Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Well, this week's Gospel was the story of Zaccheus. Once you can get the Sunday School song out of your head, there is actually a lot of meat in that story. First of all, you have to think about EXACTLY why Zaccheus might have gotten up in that sycamore tree...

Why do I like driving a pickup truck? Because I like sitting above the bulk of the cars. Not because I want to be “bigger” but because I want to see a bigger picture. I like being able to see over little cars and see more of the road.

Then there’s the distance issue. Why is it psychologically easier for bomber pilots to drop their load on a city full of civilians than it is for an infantryman to kill an enemy bare handed? Because the bomber pilot is further removed from the blood and gore and the reality of it.

So think about this. Here’s a little short fart that no one likes. No one is going to offer to let him get in front of them to see what’s going on. So he can accomplish two things by getting up in that tree:

1. He can see a bigger picture. He can see what people are doing up the road with Jesus. He can get a better overview of what this is all about.

2. He can distance himself a little from the reality of his here and now—that those people down there don’t like him. He can think about that Jesus guy more clearly because he is not having to deal with every push, every shove down there that constantly reminds him he’s a jerk and that these people don’t like him. He can divorce himself a little from the everyday pain that might cause.

Sometimes to see the big picture, you have to take yourself out of the reality of pain that enmeshes you. You have to remember what it feels like to not have a constant irritation in your day. You have to be “above” it to see it all. We all do that in a lot of ways, sometimes with physical height, sometimes with darkness, sometimes with solitude, sometimes with activity. All of these things can take us to a place “beyond hurting.”

I have to admit I am a height junkie and a “wide open spaces” junkie. One of the things I like about my property is that I live on the “prairie” side of Highway 63 but my hunting timber is on the “hilly” side of 63. Highway 63 as it runs north of Jefferson City is more or less located on a natural divide in the state—the Grand Divide. Everything west of 63 drains to the Missouri River, and everything east of 63 drains to the Mississippi River. West of 63 consists mostly of rolling hills with some relatively high terrain in the state. East of 63 consists mostly of “flatlands.”

I think what I like about heights is that it makes everything below you small. It makes your irritants smaller. It makes what bugs you more inconsequential. It allows you to see beyond obstacles. About two years ago, I visited Gettysburg. Anything you ever read about that battle talks about “the advantage of the high ground.” Spiritually, I think this is true in both a physical sense, and in a moral sense. In the physical sense, seeing “over” and “beyond” a patch of ground makes the rough spots in the ground more inconsequential. When you can keep yourself on the moral high ground (I hate the word “moral”, it sounds so Holy Joe-ish, but I don’t know what else to do), you can more easily weather the potholes in your life. Even if the outcome is not what you wanted or is not all that great, you can weather it better because you did not add more baggage to your own feelings of being an impostor.

Seeing wide open spaces also reminds you of the connectedness in life. I remember as a kid, once in a while my grandfather would take me over to Canton, MO to the lock and dam. We would pack a lunch and just sit and watch the barges go through the lock. One of the things I remember was that I would watch a barge or two go through at ground level and then go up on the observation deck and watch the next boat or two. I remember how wide the Mississippi River seemed from the ground. I could not even fathom swimming across it. But then I would look to my left and right, and think about how this huge river starts out as a little creek coming off of Lake Itasca in Minnesota. At St. Cloud, MN, the Mississippi is no wider than the Chariton River. Then to my right, it only got wider and bigger.

I used to imagine that river running for miles and miles north and south, and imagine where might be the EXACT spot north of me where I COULD swim across that river. There is a place where insurmountable things can be crossed in our lives...but we have to have the view of distance and wide open spaces to imagine it. If we cross them at the spot where we are at, it is suicidal folly.

Or, perhaps at that spot you can cross it, but in a boat. But what boat? Not a john boat with oars! Not one with a trolling motor! It has to be a big enough boat to cross safely, or a small boat with a big enough engine. Then you have to ask, “What kind of ride do I want?” Do you want the staidness and slowness of a ferry, or do you want to put a big ol’ Mercury outboard on the john boat and blast across, in the choppy waves, with at the very least a bumpy ride and the possibility you will be thrown off course and end up somewhere further down the river; at worst you might overturn. There are arguments for and against either option. In other words, you can choose, and you just might opt for the adventure of the smaller boat. Then again, you might opt for the smoother, slower ferry ride.

If you’ve ever fished in the Mississippi, the first thing you notice is the constant push on the upstream side of the boat, and the sheer power of that river. You never stop feeling it. You never stop constantly adjusting your position to keep the river from taking you away. If you’ve ever cut the engine and let it drift, it is just scary power you are feeling.

One of my college classmates was one of the Canton ferryboat pilots every summer. Just to take his test for his ferry pilot’s license, he had to know every undertow, every whirlpool, every sand spit for a several mile stretch of the Mississippi. But to even take that big slow ferry across the river, he needed the height of the pilot house to see what he needed to see.

So yeah, even that “wee little man” Zaccheus realized he needed to understand what Jesus was all about from the high ground—a place he was not used to seeing—and once he got the height, it all became clearer.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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