Bible is that it's too real and too strange to make up. If you were writing an account of the Saviour of the world you probably wouldn't choose to do it like John did. You'd make the disciples braver, bolder, quicker to believe. You'd leave out the confusing bits. The weird bits. The disappointing bits where God's people do things that are shocking and awful and bizarre.

But here we have the disciples - who have already been told by Mary that Jesus is alive - and they are hiding. They, too, are suffering from post Easter blues. James and John, nick-named the Sons of Thunder, are hiding. They have been stripped of confidence, of bravado, of faith. And they are afraid. They are waiting for their own arrests, their own crucifixions. Cowering in a locked room. 

In it is into this place of fear and self imposed lock-down, that Jesus enters. He doesn't berate them for not believing. He doesn't tell them off for their lack of faith. He doesn't criticise their failure to grasp hold of the truth of the resurrection. He simply says, "Peace be with you." (20:19) 

I cannot imagine words more needed to those broken men. And I cannot imagine words more needed to us at this moment.

Peace be with you. 

And then, beautifully, wonderfully, Jesus says it again, "Peace be with you." 

My soul needs to hear that twice today. My soul needs to hear the risen Jesus speak peace. 

And then, perhaps more beautifully, Jesus does the strangest thing: he breathes on them. At least it's strange until you think about who Jesus is, about whose breath is being breathed. This is the Creator King of the universe breathing life - resurrection life - once more. (Genesis 2:7) Filling the disciples' tired hearts and souls with life. He breathes himself, his Spirit, his life, into them.

There is such comfort in this account. Such honesty. Jesus knows what the disciples most need in that moment. He knows what it is that we need today too : a reassurance of his peace, and the imparting of his life. And both of these can happen through our locked doors. 

sea kettle diaries: Pentecost

Friday, 3 April 2020

Sabbath


I am really tired, although I am nowhere near as tired as many members of my community. I have thought often of keyworkers today. I have thought of NHS staff working all hours. I have thought of single parents desperate for a break and with none in sight.  

This has been an exhausting week as I'm sure it has for almost everyone else on the planet.

And it has made me think about Sabbath.

In our family, we try to Sabbath together on a Saturday. In the Christian faith, most people tend to view Sunday as the Sabbath because that is the day for gathering together as a church family. However, for our family, one of us is usually involved in running some component of a church service on a Sunday so it isn't a particularly restful day.

When Hamish and I first got married, we were heavily involved in all kinds of youth and community work on the estate where we lived, but we were really bad at boundaries. Almost every evening and weekend, we were involved in doing something. They were usually pretty good things too, but our calendars were full to bursting and by the time our first anniversary came around we were close to burn out.

I don't ever want to get into that place again but, at points this week, I have felt close to it. I'm worried about lots of different people and situations. I am trying to creatively and energetically look after my two children. I'm using technology as much as I possibly can to contact with all the people that I miss terribly.

I am shattered.

But tomorrow is Sabbath. In traditional Jewish culture, Sabbath is a day set aside exclusively for rest and worship. Sometimes people can be quite mocking about the restrictions placed on what Jews can and cannot do on their Sabbath. Can you turn on a light switch? Are you allowed to put your oven on? Does tying your shoelaces count as work? But this kind of questioning totally misses the point, and Jesus rebukes the pharisees for doing just that: missing the point. (Mark 2:27)

God designed Sabbath to help us out. That's what Jesus says - The Sabbath was made for us, we weren't made for the Sabbath. It was made for us to bless us and sustain us. It is not meant to be a burden. It is not meant to be complicated. It is an opportunity once a week to stop. To spend time with family. To spend time with God. To rest a while and take stock.

Our culture is terrible at Sabbath. We do not place a high value on rest. Many of us do not know how to rest. We do not even know what we need to do to feel rested and so, often, resort to Netflix and Facebook to distract and numb us, rather than seek out the things that give us life.

I am trying to get better at taking Sabbath seriously. It's difficult at the moment. The things that we would normally do on a Saturday to rest as a family are impossible. Usually, we go out together in the morning on some kind of adventure. The beach, the river, the woods. Somewhere in a wide open space that will restore our souls. There is none of that at the moment.

And then Hamish and I work hard to give each other some child free time. We try to ensure that both of us get to do something we really love on our Sabbath that will replenish our souls and give us life. For me this usually looks like some form of exercise followed by a really good coffee and an hour with my nose in a book. For Hamish it is probably taking the time to fix something or listen to a podcast or do some kind of coding on the computer.

All of this has become harder since lockdown. We are all more hard pressed. We all feel more claustrohphobic. The gym is closed. Costa is closed. We can only leave the house once a day to exercise and so that probably means doing so with our girls rather than without them.

But, in this context, I would argue that Sabbath is more important than ever. All of our souls feel a little sick and tired at the moment. All of us need to figure out what a pattern of rest looks like in this strange strange season.

We are still working on that, but here's what I've learned so far.

