Saturday, 3 November 2007

Tipping the Scales

I'm sure I'm not the only person that has done a Google search on their name! It's a bit of a vain thing to do, really, and there was a time when all that the results threw up were the escapades of my namesakes! (I even remember once reading the obituary of someone called Dean Atkins somewhere in the States!) It can be quite a sobering experience when all you find is nothing or your name on a database or some passing reference! But really it's just a little exercise in an idle moment to see where you turn up and in what way! It's not Google specific, of course. You can choose whatever search engine takes your fancy be it Yahoo or Ask or Lycos get the idea! Yes, it's vain. Very vain, indeed. But perhaps it's a natural gesture in a world where we try to be significant or stand out or stand up to be counted. And so when I type my name into that white bar on the screen I try to convince myself that this is just research or a little entertainment or a bit of self deprecating humour when all that is on the TV is Light Entertainment and Talent Shows that titillate. But really it's all rather vain. Yes, very vain. What little people we are!

Talking of little people brings me to the Gospel Reading for tomorrow (as I mull on my sermon) - that Sunday School Epic of Zacchaeus, the small man, being called down from the tree to take Jesus home for tea! The story has been the material for many a drama or children's song or simple lined drawings to colour with felt tip pens that didn't work and crayons that cracked, kept in a rusty tin in a cupboard that smelled of damp and biscuits (or is that just me?!) Yes, Zacchaeus was a small man, a short man, a man who couldn't see a thing when it mattered and who got swallowed up by the crowd and so climbed high to see what all the fuss was about. And in return he gets the honour of entertaining the one who has entertained the crowd. Suddenly this small man becomes significant.

I'm a bit worried about this trying to be significant but it doesn't stop us from trying. When we look at family photographs or party pics our attention diverts to our own face (or am I the only one?) We may be dissatisfied (or claim to be) with the way we look but really we are dazzled by ourselves, by our own significance or lack of it, whether it's catching our reflection in the shop window or being caught on camera. We are torn between loving and loathing ourselves when all that we need is something in between. Zacchaeus was just a member of the audience, trying to see what everyone else saw, trying to glimpse what everyone else had already grasped, an anonymous admirer or a curious member of the crowd. I love the phrase in the gospel when we read, 'But Zacchaeus stood his ground.' He didn't really care what people said about him or thought about him or (perhaps more pertinent in this day and age) wrote about him. It was his response to Jesus that mattered. We are little people, aren't we? Most of us are not and will never be well known or, well, famous (thank God!) but our significance lies in those words of the book of Wisdom: 'In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales.' (11:22). And if the whole world is just a grain of dust what does that make us? But in his sight and in his way we carry such weight and worth that we tip the scales but only when we are caught in wonder, when all we wish to see is Jesus passing by! And then, the scales will tip, as Jesus gazes up at us (yes, up at us! Isn't that amazing?!) and calls us down to where he is so that he may truly lift us up or, rather, be glorified in us and us in him.