On October 23, 2019, Bob Valette took off from the Sonoma County airport with a tanker full of repellant. Meanwhile, his son Dustin Valette was making sandwiches for 60 people in his Healdsburg restaurant, conveniently named, Valette Restaurant. He was doing this while coordinating food relief efforts for the evacuees.
“Valette is working with Chef Kyle Connaughton of Single, Catelli’s Domenica, and helpers from the community (Costeaux provided the bread) to feed the approximately 60 people at the Healdsburg Community Center taking refuge from the (Kincaid Fire). They served about 200 the next night.
“As (Valette) packed up his car with sandwiches–made with long loaves of fresh French bread, heirloom tomatoes from his own garden, meat and cheese from his restaurant kitchen — he realized the irony of such fancy sandwiches in an emergency. But that’s what he does, and that’s what he knows. And food, after all, is love. And a good sandwich takes just as long to make as a bad one.
“Also ready to assist is a state-of-the-art mobile kitchen built by celebrity chef Guy Fieri after the Tubbs Fire. Having been involved in other recent fire relief efforts, he has seen the devastation up close and was instrumental in the buildout of a custom kitchen that could serve thousands.
“Fieri has worked closely with Chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen, a collaborative chef collective that works with the Red Cross to provide meals in disasters. Jose Andres, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize for his worldwide food relief efforts tweeted this morning that he was (there) for Sonoma County if needed.
“As Valette brought the sandwiches to the community center, surrounded by smoke and crawling with reporters, he smiled as his friend Ken Rochioli of KR Catering pulled up with more trays of food. Rochioli was stopped by reporters for an interview. Valette snuck by, saying that he needed to get back to his restaurant because he had an entirely new menu to prepare at the restaurant that evening. Not to mention helping with dinner for 200 at the shelter.”
In a lot of disasters, evacuees eat a lot of stale food. I observed during the Camp Fire and the Kincaid Fire that chefs mobilized to prepare food for the displaced. Instead of stale sandwiches, they were served feasts.
If you had your power turned off like us, there were no feasts unless you ate out, somewhere. One night, we had peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, because we didn’t dare open the refrigerator door. All the food in the refrigerator and freezer had to be thrown out anyway.
Feasting is an act of hospitality. Jesus depended on hospitality as he preached in Galilee and as he journeyed to Jerusalem. The gospel writers do not note that people threw money at Jesus. Most of Jesus’ followers were, likely, not very wealthy.
In Luke’s gospel, we find Jesus entering Jericho. In Luke, Jesus has a long journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Luke’s phrase is, “He set his face to Jerusalem.” Luke’s scene is like a rock star walking down Israel with a growing crowd following along. It is to be accepted that most in the crowd were enthralled with Jesus. But there were likely some who wanted to bring Jesus down.
Jesus enters Jericho. This is an odd place in Jesus’ journey. Jesus travels down the highlands, but now he is in the Jordan Valley. Jerusalem is over the top of a long uphill walk from Jericho. Jericho was a major commercial city. It was at the crossroads of trade routes. It was more cosmopolitan than Jerusalem. There were likely many cultures coexisting in Jericho. Mark Antony once gave Jericho as a present to Cleopatra.
Jesus is near Jerusalem and his fate. It would be two days from Jericho to Jerusalem, because Jesus will have to stay in Jericho on the sabbath. The day after the sabbath will be Palm Sunday.
We are then introduced to Zacchaeus. We are told he is rich, because he is a tax collector. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. The only problem was there was the throng already following Jesus and the added people of Jericho were crowding around Jesus. Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus because he was height-challenged. Zacchaeus wasn’t going to let his handicap stop him. So, he climbed a tree.
Now what happens next is interesting. Jesus sees Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree and calls him by name. How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name? Jesus tells Zacchaeus to come down, because Jesus is to stay that day in Zacchaeus’ house. I’ll bet it was a really nice house.
