The Specificity of Zacchaeus

Luke 19:1-10 – The 24th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, October 30, 2016

“When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.’” (Luke 19:5)

zacchaeusI live in Fresno, California’s fifth most populous city. It’s closer to more National Parks than any other major city in the United States.

Even though my legal name is Lawrence, Larry is preferred. If called Lawrence, a bit of me cringes with childish guilt. When in trouble as a kid—say, for “hypothetically” cleaning my room by shoving toys, books, and other childhood paraphernalia under the bed—my parents shouted, “Lawrence George Patten, come here!”

Speaking of names, it’s PattEn rather than PattOn. I call it the “Curse of the General,” since the World War II officer has more name recognition (and more Oscar-winning films) than anyone on the “E” side of the genealogy. Continue reading →

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Do Something Religious

Luke 18:9-14 – The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, October 23, 2016

“Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust . . .” (Luke 18:9)

balloonsSome folks were on a hot air balloon ride, touring the countryside while suspended in a large wicker basket.

Cars appeared to be toys, humans looked like tiny figures in a video game. Hundreds of feet above the ground, they ooohhed and ahhhhed while the balloon climbed into the blue. Introductions were done informally and one of the passengers happened to be a minister.

Unfortunately the young lad piloting the balloon didn’t inspire confidence in the paying customers. He seemed a lackadaisical surfer dude with nothing better to do with his time. The waves weren’t any good today, might as well take the balloon up.

Problems started . . . perhaps a faulty burner or unexpected gust of wind. The balloon lost elevation. The pilot panicked. He had no idea what to do, but—whew—everything returned to normal in seconds. However, the group remained anxious and agitated.

A passenger implored the minister, “Do something religious!” Continue reading →

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Am I My Bother’s Keeper?

Luke 18:1-8 – The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, October 16, 2016

“ . . . I don’t fear God or respect people, but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me . . .” (Luke 18:4-5)

checkWhen reading Jesus’ parables from two millennia ago, I’m thankful for how they challenge me to live here and now.

I want to be like that woman who loses that coin, finds it, and rejoices. Help me rejoice with others, O God!

I want to be like that father racing, barelegged and knock-kneed, down the road to greet his younger son. Help me welcome and forgive others, O God!

I want to be like that Samaritan, gazing over the edge of the road and beyond the edge of prejudice, to see a fellow traveler. O God, help me provide support to all!

I want to be like that widow (Luke 18:1-8) who keeps coming back, and back again, to receive justice from a corrupt judge. O God, help me have the strength to bother others!

Help me: rejoice, forgive, support, and bother. Bother! Bother? Including bother with those other faithful verbs seems like those test questions where students must identify the word that didn’t belong. For example, which word below doesn’t fit with the others?

  • Square
  • Orange
  • Circle
  • Triangle

Continue reading →

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