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110th Anniversary of St. Paul's L.C. Wellston, OK

Luke 19:1-10

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Last Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 29, series C
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Sun, Nov 21, 2010 

Long ago, the Lord came to Jericho, the city of tall, mighty walls.  Yet He is the mighty God who knocks down walls and is able to enter any city.  With a mighty trumpet blast and the shouts of the people of Israel, the walls fell down, and the Lord entered Jericho.

On the day of our text, the Lord Jesus entered Jericho and found an even stronger wall.  He found the heart of Zacchaeus.  Although Zacchaeus was a small man in stature, yet his heart was a fortified bastion of iron bars and stone walls.  For in the heart of Zacchaeus there was sin that wanted to keep out the Lord Jesus.

True, Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was.  He ran ahead and climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of the passing Teacher from Nazareth.  But salvation had not yet come to Zacchaeus.  Only after Jesus came did salvation arrive.

For Christ the Lord smashed through the walls of sin in the heart of Zacchaeus.  Jesus did not use a loud trumpet blast or the shout of many people.  No, He used the greatest power in the universe.  He used His gentle Word.  Jesus said, "Come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today."  The Lord was not only willing to come into the house of Zacchaeus, but He must come.  It was necessary, it was imperative, and nothing would stop the Lord from accomplishing this task.

Why would the Lord choose Zacchaeus, a tax collector, a sinner?  He was such a bad sinner that everyone knew it and grumbled that the Lord would go into the house of THAT man.  Zacchaeus was a thief and a collaborator with the hated Romans.  He was most likely also stingy and loved his wealth as his idol in his heart.

That heart, full of sin, was already committed to its god, Mammon.  So the sinful heart of Zacchaeus was fortified with mighty walls of sin to resist the Savior.

But this is a Savior who walks through walls and doors.  This is a Savior who smashes down gates.  He spoke His Word that declared Zacchaeus worthy of the presence of the Son of God, worthy of sharing a meal with the Messiah, worthy of communion with the Most High God.

Although Zacchaeus later pledged to give half his money to the poor and to repay any theft fourfold, those were not the things that brought him salvation.  They were only fruits of the salvation that had come to him.

Salvation entered his house, because Jesus came there with His saving Word.

Today we also celebrate the salvation that entered this house.  Jesus entered here as well.  Not merely this building - God cares far more for the Temple He has built called His holy Church, which is you and all the saints redeemed in Christ.  To us He came to speak His mighty Word and shatter our hearts of stone.

But this physical building is also important in its own way.  He entered this House because this is one of the places He selected for the preaching of His Word.  As Jesus said, "I must remain with you today in this house."  He has resolved it with all the divine resolution in His being, that here He shall come among His people and establish communion with us.  Here He shall share His sacred meal and speak with us.

From time to time, some have murmured and grumbled at us.  They know that we are sinners.  Sometimes they say, "How could those people be Christians?  How could God dwell with THEM?  Surely the Lord would choose better people."

But the Lord does not choose based on goodness.  He knows that we are sinners.  All kinds of idols clutter our sinful hearts.  Sometimes we covet.  Sometimes we steal.  Sometimes we are stingy because we love Mammon too much.  No, the Lord has not chosen us because we are good.  But He has chosen us, nonetheless.

Even if we ignore the fact that we are sinners, we must admit that we are a congregation of small stature.  We have struggled to survive for most of our one hundred and ten years.  Good and easy times are few and far between.  We have been weak and foolish too often.

Yet God chose this place, and He chose us.  He pours out His blessings of grace.  He favors the weak.  He lifts up the humble.  He showers sinners with forgiveness, while He leaves alone those who think they are wise and strong.  He loves us Zacchaeuses of small stature.

Yet the Lord also brings out great fruit among us.  Some have given very generously in support of this Gospel ministry.  Many have made tremendous sacrifices for this house of God and for one another.  Although the world may not see your fruits or think them significant, yet the Lord sees.  After all, He created the fruits.  He made them grow in you, through His Spirit.

So let us confess that we are weak in ourselves, but mighty in the Lord.  For this Lord has smashed down mighty walls.  He not only broke through our hearts of stone, but also shattered the gates of hell for us.  The devil has no power over us, because the Lord has crushed his head.  This He has done by dying and rising, and by His triumphant descent into hell and His glorious ascension to His Father's right hand.

These works of Christ for us are the foundation of this House.  The preached Word is built upon the Rock that is Christ.  The bread and wine fed to sinners are the true Body and Blood given for us.  The holy Water poured on our heads buries us with Christ into His death and resurrection.  This House of God is built on the shoulders of Christ and His powerful works.

So salvation came to this house.  It has come also today.  We see it symbolically in the Cross Processional at the beginning of our Service.  Christ comes among us with the wonderful fruits of His Cross, a far better Tree than any other.  He brings His Cross among us in the Divine Service so that, as we eat the fruits of that Tree of Life, we live forever.  The fruits are Absolution, the Word and its preaching, the holy Sacrament in His Body and Blood, and His great Benediction.  These things give us eternal life that no devil and no gates and no sin can destroy.

May He continue to remain here in this house for many years to come.  May His gifts flow here to repentant hearts so that salvation may come to many sons of Abraham.

In His Name alone, the great God who is among us and speaks to us and feeds us: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You may quote from my sermons freely, but please quote accurately if you attribute anything to me.

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