by Rev. Joan Kessler
Play to 7:10
I hope this clip gave you some sense of awe and wonder at the vastness of the planet earth we call home. I only just heard of this phenomenon earlier this winter. The idea of looking in a different direction, of a changed perspective, has been tugging at me this week.
I recognize that none of us have made a space shuttle flight into outer space… but I am curious if you have ever had a similar experience… a moment of awe and wonder that took you outside of yourself and gave you a perspective you didn’t even know you were looking for. I have a personal experience that for me is the closest I have come to the Overview Effect. It came to me as I was preparing to return to work for the first time following my maternity after Olivia was born. I was in my car in the driveway, getting ready to back away… and I could see Olivia through the window. It was that moment that took my breath away… I realized that she was her own person apart from me, this precious life. I can’t explain it any other way than it just gave me a profound turn within myself... a view of a bigger picture… words to describe it escape me. My perspective shifted looking through the window.
Our story today tells of another earthly, on-the-ground, up-a-tree kind of game-changing experience. We learn of Zacchaeus… a chief tax collector we are told; he’s rich, he’s despised by his community and overlooked as an outsider; suspicion of corruption follows him wherever he goes. He wants to see Jesus, but because he is short, he cannot see over the crowds, so he climbs a tree. What motivates him we are not told. He wants a better viewpoint we assume; he doesn’t want to miss the procession… and he gets more than he bargained for. Jesus spots him up that tree, calls out to him by name and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house. The tax collector is honored by Jesus’ request to spend time with him but the crowd of locals is outraged by the invitation. The man is moved to reveal that he will make financial restitution to any and all whom he has defrauded and pay an additional fourfold, far beyond the amount that was customary for such an infringement. He is not making a confession of wrongdoing nor does Jesus acknowledge an act of repentance… Jesus simply proclaims salvation has come to this house and should be heard as affirmation and a restoration of the tax collector to the community, now that the truth of his character has been revealed. Jesus’ presence affirms for this man that he doesn’t need to turn over a new leaf… just hold up the one he already has for all his community to see.
The Overview Effect reminds us of the preciousness of all life forms… that planet earth holds us all together and we all live under the same sun… when we look at the Blue Marble as this view of earth has come to be known, I find myself asking incredulously, how can there be war, and hatred and strife? How can we not live in environmental stewardship for this beautiful and fragile planet we call home? Today is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racism and this year’s theme is youth standing up against racism. This year, we celebrate their achievements to this end… they marched, they mobilized on social media, calling on others their age to speak out against racial injustice. The Overview Effect calls us to work for change… and next to preserving our natural environment and taking its stewardship seriously, the other significant work of the future is the dismantling of racism, that we foster the change that sees us live together, regardless of our skin color… our size… our political affiliation… our education… or socio-economic security… when we change our perspective may we see the bigger picture and work towards justice and equality for those who are racialized, those who are dropped off on the edge of what our society deems as the norm, those with disability and those whose voices for changed are silenced… may we see the worth in another just as Jesus sees.