An Open Door Policy

Third in a series on “The Kingdom of God.”
Delivered August 10, 2003 by Rev. Laura Crihfield.

Sermon Text:
Luke 19:1-10

Good morning! Here I am! I’m glad to be here this morning, to be able to share with you, and I would invite you as we open up, to open your Bible to Luke, Chapter 19. I will be reading beginning in verse 1 and going through verse 10. What a privilege it is to spend that time in worship, isn’t it? To almost uninterrupted, just continued through worship song after worship song, and offer our praise up to God. And now, as we turn to his Word I invite you to follow along as I read from Luke, Chapter 19, beginning at verse 1. Will you pray with me?

Holy God, we do thank you for this time in your Word, and we ask that as we open it that you would open our hearts and our minds. God, I pray that my words will be your words, that those who age listening would hear past my voice to the very heart of God, to your heart oh God. May Jesus Christ be glorified and honored in all we do, and all we say in these next few minutes. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He waned to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter. “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to see and to save what was lost.”

Imagine the scene from Zacchaeus’ perspective. You’ve go to put yourself in Zacchaeus’ shoes for a minute. There you are living in Jericho, minding your own business which happens to be tax collecting, and to say the least you aren’t exactly popular with your neighbors, having cheated them over the years out of large sums of money and having become very wealthy at their expense. You are just not a popular guy. So there you are, one of the most influential and disliked people in your community and you hear that this guy named Jesus is coming to town. You aren’t exactly sure what you believe about what you have heard, around town , kind of a buzz around town, but you are curious, very curious and you want to know more. Could this man really be who people say he is? Could he actually be the Son of God? You want to know more. So, you join the crowd, and try to get a look at him, but there is a problem with that, because you are quite short (those of us who are tall have to try and imagine that, that’s a hard thing, being tall, I can’t -you kind of have to do this (bends), and you try to see above the crowd, but you can’t because there is a huge crowd ,and they are certainly not going to make room for you, right? You are not liked among the people so they are not going to clear a way so you can see this man who they say is a Son of God. There is no way. Well, there is no problem with that Because you are an industrious guy. So, you simply run ahead of the crowd, and you climb up a tree, where you know Jesus is going to be walking by in just a few minutes. You perch yourself up there and you are ready to see this guy Jesus, but you are going to see him from a distance, right? But, you are going to see him nonetheless. So there you sit and to your surprise as Jesus approaches, (you’ve got to imagine being Zacchaeus, you just want to know a little bit more.) And here this guy walks by and he stops right by the tree and he looks at you and he says, “Zacchaeus get down out of the tree, I want to go to your house tonight.” Fear and terror, right? For any of you who have ever hosted anybody- What are you going to feed this guy, what’s he going to talk about, why does eh want to go to my house. But you gladly, because you are curious say o.k. And you come out of the tree and you go home to your house with Jesus and all the disciples.

And while Jesus is there, something happens to you. You hear his words, you spend time with him, you eat with him, and you find yourself believing what he is saying, and realizing that Jesus must be who he says he is. And soon you are making an announcement that in some ways you can’t even believe you are making. If I pledge to give half of what I own away (remember you are very wealthy), and I am going to repay everyone that I have cheated over the years, and anybody that I owe a debt to, I am going to pay them back four times what I owe them. You are waiting for Jesus’ response, and after you have made this announcement you are not quite sure what he is going to say, and as you are trying to take all this in, realizing that life suddenly is never going to be the same again, and you don’t quite know what it all means yet, but something is changing in you.

You hear Jesus makes a even bigger statement, a statement to the effect of saying , “I the Son of Man – that’s who he said he war, right? That’s what people have said he is. I the Son of Man have come to seek and save those like him (and who is he pointing to – you! I the Son of Man have come to save those like him who are lost. He is talking about me? How could he have come to save people like me? I don’t deserve it! I the Son of Man have come to seek and save those like Zacchaeus who are lost. That’s an incredible statement at the end of an incredible interaction between the Son of God and this man whom society labeled sinner Perhaps what’s most amazing about it when we really stop to think about it is, that very statement. The one statement by Jesus that sums up the heart of the Gospel. The entire heart of who Jesus said he was. Plain and simple. Who did Jesus come to save? The lost. Jesus came to save the lost. And he states it in very clear terms in Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus fit in that category didn’t he? He was lost. The disciples fit into that category, we fit into that category. Jesus came to save the lost.

