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Homily preached 1-23-16 at Bella Terra Nursing Centre

2016-01-29 4:17 PM | Daniel

A homily preached by Daniel Love Glazer at Bella Terra Nursing Centre

January 23, 2016

[Note: the scripture for this service was Luke 4: 14-21; the hymns were “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” both of which I allude to in my homily.]

I am retired from my career in the computer field. At one time I used to teach computer classes at corporate sites around the country. I would fly in to a city Sunday night, teach Monday through Friday, then fly back home. I liked the teaching, but did not like the travel, especially with a wife and two kids at home, so after a while I quit.

One week I taught a class to about 20 programmers, each one of whom had a computer for doing the class exercises. One of my students was in a motorized wheelchair. He wasn’t able to use his legs, which hung limply. He could hardly use his arms, except for the minimal effort required to move his wheelchair. And he couldn’t talk; he could only grunt. In order to use the keyboard to type in programming commands or to send me a message he had a prong attached to a headband. He would lean forward and use the prong to press the keys, one by one.

[I illustrated this story by putting on a headband, to which I attached a two-foot prong]

When I saw how this fellow, who was evidently a successful computer programmer, coped with his handicaps, I resolved that the next time I had a hangnail, I would not feel sorry for myself.

I know nothing of this student’s faith or his personal relationship with God, but it must have required great courage and a faith of some sort for him to be a successful computer professional. Like Jesus, he had to walk that lonesome valley. Indeed, each one of us also has to walk the lonesome valley. We may not have the afflictions this programmer had or we may have even greater afflictions—of body, of mind, or mistreatment by the world. But whether we have been lucky or unlucky, every one of us, in the depths of our soul, has to walk the lonesome valley in which we find God for ourselves. Every one of us, rich or poor, strong or weak, healthy or unhealthy, must face the ultimate question: Is life, with all of its contradictions and cruelties, nothing more than a random combination of atoms, or does life conceal some higher purpose? Could it be true that this world, with all its horrors, was created by God who called it good, who created mankind in his own image and who sent us his divine Son, Jesus, to be the way, the truth, and the life and to guide us into a glorious destiny?

Some people have questioned whether Jesus really had to walk the lonesome valley. After all, wasn’t he the Son of God, who declared “I am the Father are one”[1]? If the only record we had of Jesus was the Gospel of John, this would be a plausible view. In John’s Gospel, Jesus knows who he is, all that he has ever been and is to be from the very beginning. He is presented as a divine being, an object of veneration, but not as a human being needing faith or religion himself. But the other three Gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, present us with a different perspective on Jesus, one that emphasizes that he was not only the Son of God, but also the Son of Man. They show us a Jesus conscious of his mortal dependence such that, when addressed as “Good teacher,” instantly replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”[2]

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see a very human Jesus, a man in need of faith, a man whose supreme religious aspiration is the discovery and performance of the divine will. And he achieves this goal by a terrific struggle and stress of soul. In the Gospel of Luke, just before preaching the sermon in which he quotes Isaiah, saying “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he spent 40 days in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil. Yes, Jesus walked the lonesome valley, as each one of us must do. He was a religious man—the most religious man ever—who by his fervent and undaunted faith achieved the knowing and doing of the divine will.

Let us hear again these words from Jesus’ sermon in the Nazareth synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus said," For this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth"[3]

What truth did Jesus testify to? To begin with, the truth that God is the heavenly Father of each person. The concept of God as a Father was not wholly original with Jesus, but any reader of the Bible can see that God the Father in the experience of Jesus is something quite different from anything we find in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus exalted and elevated the idea of God the Father into a sublime experience by achieving a new revelation of God and by proclaiming that every mortal creature is a child of this Father of love, a son of God.

When the resurrected Jesus emerged from the tomb and encountered Mary Magdalene, he said to her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”[4] Christianity has emphasized that God the Father is the Father of Jesus Christ, but as Jesus himself proclaimed the Father is also the Father of every person. He said, “The Father himself loves you”[5] and “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”[6]

Jesus taught that all we need to realize the infinite Fatherly love of God is faith. And as a consequence of God’s Fatherly love, we are all brothers and sisters. For example, in Mathew 23:8-9, he proclaimed, “You are all brethren. And…you have one Father.” He often said, “Your faith has made you well”[7] or “Your faith has saved you.”[8]

Perhaps the major theme of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus taught, consists of these essentials: the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and faith in the effectiveness of the supreme human desire to do the will of God, to be like God.

If, in walking the lonesome valley, we come to realize, by faith, God’s loving acceptance of us, his children, we are assured of spiritual peace in this life and of salvation, continuing life in the world to come. Yes, a band of angels will come in a chariot to take us to our heavenly home. Thanks be to God!

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