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8 Questions & Actions to draw closer to God, based on the story of Zacchaeus IMG 7125 cropped for web

New Beginnings...
New Year is often perceived as the herald and inspiration for new beginnings of our own; an incentive to throw off old habits and pledge new ways of living as we turn our backs on the old year to fully embrace the new. 
January 1st is not an unexpected occurrence. It arrives inexorably, after the last day of December, yet after the cosy fug of Christmas indulgences, it often catches us unprepared for new beginnings. So, before we have had time to think about the opportunity to pledge ourselves to something new and meaningful, we find ourselves knee deep in February, continuing in exactly the same way as we began the previous year with all hopes of new starts abandoned along with the memory of Christmas.

As Christians, what we often forget, is that each and every day is a marvellous opportunity to begin again; every sunrise proclaiming a fresh start, and a chance to be reorientated by Christ the compass of our lives.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV)

The Intention...
When the dawn rose on an ordinary work day, Zacchaeus had no intention of new beginnings...no, his day began with thoughts of himself; of obtaining the best view of this new visiting preacher and supposed miracle worker that all were talking about. It was to be a brief interlude in an otherwise busy day of collecting taxes and cheating those he collected money from. Yet despite his workday preoccupations, Zacchaeus ensures that he positions himself in the best place to see Jesus. Amidst the thronging crowds, for this height challenged man, this was definitely going to mean clambering up the tallest tree, for the best view. Somehow, despite his circumstances (or perhaps because of them) Zacchaeus is drawn to the man, Jesus, to find out who he is.

So, this year I wonder if my days will involve this deep intention and desire to really see Jesus...and how I may position myself each day in the best place to catch a glimpse of the One who daily makes us new?

IMG 7129 cropped for web 600 x600The Effort...
To see Jesus, Zacchaeus, makes an effort. He resolutely runs ahead of the crowd. He climbs a large sycamore-fig tree. Despite his wealth and status, he doesn't seem bothered that others may think him foolish. 

So, this year, I wonder if I will be this keen? Am I prepared to get ahead; resolving to make an effort to meet daily with my Saviour?

The Call...
As Jesus reaches Zacchaeus, the tax collector, the sinner, the despised cheat, he both looks at him and calls him by name. Jesus recognises Zacchaeus and despite never meeting him previously in person, knows him through and through yet is prepared to accept him where he finds him.

So, this year, how might I embrace the wonder of how the Lord of heaven and earth is willing to look at each one of us; knows us each by name and calls us to himself?

The Welcome...
Jesus asks to stay at Zacchaeus' house and in the bible the words used, express an urgency to his request. Zacchaeus is equally as quick to respond, hurrying down from his viewpoint to eagerly receive Jesus with excitement and joy.

So, this year, how might I respond each time Jesus asks to stay with me; in me. Am I as ready, receptive, welcoming and open to Jesus as Zacchaeus, or have I lost that first-time excitement of knowing the Lord of Lords at home in me? 

The Stand...
As people grumble and express their displeasure at Jesus, a respectable teacher and healer staying at the house of such a notorious sinner, Zacchaeus ignores the furore and calmly stands before the Lord. For in his heart, he has confessed his unworthiness and is about to repent and make good what he can.

So, this year, I wonder now, if I might be as calm at standing before Jesus, knowing how much I have sinned? Can I face up to my mistakes and freely confess them before my Lord, knowing in my heart the extent of God's great gift of forgiveness?

The Generosity...
What amazes me in this story, is the unprompted actions of Zacchaeus at this point. At the beginning of the story, it is Jesus who looks at Zacchaeus, but at the end, in response to his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus can look Jesus in the eye, vowing to act where he can to remedy his wrongdoing. He vows to give half his possessions to the poor and payback FOUR times what he has gained through dishonest business practices. 

So, this year, I wonder now, if I can imagine myself looking into the eyes of Jesus? I wonder, too, what my response would be; what act of generosity I might need to take...?

The Response...
Jesus responds with fatherly affirmation and acceptance to the actions of Zacchaeus; "Salvation has come to this house today, for this man, too, is a son of Abraham" and in doing so, Jesus confirms complete forgiveness and a heartfelt welcome into the family of God.

So, this year, might I pledge not to take for granted the enormity of this privilege....to be a forgiven daughter or son of the Most High, with the opportunity of starting anew each day. Perhaps I can take time to reflect on this privilege, as I ponder on the story of Zacchaeus: the little man who becomes great in the eyes of God. This year, how might I come closer to God, as Zaccaeus did?

The Mission...
At the end of the passage, Jesus also affirms his own purpose and mission, "to seek and to save those who are lost". Perhaps at the start of this New Year, we might each spend some time considering Jesus' heavenly mission, and in doing so ponder our own......

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self...IMG 7128 cropped for web
to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

 

Textile Reflections...
This piece depicts the sycamore- fig tree that Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus. The shape of it is based on the only standing sycamore tree in Jericho today. The sun and concentric circles of the sky represent the Son of God and lead the eye towards the tree where a small sinner began his great journey of encounter and transformation. The four gold coins signify the actions of Zacchaeus once he had come to know Jesus, the Saviour and illustrate the words of Jesus that "salvation has come to this house today". It encorages each of us to invite and accept Jesus into our lives and respond with generosity to our community, as Zaccheus did.

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