The gospel writers are in agreement that tax collectors were sinners. Zacchaeus received his wealth from the good people of Jericho on behalf of the Roman Empire. Zacchaeus’ sin was likely that he was a collaborator with the occupying, foreign army.
The heart of Zacchaeus’ sin, though, was greed. It was greed that made him rich. Yes, people can get rich by being greedy. People can also lose much by being greedy. Just watch most any game show. People don’t win Survivor by being nice. Greed prevents safety upgrades to electrical lines, leading to blackouts and wildfires.
The residents of Jericho must have resented seeing their money in Zacchaeus’ house. As they watched Jesus inviting himself into Zacchaeus’ house, everyone, no exception, condemned Jesus’ actions. Even the apostles’, who must have been near Jesus, must have joined in the complaint.
Zacchaeus, too, heard the grumbling. In an act of repentance, Zacchaeus pledges to give 50% of what he has to the poor. In addition, Zacchaeus will repay anyone whom he defrauded four times the amount fraudulently taken.
Of course, Zacchaeus knew he could live quite comfortably on half of what he has. Zacchaeus also makes no pledge against future earnings. As to the potential fraud, if someone could prove that Zacchaeus defrauded them, then they would also be accusing Rome of fraud and that accusation could result in death for the complainant. Zacchaeus has a lot of loop holes. On the other hand, Zacchaeus is also being generous.
For Jesus, it was enough. Salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus. I don’t think it was the amount of money that impressed Jesus. It was Zacchaeus’ change of heart. That’s what counts. People who strive to do good, people who try to treat people well, are not Jesus’ target audience. People despised Zacchaeus for the things he did. Zacchaeus had a change of heart and that is what Jesus seeks. One who was lost, was found.
Another way to say a “change of heart,” is to say conversion. Conversions come in many flavors. Obviously, there are religious conversions. They can be varied. One may convert from one religion to another. One may convert from no religion to a religion and one may convert from being religious to an atheist.
A conversion can be a change in attitude. One can convert from a consumer of resources to a conserver of resources. Someone might convert from not caring to study to being a hard-working student. Someone thinking climate change is a hoax to making life-style changes to reducing that one’s carbon footprint.
Then there is the act of conversion. Zacchaeus had a seemingly instant conversion that resulted from his encounter with Jesus. Some people have instant conversion experiences. I believe that most of these come as a result of a series of encounters with the end result being the conversion. For example, after many encounters with Christians and reading about Jesus, a person might have a dramatic event that tips the person into faith. Also, someone might see constant images of damage to the planet, but a particular event tips them into conservation.
Zacchaeus changes his outlook, his world view. This story has an unspoken theological problem that is related to being a saint. Jesus declares salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house. The story implies that it was Zacchaeus’ declarations that brought salvation. But we say that one must be baptized to be a Christian and have the path to salvation. Certainly, Zacchaeus could have been baptized later. However, there was yet no Christian church.
This is an issue in considering Zacchaeus’ status, but it also includes all of Jesus’ apostles and disciples. I know of no record of Peter or any other of the twelve apostles ever being baptized. Baptism was and is a requirement for Jewish converts. So I assume the view was if you were a Jew and a follower of Jesus, baptism was unnecessary or assumed.
These assumed unbaptized early pillars of the church are called saints. We even name churches after them. Though, I don’t recall a St. Zacchaeus’ Church, but who knows? Maybe there is one. Saint Paul uses the term, saint, broadly. For Paul, a saint is anyone who is baptized. Paul refers to the recipients of his letters as saints. I don’t know if Dustin Valette is baptized, but he is a saint.
So, that is why there is a day (and a Sunday) that honors all the saints. Of course, All Saints’ Eve is also called All Hollow’s Eve or Halloween. On November 1st and, optionally, on the following Sunday we honor all the saints living and dead. We honor all the baptized, all those grandfathered-in saints, and especially those who experienced a change of heart and changed their lives and the lives of those whom they knew. Most of all, we honor us.
Text: Luke 19:1-10 (
 By Heather Irwin, Sonoma Magazine