And as we think through this passage in the midst of our focus on what it means to be people of the Kingdom of God, (we are focusing on that for a couple of weeks, right?) What it means to serve in the Kingdom of God, to be a part of the Kingdom of God, defining what the Kingdom is, just how broad and all encompassing the Kingdom of God is. I think we can look at this passage and think through three different issues going on. There are three different parts of this story that will give us some perspective on how we can respond to what God is doing in our role of the Kingdom of God, and the first is the initiative.

When we think about this passage, we most readily think about Jesus taking the initiative with Zacchaeus, right? It is kind of what we think about immediately. Jesus walks by, he calls his name-Zacchaeus, come out of the tree, I want to go to your house. And he goes to Zacchaeus’ and Zacchaeus is saved. That was obviously initiative on Jesus’ part. There is no getting around that. But, what I want to help us think through for a minute is the fact that Jesus is not the only one taking the initiative that day. Zacchaeus also took some initiative. Think for a minute about where Zacchaeus was. He wasn’t at home sitting in his living room, hopefully thinking about this idea that Jesus might come and just knock on his door. I think Jesus is going to come knock on my door today, and that is the way I will get some of my questions answered. That wasn’t what Zacchaeus was doing, right? He didn’t sit at home hopefully waiting. He didn’t have any hope of that. So what did he do? He went out, he took the initiative to go out to where Jesus was going to be. He climbed a tree so that he was sure he would be able to see Jesus. He didn’t have any idea what was going to happen. But he wanted to see this guy called Jesus, that everybody was calling Jesus. He took the initiative. I wonder what would have happened if Zacchaeus had stayed home = that day? Have you ever thought about that? What would have happened? Would Jesus have just continued on through Jericho like everybody thought he was going to? He kind of surprised people with this didn’t he? The scripture says he was passing through Jericho, and he stops at the home of Zacchaeus for the evening. Would Zacchaeus have been saved if he had not taken that initiative-if he had decided to stay home that day? We don’t know the answers to these questions and we will never know them. I guess some day we will know, but not for now, , but I think it is important for us to remember that for this relationship to take place when it did, where it did Zacchaeus had to take some initiative. Now, I want to be a little careful here and not suggest that in order for Jesus to reach out to us, we have to first reach out to him. Please don’t hear me saying that. That is not what I am suggesting.. We know that God always takes the first step, toward us. Scripture is very clear about that and we see that most clearly in Jesus coming to earth to be among us, to die for us, that is the ultimate first step. But what I think is important to remember also is thinking abbot that is that God doesn’t push his way into our lives either. He takes the first step, but he is not a pushy God.

Revelation 3:20 quotes Jesus as saying, “Listen, I am standing at the door knocking ,and if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come into you and eat with you and you with me.” I love that image. Jesus is standing at the door knocking. And he is asking to be invited in. He is not breaking the lock. He is not pushing the door open. He is not insisting that we make room for him in our lives, And it is important I think for us to take that image and also remember Zacchaeus and keep in mind that as Zacchaeus took the initiative (essentially if we combine those two analogies, Zacchaeus opened the door didn’t he? He opened the door by taking the initiative in getting to a place where Jesus was going to be . And I think that we can remember and learn something about that initiative.

Well, almost immediately after we see that initiative taken by both Jesus and Zacchaeus, we see evidence of what I would say is the second point and that is the response. Logically, you’ve got an initiative; you’ve got a response to the initiative. It is the series of initiative and response that we see throughout this whole passage. Jesus takes a trip to Jericho (initiative). Zacchaeus seeks him out (some more initiative). Jesus calls to Zacchaeus to come down from the tree and be his host for the night. Zacchaeus responds and say okay, Jesus interacts with Zacchaeus throughout the course of the evening (more initiative). Zacchaeus ends up with a newfound faith (that’s the response, right? Jesus responds again with assurance of salvation. It’s that initiative and response. It is the core of what relationships with our family and friends are all about, I mean we all know that. and I believe it is the core of what our relationship with the Lord is all about. People initiating interaction, us responding, etc. back and forth. It’s important for us to remember that’s the core of what our relationship with God is all about as well. That balance between God’s initiative and our initiative. God’s response and our response,and it is a powerful, powerful combination. Mighty things get done when that combination is played out the way God has intended for it to be within the Kingdom of God. Powerful things happen.