1. Sabbath means a change of routine. Part of the reason why we try to get dressed each day during the week (even if none of us are leaving the house), and follow some kind of routine, is so that we can enjoy lazing in our pyjamas on a Saturday and it feels like a treat.

2. We need to plan our Sabbath to make it work. We have two small children. Rest is never going to be an automatic thing in our house. We all need to work together to make it happen. We try to plan our Sabbath together so the girls look forward to it too, so that family time is special and set apart. Tomorrow afternoon we are watching Frozen 2 and ordering pizza. Maybe not my first choice (!) but something that Sarah and Lucy will love, and that will help Hamish and I to rest because the girls will be happy!

4. Sabbath means no work. That probably sounds pretty obvious, but it's actually sometimes quite hard to follow through on. Hamish needs to be quite disciplined not to check his work emails, and I have to steer clear of Facebook posts relating to the Sunday service. And part of that discipline is remembering that there is a God and he is not me. There will always be things that need to be done. There will always be crises on the horizon. But it is not actually my job to fix situations or people. That is God's job. That is his responsibility. 
On a practical note, on a Saturday I try to not do any house work. This is almost impossible (our house would be an absolute bombsite by 9am if no one did any tidying!) but I try and do an extra load of washing on a Friday (it's sunny so I've done two today) and either order food in or use something up from the freezer so that no one has to cook. Even just those two small things mean that my head is freed up from having to think about the day to day or running a household.

3. Sabbath means reducing my time with technology. Again, this is doubly important at the moment: in the midst of corona-crisis, technology is not always our friend. Zoom, Whatsapp, Facebook, Facetime... they are all wonderful ways to stay in touch with the loved ones that we miss so much, but they can also be completely consuming. I am finding it impossible to reply to every message. I could spend all day every day searching for the perfect craft activity for my children or reading the news or checking people's Facebook statuses. But I just don't think it's helpful. Part of Sabbath is being present. It is committing to our actual reality, rather than trying to escape from it, even if we don't like it very much. Tomorrow, I need to be present with God. I need to be present with my children and my husband. I can't do that if notifications are pinging in my ear every five minutes. And so that's why, on a Saturday, often, but not always, I do a day phone-free. It is utterly liberating. And mildly terrifying because you realise how addicted you actually are to your phone.

Finally, I recognise that for some of us in these unsettling times, Sabbath is almost an impossibility. For those I mentioned at the start of this post: keyworkers, NHS staff, single parents. But, it is worth fighting for. It is worth slowing down if we can. It is worth doing whatever is necessary to attend to our soul's need for rest and time with God. And I would urge those of us with more time and energy to think about the practical ways that we might enable someone else's Sabbath to happen. What do we need to do to make sure other's can rest? Think twice about phoning someone to complain. Offer to get your neighbour's groceries. Don't book a click and collect slot unless you really need it and let someone who's just done a night shift pick up their shopping on the way home instead...

Rest is really really important. It is part of God's good design for humanity. He commands it. So let's strive this week to put patterns in place that mean that we, and others, can Sabbath, can recover, can recharge and unburden weary our souls. 













Thursday, 2 April 2020

A beautiful thing for me

This morning, the birds are singing in the darkness before dawn. It is the most beautiful sound. Shrill, sweet, slightly unnerving. I didn’t notice it at first, too sleepy and preoccupied with thoughts of what today will hold, but once my ears settled on it, I have found it hard to ignore.

This moment feels special, secretive. No one else in my house is awake yet.

Jesus knew the beauty of early morning. So often in scripture, there are these moments where he sneaks off to be with God, his Father. Where he climbs a mountainside to pray, where he heads off away from the crowds, where he leaves everything else behind simply to be with his Dad.

I wonder how that made God feel? I wonder how God, the Father, was cheered and delighted by time spent with his Son? By his Jesus’ determination to seek him out even when life was overwhelming and there were many other things that could distract him.

It is easy to think that prayer is simply about asking, that spending time with God is only for our own benefit, that it is something that we need. But what if it is something that God longs for too? When Sarah is finding it difficult to pray and she asks me to pray for her instead, I always say to her, gently, but God loves the sound of your voice. God is waiting to hear from you. Not to force her to pray, but to remind her that God is “especially fond” (to use an expression from “The Shack”) of her. It is a delight to him to be with her (Zephaniah 3:17) and her small, faltering prayers mean the world to him.

The last story before Palm Sunday, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, in John’s gospel is about Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. It is six days before Passover. One week before the cross. Jesus’ heart must have been overwhelmed with sorrow, full of all that was to come. And Mary, whilst her family and the disciples are dining with Jesus, takes an expensive jar of perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet. She wipes his feet with her hair. And it says, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)


The others are indignant. Judas Iscariot – the one who will shortly betray Jesus – is particularly outraged, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” What a waste. What a pointless act. Doesn’t Mary have better things to do with her money, better things to do with her time? Mary is rebuked here in the same way that she was rebuked by her sister weeks earlier (Luke 10:38-42): for sitting at Jesus’ feet and doing very little when there is much that needs to be done.

