The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Pentecost 24 :: Climbing trees for Jesus

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So. In this, the mid-point of our parish's Stewardship Campaign, wee Zacchaeus gives us some food for thought, huh?

Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.

Hey, there’s some good stuff there. Right? Half of his possessions given to Jesus? Paying back fourfold anyone whom this tax collector has cheated? Why not throw in your vacay home in Tel Aviv? Or your timeshare on the Nile? Think what Jesus could do with all that, the people he could feed, the homeless for whom he could provide shel- ter, or the clothing he could hand out to kids. Good stuff! Right?

But let’s be serious for a moment.

Who in their right mind would give away half of her possessions or pay back many times over what he has cheated people on? And who would cash in a CD or IRA or liquidate their tax shelter or vacation home or sell off all their precious artwork and jewelry in order to follow Jesus?

Pentecost 21 :: Who’s In? Who’s Out?

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In this week's Gospel story we are confronted with two groups of folk deemed as outsiders by the religious authorities of 1st-century Palestine: lepers and Samaritans. Lepers were cast as outsiders—literally—by the presence of their contagious skin disease. Being “unclean” they were to be shunned by the rest of society and not allowed back into the community until after they were declared “clean” by a priest. They led lives of desperation, unable to work, begging for food, keeping their distance from anyone whom they might infect. They had to yell out, “Unclean! Unclean!” when approaching strangers as a warning not to come any closer.

Samaritans were cast as outsiders because their religious observances were markedly different from those of the rest of Jewish society. They were forbidden from interacting with Jews and Jews were prohibited from having anything to do with them. Each was anathema to the other. Imagine how it must have been for that Samaritan leper.

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