Nov 28 2012

Transforming Me: Telling a better story

Original post at http://dlollis.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/telling-a-better-story/

Do you love a good story?

I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes and I’m really enjoy the BBC produced version of Sherlock Holmes set in modern times.  And Benedict Cumberbatch does an amazing  job of playing this arrogant and brilliant version of the famed detective.

In one scene, Sherlock is called on to give expert testimony in a case against his arch nemesis, James Moriarty.  The defense attorney asks for Sherlock’s credentials and the Sherlock responds by quickly giving a reading of every member of the jury based solely on his observations.

The room is stunned with his accuracy.

I’m not Sherlock Holmes, but I’ll admit that I’ve sometimes tried to play this game with other people.

I can look at how they dress and make some judgments about them. I can look at how they keep themselves, their level of cleanliness and I can make some judgments about them.

I can look at where they went to school or what kind of car they drive.  Or I can listen to the way they talk.

And I can make some snap judgments.  Sometimes, I might even be right. But sometimes, I’m dead wrong.

Have you ever misjudged someone? You thought you had them pegged and then you found out that you weren’t even in the same ballpark?

Or better yet, has someone ever gotten it wrong with you?

They’ve given you a look and in that brief look, they’ve decided something about you.  Maybe they’ve written you off? Underestimated you?

There’s a phrase for this.  See if you can help me fill this one in.

“Don’t judge a book by ___  ______.”

Yes, that’s right — its cover!

It’s a way of saying, don’t make your judgment simply on surface appearance.  It sounds good to say it, but, if we’re all honest, there are times that we do exactly that!

So if that’s how we can see others, then here’s the big question, “Can we have a better story?”

How can our fear lead us to make snap judgments about others, to see them only from the surface?  How can we go deeper, to see a new story, a better story and live a FEARLESS life?

To find the answer to those questions, we’re going to turn to a passage that is so famous it has its own song.

Maybe at some point in your life you’ve heard, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.”  So maybe you already know something about this passage we’re about to read, but I’m going to invite you to do something today.

For this time together, I want you to take what you know or have heard about this passage and set it aside.  I invite you today to listen to this account of Zacchaeus with new ears!

To find out more, we turn to Luke 19:1-10.  Just to set the scene for you, this passage comes near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Jesus and the apostles have already made the turn in the journey toward Jerusalem and ultimately to the cross.  Now, they are on their way there.

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. 

Jesus is passing through Jericho because it’s on the way to Jerusalem.

2 A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. 

Zacchaeus is going to be a high ranking person in Jericho. He’s a chief tax collector, so he’s not only making money by collecting taxes from people.  He’s also getting money from those tax collectors who work under him. People in Jericho would have known his name and most would have not had a positive view of him or his work.

So we have Jesus on the way through Jericho and a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus and it seems their lives are about to intersect.

3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. 

Zacchaeus has a problem.  Not only do the people in Jericho look down on him for what he does.  But he’s also physically short too.  But he sees a way to solve his problem — he knows how he will see Jesus.

4 So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” 6 So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.

So far, this has been a pretty eventful day for Zacchaeus.  He’s tried to see Jesus. He couldn’t see him for the crowd.  So, he climbed a tree.  And Jesus sees him. Not only does Jesus see him, but Jesus invites himself over to stay at Zacchaeus’ house.  What a busy day.  But, unfortunately, not everyone is happy with what is happening in Zacchaeus’ day. There are those other people in Jericho who have been lining the street to see Jesus.

7 Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

So everyone already has that one judged right?  Zacchaeus is a sinner and Jesus is going to the party at his house.  Of all the people in Jericho, couldn’t Jesus have picked a better person?  Maybe this is the point when Zacchaeus has enough and he decides to say something. He’s been judged time and time again and now, when he has the chance to meet Jesus, the murmuring begins again.

8 Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”

Notice exactly what he says in this statement.  He does not say, “I will give” or “I plan to give.”  He says, “I give” and “I repay.”  It’s as if that is already a part of his very life and his very being.  He even goes beyond the law when it comes to repaying if someone feels cheated.

9 Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. 10  The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

Then Jesus speaks and declares on this day that salvation has come to the house of Zaccaheus and maybe there’s a little something in this for all of those who have judged Zaccaheus as a sinner.  Jesus declares that he too is a son of Abraham — he’s a part of God’s covenant.

Today we’re finishing up this series called FEARLESS and we’re back at the same place that we’ve been every week.  Once again, it’s a matter of perspective.

David shows us that God is bigger than the giants we face. Samuel shows us that God calls the least expected to do the least expected. Moses shows us the God who flips our “Why me?” into a “Why not?” Last week, Peter showed us God corrects our vision with a bigger mission.

Then we come to this week.  How do we take a passage such as this and sum it up?

If in fear, we take a look at others and judge their books by the cover, then Jesus has an answer.

Jesus helps us to write a better story.

There are two stories that are being written in this passage we just read from Zacchaeus.

On one hand, there’s a story of fear.  It’s a story that sees Zacchaeus as nothing more than the chief tax collector.  It’s a story that sees this tax collector as nothing more than a despised member of society.  It’s a story that is offended that Jesus would not only speak to Zacchaeus but would invite himself to this sinner’s house.

In fact, I think that if some of those folks from Jericho were here today, they would be highly offended that the one name that we know from all of the people who lived in Jericho is the chief tax collector.

But that’s not the only story that’s being written in Jericho.  There’s another story.  It’s a story that sees Zacchaeus as a man on a mission, a man who is lost, a man who is seeking to get just a glimpse of Jesus.  It’s a story that sees Zacchaeus as a child of God.  It’s a story that moves beyond the surface and goes to the heart.  It’s the story that Jesus is writing.’

Jesus helps Zacchaeus to write a better story.

There are two stories that can be written about your life too.  On one hand, you can be a victim of judging a book by its cover. In fear, you can see the giants you face as being bigger than your God.  In fear, you can live down to the expectations that the world has thrown at your life.  In fear, you can ask, “Why me?,” and “Am I Good Enough?”

And when we do, we can settle for a unfulfilling and weak story.

But something happens when Jesus shows up, when we actively go to great lengths to get closer to him.  Jesus transforms our story from the heart out.  We realize that Jesus stands with us when we face our fears.  We know that Jesus gives us a new and higher set of expectations.  We know that when Jesus is helping us to write that story we can turn our “Why mes?” in to “Why nots?”

And when Jesus stands beside us, we can see the bigger vision of what is going on in this world.

There are two stories that you can write in your life?

Do you want to settle for one rooted in fear, one that ends at the cover, one that doesn’t go anywhere?

Or do you want a new story, a better story, an amazing story, a life-changing story, a story that does not end, a story that brings love and mercy and hope and life?

Jesus helps us write a better story and he’s ready to help you write the next chapter of yours.

Are you ready to live out the next chapter of a FEARLESS life?

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