Now, one final note on this idea of response. It is important for us to remember that Zacchaeus could have responded in an entirely different way, couldn’t he? He could have sat up in that tree and said, “Ha, I don’t think so, all I wanted to know was a little bit more. I didn’t think you were going to be coming to my house tonight. I’m not ready for you. What am I going to feed you? You know, no way this whole group of guys behind you. They are not coming with you. I mean his response could have been entirely different, and go find somebody else to host you for the night. But, Jesus tells us through what we see in the rest of this passage how important Zacchaeus’s response was to Jesus’ invitation and our response to Jesus is just as important. We too have a choice. The choice is right there in front of each one of us. We can accept the invitation that Jesus puts before us, a significant, meaningful relationship with Jesus, or we can choose to remain among the crowd,curious about this person called Jesus, kind of want to know a little bit more, but not really wanting that intimate relationship with Him that he desires with us and that He invites us into to really know Him. To invite Him into our lives so that he can tell us and share and love us and let us know who He is. We have the choice and the response that God loves most from us is the response that says come on in.
Back to Revelation, I will open the door for you and not only does God love that response, but that is clearly the response that leads to what our third point is which is the result that Zacchaeus experienced. Jesus makes very clear what the result is for Zacchaeus, and it is really clear when we look at verse 9, what Luke has to say. Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house because he too is the son of Abraham.” That had to have really kind of blown the minds of the people who thought that Zacchaeus was way to far out there to be able to be saved. Think about being the disciples sitting in that house. They had a little bit more understanding than some of the general public did, but they still were learning and here this guy that Jesus has chosen to be with for the evening who socially would never have chosen for Jesus to be with. He is looking at himself saying salvation has come to this house because he too is the son of Abraham, blowing open all of their understanding of what the Kingdom of God was and how wide and how big and all inclusive it is. And the thing that is really cool about this when we stop to think about it is when we look at Zacchaeus’s response. It wasn’t just that he was saved, he was totally restored. And we can see that in his reaction, right? What does he say? I mean, we see it almost instantly. He looks at Jesus and he says, “I am going give away half of what I owe. I am going to pay back four times what I owe to the people that I owe.” Not the heart of a man who still is thinking about making money and wealth, and putting first what he has always put first in his life. This is a transformed person, granted at the beginning stages of this, but life is different and life is going to be different from that point on, and Zacchaeus knows it. What a joy it is to see that.

