There was a sign outside a church that read, “Don’t let your funeral be the next time you come and visit us!” We can understand what it meant; it was encouraging people to think about the place of God in their lives and their response to God’s workings.
But, actually, the sign is fundamentally flawed. Why? Because it encourages people to think that they are the ones who must make the first move.
It gives the impression that God is sitting back waiting for them to decide to start doing something about their lives.
And that simply isn’t true!
The amazing thing about God’s dealings with us is that he always makes the first move.
Think of Zacchaeus in today’s gospel. He’d heard all the rumours about Jesus and wanted to see for himself. Being a small man he climbed up a sycamore tree to get a good view. But before he could say anything, before he could make his mind up, it was Jesus who made the first move and told him he was coming home with him to stay for a while. When Zacchaeus heard what Jesus had to say he was immediately moved to repent and give half his property to the poor. (He’d cheated people by charging them too much tax and then keeping most of the money himself.)
God never ceases reaching out to us. We find this hard to cope with because we think that God is so concerned with weighty global problems that he has no time for us and our particular situations. Yet the opposite is true.
When we feel drawn to God it is only because God’s grace has been offered us in the first place. Our lives are a response to Christ’s example of sacrifice and love; our response comes from hearing God’s word; our actions are inspired by God’s Spirit working in us, if only we take the time to discern it.
At the eucharist we thank God for never abandoning us and for continually offering us the chance to enjoy the life that Christ promised.
Amazingly, God never stops leading us on to deeper trust and love. And all he asks in return is that we respond.