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March 13 -- "Zacchaeus the Tree Climber"

Last Saturday I asked you all to climb a tree (physically or metaphorically LOL!). The most famous tree climber of all was a man named Zacchaeus. He wanted to see Jesus so badly, but he couldn’t see over the heads of the people, so, he climbs a tree. And here is the amazing part – he thinks the greatest thing about his location is that he can see Jesus, but he comes to find that the true greatness of the moment is that Jesus can see him! Jesus stops when he gets to the tree, looks up and says, “Zacchaeus, I’m going to stay at your house today.”

That evening, it was Zacchaeus who was able to see his entire life. It is as if he was in a great tree where he could look back on all that he had done, and look ahead and see where his life was going. It is at that moment where he announces to Jesus, “Lord, half my possessions I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Jesus can see in the distance too and says, “Zacchaeus, salvation has come to your house this very day.”

The blessing of climbing a tree is not only that we can see in new ways, but that Jesus sees us in ways we too often forget.

There is a beautiful scene in the play The Man of La Mancha, where Don Quixote, who has befriended a hard-life woman named Aldonza –a young woman filled with shame and disgust because of her promiscuous past. Don Quixote strides into her life and, for completely unselfish reasons, attempts to befriend her and to awaken in her a sense of dignity, worth, and purpose. But all his efforts are in vain. She rebuffs him at every turn.

Don Quixote coins an endearing nickname for Aldonza, calling her his “Dulcinea” – meaning, “his sweet little one.” At other times he calls her “my lady,” to give her a sense of aristocratic heritage. One day at the inn she works at, he calls out both names with a flourish.

When Aldonza hears him, she storms into the room and tells him, in no uncertain terms, exactly how unladylike she is. As she describes a past that includes a mother who abandoned her, a father whose identity is unknown, and men who paid her for her brief acquaintance, she reveals just how little she thinks of herself.

A bit later, in one of life’s tragic ironies, Don Quixote falls desperately ill. When Aldonza hears of it, she hurries to his bedside to offer comfort. She does what she can for him and then kneels down and pleads with him to remember his dream for her, his dream for “Dulcinea.” She hopes that if she can rekindle that dream in him, its heat will bring him back to life. She reminds him repeatedly of the grace and glory that he saw in her, when he called her by this name.

With his life ebbing away, he awakens enough to once more calls her “Dulcinea” and this time, she is able to not only hear it, but take it to heart. After he passes, she pays her final respects to the one man who saw her as something more than a wretched woman.

As she leaves the room, a man calls from the bar, “Aldonza, get me a beer!”

She stops, looks at him and says, “My name is Dulcinea,” and she walks away.

Again, I ask you to climb a tree today, but this time not to see what you can see, but to let Jesus see you – and living in the gaze of Jesus, hear him call you by the holy name he has given you: “Beloved.”

~ God bless, Dan

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