When I think about this passage and I was thinking about it this week I was reflecting on this initiative and response concept a lot and how this balance about our interaction with God was immediately reminded of my youth pastor whose name is Steve Marsh. He was my youth pastor in 8th, 9th and 10th grades, and he is now my mentor in ministry. He is now serving up in Erie, Pennsylvania and he is a good friend to our family and just a dear man, and what came to mind as I was thinking about this oddly enough was his office at my home church. My parents are here from southern California and this is their church that I am talking about the church that I grew up in. Being a southern California church all the corridors are outside, you know, it’s all open air. So, his office was right in between where we gathered for our youth meetings and the stairs that led up to the sanctuary. So you could not go to one or the other without passing by his office. And what I remember about his office is that most of the time his door was open, and usually if his door was open that meant he had made it clear to us in the youth group that he was open for business. You could go in and chat with him if you needed to talk with him about something, if something was bothering you, if life was hard, whatever, you could go in. He had an open door policy and that was great and I took him up on that a lot. You know I would be walking by and see that his door was open, and even if it wasn’t physically open we all knew that figuratively speaking it was open and so I would take the initiative, and I would go in and we would have conversations and I would share with him what was going on, and he would pray for me and ministry happened. But something else that I was thinking about as I was thinking through that, was those times when I didn’t know that I needed to talk. Those times when he sensed it either in our youth group or during worship or whatever was going on or whatever I was doing at the church and he would pop his head out the door and say, “Hey Laura, come in here for a minute.” And I would go in and he would say, “How are you?” I would say, “I’m fine.” Right, like we all do. Then he would say, “No, you’re not.” And then before I knew it tears are just pouring down my face, and I’m talking about whatever it is that is going on and I’m you know, he is praying for me and I’m sharing, you know, the things that are going on in my life. All the while I thought I was fine. We’ve all had those experiences, right? He took the initiative .The balance between me taking the initiative and knocking on his door, and him taking the initiative and popping his head out the door and saying “How are you “led to a significant relationship, significant ministry, twenty years later he officiated at our wedding and is just a dear, dear friend. A significant relationship because of that initiative and response that took place. Friends,the truth of the gospel is that God has an open door policy with you and me that makes even the most loving pastor’s open door policy seem completely inadequate. God has an open door policy with us all the time. For us to respond to the initiative that He has given to us and show to us is to say, I want that relationship. The best and the worst of us, those who follow the law and those who break the law, those who love with all their hearts and those who really struggle with what it means to love, those who faithfully try to live according to God’s will and further His kingdom and those who don’t know what it means to do that. Those like Zacchaeus, those like you and me. Notice I didn’t say and those like you and me, because I think we are very much like Zacchaeus. God’s door is open for us and as I think about my life, I think about, you know if you are reflecting on your life, I think what a blessing it is to know that no matter what I may be feeling or what I may be experiencing, no matter what’s going on in my life at any given moment God is waiting for me to respond. God is there; God is not fluctuating in his willingness to talk to me or his willingness to interact with me. God has taken the initiative and He is inviting my response. What a blessing it is to know that no matter what’s going on in my life the word that Jesus is quoted in saying in Revelation are for you and for me and you can imagine this day that those words were written just for you. Jesus is “Listen, (put your name in there) I am standing at the door knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come into you and eat with you and you with me.” He is talking to everyone one of us. And perhaps he is asking to be invited in for the first time. Maybe that is something that you are wrestling with. Or maybe you have invited him in before and it has been a while since you have had him back. Or perhaps he is very much a part of your life, and he is asking to be invited into that area of your life that you’ve resisted. You know, you’ve said okay, you can have this and this and this, all theses areas, but this little corner, this rooms is mine. And Jesus is knocking on that door, saying I want into that room. Wherever you are, know that God’s door is open to you and that he is asking you to open the door to Him. And know that you are always welcome to enter into that significant relationship with him, and I would invite you to go for it. Invite him in. Take the initiative and know that as you do, as you go deeper with God regardless of where you are now (we can always go deeper, right?)God’s response is always the same. And it’s a response of love and relationship and commitment to you, whom he loves more than anything.

And I think in response to that all I can find myself saying is Praise God for his open door policy. Praise God for his approach to us that says any where, any time, any place, I’m yours. You’ve got my full and undivided attention. May we be people who open the door of our lives, both individually and as we think about our lives together as a congregation as we anticipate John and Debby arriving, and the transitions that will be happening here. May we be people as a congregation and individually who open the door of our lives to all that God wants to do as we seek to faithfully be this corner of the kingdom of God. In this place at Stevenson and York, and everywhere that we spread out through the course of the week. That’s a lot of different places in this city. May we be people who faithfully live as people responding to God’s faithfulness to us.

Let’s pray. Holy and loving God, you are so faithful to us and we thank you for that. God, sometimes we feel like Zacchaeus up in that tree and you are calling us to come down and sometimes we are hesitant God. But we know that as we do that you are faithful to interact with us and to love us and to share with us and to encourage us and to declare to us that salvation is ours because of what you have done for us on the cross. So God, we ask that you would give us he courage like Zacchaeus to come down out of that tree, to interact with you in a way that will change our lives forever. Thank you for your love and your presence. Hear us now as we continue to worship. In the name of Jesus, Amen.