Morning Worship: ‘Making a living is not the same as making a life’

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he … ’ ” the Rev. Barbara K. Lundblad sang as she began Friday’s 9:15 a.m. morning worship service. The congregation joined in and afterward she said, “I did not realize so many of you went to Sunday School. I think we liked that song as children because we were short, too.”

Lundblad’s sermon title was “Happiness Gets Down” and her text was Luke 19:1-10.

Zaccheaus probably did not think much about being short in stature, she said, because people generally were shorter back then. He probably thought more about being chief tax collector, a job he might have inherited — at that time, she said, there were no job fairs in high school.

But Zacchaeus’ position also meant that he had to collaborate with the Roman authorities and oppress his Jewish brothers and sisters.

“He probably thought, ‘Well, someone has to do it,’ ” she said. “And he was rich. It was not much of a [consolation], but it was almost enough — just not every day.”

He provided for his family, Lundblad said. It was better than no job, and at least he was not part of the lowest one-third of the wage earners.

“So how is it with you?” she asked the congregation. “I have no idea what kind of work you do, if you are retired. You may love your work or you may hate it. I have read that a person entering the job market this year will have seven careers — not jobs, careers — in their lifetime. It will be hard to manage those changes if your identity is tied up in work.”

Lundblad was particularly concerned with the changes in what she called “men’s jobs.”

“In the Port of New York and New Jersey, it used to take 100 men to unload a ship,” she said. “Now a crane can pick up a container and move it from a ship to a railcar; even a short guy could to it.”

Zacchaeus was probably on his way home, she said, when he heard that the prophet Jesus was coming through Jericho.

“Zacchaeus was longing for something,” Lundblad said. “Making a living is not the same as making a life.”

Did Zacchaeus wonder if people would laugh at a grown man who had climbed a tree? He might go home and tell his family that he was close enough to Jesus to touch him, she said. But Jesus stopped and looked at him and told him to come down because he was going to stay at Zaccheaus’ house.

“Zacchaeus immediately gets down and tells Jesus he will give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he has cheated four times over,” Lundblad said. “No one else in the Gospels responds so positively to Jesus’s preaching.”

“So how is it with you?” she asked again. “What would you get up in a tree for, and what would get you down? Would you want to see Jesus?”

For some people, this is an embarrassing question.

“We don’t talk this way in Chautauqua,” Lundblad said. “It is too evangelical. … We are more comfortable talking about world religions and more nebulous in talking about Jesus.”

As adults, she asserted, Christians need to see Jesus in a new way.

“Some of us haven’t learned anything new since Sunday School,” she said.

Lundblad challenged the congregation to climb a tree, figuratively, for a week.

“I want you to read straight through the Gospel of Luke — it’s only 24 chapters,” she said. “I want you to get a notebook and steal a title from [author] Marcus Borg — Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.”

“What is Jesus challenging you to do?” she continued. “What makes you angry? What assures you? Is life more than work? What is Jesus asking you to do? Do you believe he rose from the dead?

“There is no test,” she said. “Just write in the margins of your Bible, if you want to. Try to see Jesus for the very first time. What would make you get down when Jesus calls your name?”

Lundblad reviewed her sermons from the week by naming all that she had asked the congregation to do: “No FOMO [fear of missing out]. Look at God’s odd economics to make the world a habitable place with disabilities. Close the chasm between rich and poor, and learn to quote the full Scripture. Be persistent in pursuing justice, and find a way to talk about race.”

Many people have told her this week that they feel overwhelmed trying to address these issues, Lundblad said.

“Stay in the tree a little longer,” she said, “but Jesus is calling us down for a tangible response. Hope must be as tangible as despair. Write to Congress every day, or teach an English as a Second Language class.”

In Luke’s Gospel, the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus describes Jesus’ last encounter before he goes to Jerusalem to die. But Jesus was not just passing through Jericho without stopping, and “Jesus is not just passing through Chautauqua, either,” she said.

“We need to live in a radically new way together,” Lundblad said. “We need a new way to dare to get up in the tree, and we need a new way to come down again. Making a living is not the same as finding a life. May we each find our life before we die.”

The Rev. Nannette Banks presided. The Rev. Chris Wylie, pastor of the United Methodist Churches in Millville and Knowlesville, both in N.Y., read the Scripture. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship and sacred music coordinator, led the Motet Choir in “Oh Happy Day.” The words and music are by Edwin R. Hawkins, and the piece was arranged by Mark Hayes. The prelude on Thursday was “Trio” by Bill Douglas. Rebecca Scarnatti, oboe, Debbie Grohman, clarinet, and Willie La Favor, piano, were featured.

The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund supported this week’s services.