“Unexpected God”

At the heart of the Reformation begun by Martin Luther, was the recognition that he’d been worshiping the wrong God. He was taught to see and fear a God of holiness and justice, a God who expected righteousness, and punished those who couldn’t meet that standard. Jesus, seen from this point of view, was little more than a whipping boy, the one who stood in and took the beating we deserved. Luther, agonizing over God’s righteousness, finally realized that righteousness isn’t the standard God sets for us, but rather is the gift God gave to us. Righteousness isn’t a requirement but a promise. The God Luther expected was all about justice; the God he met in the person of Jesus was, and is, all about love. Jesus, it turns out, didn’t die to make God forgiving, but died to show us exactly how forgiving God already is. Little wonder that Luther would later describe meeting this unexpected God by saying it was like having the gates of heaven opened to him.

Scripture Reading: Romans 3:21-26—Justified by Grace Through Faith

21 But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed and is attested by the Law and the Prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to demonstrate at the present time his own righteousness, so that he is righteous and he justifies the one who has the faith of Jesus.

Gospel Reading: Luke 19:1-10Jesus and Zacchaeus

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”