He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So, he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Pastoral ministry is considered as a vocation rather than a profession. Coming from a diverse community, rich in religious heritage, I understood that pastoral visits create strong bonds between members and minister. Pastoral visits build a relationship which eventually strengthens the church and encourages members to actively participate in mission and ministry.
The context in India, and particularly in South India, is so very different. Having served in both rural and urban churches, I have come across many situations where the minister’s presence is essential during the time of crisis, particularly during a death in the family. A minister’s presence is valued for any special occasion or maybe just for a pastoral visit. Families and individuals are assured that the church always stands by them. A minister in a rural setting can visit a member’s house at any time; no need for any appointment or permission. Even members of urban churches will welcome a minister’s visit even if it is unannounced. The common belief is that, if a minister visits it is like God visiting them. Therefore, in India, pastoral visits, which are highly regarded and welcomed, strengthen ministry.
In the UK, it seems to me with my limited experience, pastoral visits are not a priority either for ministers or members. I feel this is so strange and wonder, what if the same situation was during Jesus’s time? Did Jesus need permission to visit? Did Jesus have to make an appointment to visit the sick?
My struggle in understanding cultural, social, economical, racial, and spiritual differences have made me grapple with the Word/Text, which is important to every context. Jesus’ visits transformed the lives of people and paved way for a holistic life. Jesus’ radical measures, or thinking and acting out of the box is an invitation for us to follow.
God of all, may we always welcome you in all situations of our lives. Your presence transforms us, enriches us, and empowers us to be a welcoming and accepting community. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Rev’d S Sujeeth Kumarcurrently works with three churches in the East London Area Group: Vine URC, Ilford, Barking URC along with Kings Church & Lead Minister at Gants Hill URC.