But Jesus’ response is so beautiful: “Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” (12:7) In Matthew’s gospel, he goes further still and says, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me.” (Matthew 26:7) I cannot imagine the awe and hush of this moment. Jesus, thinking of what is to come in a few short days, saying quietly that he is thankful. That he appreciates this gesture. That it is beautiful and meaningful to him because Mary has thought about what he needs. Mary has stopped for a moment in the midst of the whirlwind of events (her brother being raised from the dead just a few days before). She has paused and looked to Jesus and showed him such extravagant love and care that it has made her look foolish. And Jesus is grateful. He is blessed by her act.

What a mind-blowing thought: that we can bless God. That the decision to worship, to take time, to stop for a moment and pray, to meet Jesus in the early morning with a coffee and listen to the birdsong together is a blessing to his heart. It may, in fact, be more important than anything else we can do that day. It may mean more to him than anything else we manage to achieve.

I pray that we are able to stop long enough today to remember the altogether loveliness of Jesus. To remember that he wanted us to be with us so much that he went to the cross. God could have given up on humanity; He could have walked away from the pain and the mess and the brokenness that sin has ravaged upon us and upon our world, but instead he went to Calvary to win us back, to show us the unfathomable depths of his great love for us. He gave up everything just to be with us again.

Mary knew something of this. She knew the indescribable worth of time spent with Jesus. Not only to her, but to Him.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Zacchaeus

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ last encounter with someone before Palm Sunday is with Zacchaeus. It is exactly the kind of provocative encounter that will lead Jesus to the cross in a few days time.

In Sarah’s children’s bible, the story about Zacchaeus is subtitled “The man who didn’t have any friends (none).” Zacchaeus was a tax-collector. He worked for the oppressive Roman government collecting taxes from the Jewish people. Moreover, he took more taxes than he was supposed to do and kept the money to make himself rich. I am not sure what the modern day equivalent is, especially in the midst of a pandemic: the young lad who stock-piles toilet roll and hand wash and then sells it door to door on an estate where many elderly folk live charging four times the price? The rich pub owner who refuses to pay his staff properly during lockdown despite his own massive profit?

You get the picture. Zacchaeus was hated by his own people. So when Jesus comes to town and Zacchaeus wants to catch a glimpse of him, it’s little wonder that he doesn’t try to push through the crowds. No one is going to give him a leg up. No one is going to make space. Shoulders will be pressed together more tightly. Faces will be turned away.

And so Zacchaeus decides to climb a tree ahead of the crowds. That way he will be able to see Jesus, but no one will be able to see him.

But Jesus does see him. Jesus waits until the moment when he is directly underneath hi and then looks up and calls him by his name, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today,”

You can imagine the outrage from the crowd. Does Jesus not know who this person is? Does Jesus not understand the ways in which Zacchaeus has betrayed the Jewish nation and stolen from his own people?

Of course, Jesus does know these things. If he knows Zacchaeus’ name, and his exact location hiding in the tree, he also knows who he is and what he has done. And it is not that those things don’t matter to Jesus. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t care that Zacchaeus has down some really bad things, and hurt people in really serious ways. Jesus isn’t about to offer him a congratulatory clap on the back. But he is able to see something in Zacchaeus that furious crowd is not able to see. Jesus sees that Zacchaeus too is “a son of Abraham”. However ugly Zacchaeus’ life has become, he is still God’s creation, still God’s child. And so he invites himself for tea.

And in doing so, he ushers in transformation. In treating Zacchaeus with love and dignity (even if we do not think he deserves it), Jesus bring about a radical change in Zacchaeus’ heart and behaviour. Zacchaeus gives up his wealth. He makes restitution for those he has scammed. He demonstrates extravagant generosity in place of his selfish money-making ways.

In our society today, we are seeing some pretty atrocious behaviour. Youths spitting at elderly men and women. Abuse of NHS staff. Selfishness in stockpiling whilst others go from shop to shop desperately searching for baby milk and nappies. Rich business tycoons hoarding their own wealth whilst their employees are thrown into dependence on benefits and food banks. 


But Jesus withholds judgement. He opts instead for love. It is uncomfortable for us to even think about it – to think that some of these men and women should be loved, or that they could change, but that is the uncomfortable message of Zacchaeus today. That change is possible. Jesus is indiscriminate in the way that he loves. He is a God of justice, and he promises that all will be held to account for their actions, but he also promises that he has come to seek and save the lost. He has come exactly for those that we deem unworthy of his love and forgiveness. He has come to bring salvation to unexpected houses, to restore unexpected people to his family. 

Which probably means that I should pray for Boris Johnson instead of badmouthing him. It probably means I should talk to the youths hanging around outside the shops instead of berating them for their unthinking behaviour. It probably means I shouldn't have got so cross at the dog-walker who tutted at me and my kids. It probably means I should seek to understand the fear, anxiety, peer-pressure and misinformation behind people's actions before judging them for those actions. Knowing that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. All the lost. Not just the ones I like and happen to agree with. But all the lost, and that includes Zacchaeus. And it includes me.