Sunday, February 14, 2016

HOMILY- 2-14-16


Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
Luke 4:1-13

We know very little about Jesus’ life up to this point. We know that an angel appeared to a young girl of Nazareth, Mary, a little over 2,000 years ago announcing that God was making a move that he had been promising for centuries – to send a Savior. He chose the young virgin, Mary of Nazareth, to be the mother of the Son of God and she was to give him the name, Jesus.

We know that when the time came for his birth, Mary and her husband Joseph, were in the town of Bethlehem to register for a Roman census. We know that at the time of his birth, there was some kind of celestial event that attracted visitors from the East who believed that it signaled the birth of a new king. It could have been a literal star or a meteor or an unusual alignment of celestial bodies. (It is worth noting that ancient Chinese astronomy records indicate there was a star-like object hovering over the Middle East for several days about the time Jesus was born.)

We know these visitors from the East triggered panic in the mind of Herod, a petty local king installed by the Roman Emperor to govern the Jews. Paranoid about losing power, Herod ordered the deaths of every infant in Bethlehem in hopes of killing the new king that the foreign visitors were looking for!

We know that that Joseph and Mary were tipped off about Herod’s monstrous plans in a dream and escaped to Egypt where they lived until news of Herod’s death. (You all remember that Jesus spent some of his early years in Egypt, don’t you?)  After Herod was dead and the coast was clear, Mary, Joseph and Jesus moved back to Israel to spend his growing up years in Nazareth.  

We know that Mary and Joseph took the child Jesus to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Passover. On one of those trips, when Jesus was twelve years old, they got separated from one another and it was not realized until they were on their way home. Traveling in a caravan, one parent thought he was with the other. When it was obvious that he had been left behind, they went back to Jerusalem and searched frantically through the crowded city until they found him. They found him in the Temple, engaged in a discussion with the religious teachers there. After that, we know that he went home with his parents and lived there till he was about thirty years old.

We know that when he was about thirty years old, he left home having been drawn by the preaching of his cousin, John, known as the Baptizer. After hearing John preach, we know that Jesus submitted to John’s baptism. On coming up out of the water after his baptism, we know that Jesus heard a voice from heaven saying “This is my Son, whom I love.”

We know that this experience was life-changing for Jesus. Overwhelmed by what those words from heaven might mean, Jesus left there and went on a forty-day retreat to reflect on those words and discern what they might meant for his life. While on retreat, the devil presented several tempting options in contrast to what Jesus came to know as God’s plan for him. Having resisted the devil’s tempting options, Jesus comes out of his retreat, hears that John had been arrested and decides to launch his ministry. This is where we are on the time line in the gospel today.

Before we consider what Jesus came to understand as his mission from God, it might be a good idea to understand what he rejected – what the devil proposed to him that it might be when Jesus was discerning God’s will in the desert.  In a nutshell, the devil proposed all the solutions that he is still proposing in the world today. The devil, then and now, proposes external fixes. Jesus, then and now, proposes an internal fix. The devil says the path to happiness is through things changing, while Jesus says that the path to happiness is though people changing. Jesus was not called to change things. He was called to change people. He knew that when people change, things change!

Let me give you some examples. (1) The devil suggested to Jesus that he could get a lot of followers if he would just turn rocks into bread. Jesus said “no” because he knew that there are already enough resources to feed the poor. What is needed is not “magic bread,” but people changing their attitudes toward the poor. (2) The devil suggested to Jesus that he could get lots of followers if he would just suspend the laws of nature and jump from high buildings and land unharmed with the help of angels. Jesus said “no” because he knew if people would just open their eyes they would see that life as it is already a miracle. We don’t need dramatic stunts and cheap miracles. All we need is for people to look at life differently. (3) The devil suggested that Jesus could get ahead if he would only worship the devil and his power, if he would just start calling evil good and good evil. Jesus said “no” because he knew that that was a trick too many people had already fallen for with disastrous results. People could see the truth if they would just open their eyes at look at reality instead of closing them in denial and telling themselves that it was the truth.

Metanoiete! Change the way you think! Change the way you look at things! If you do, you will see that the kingdom of God is at hand, it is not in some far off heaven, but right here among us. It is indeed “at hand!”  

Change the way you think, change the way you look at things and you will see the answer! Your old way of thinking, you old way of looking at things is what is making you miserable and experience the absence God!  I believe this with all my heart. I believe it as a teaching handed to us by Christ, certainly, but I also believe it from experience!

When I was a junior in college, I was bashful, backward and scared of life. I always thought that life was something that happened to you and all I could do was to accept whatever happened. I was miserable and I blamed everybody I could. It was only when I changed the way I was thinking and got out of the back seat of life and got behind the wheel that life took a dramatic turn for the better. The world did not change! I did!

For the first 37 years of my life I carried around a huge truckload of resentment toward my father. I always assumed that the only way for me to get over it was for him to change or apologize. It never happened. I got over it the day I changed my thinking about him He did not have to change! I did!

My friends, the third temptation that Jesus faced was to call evil, good. In our own day, we are severely tempted, in many clever and seductive ways, to do the same – to trick ourselves into calling obvious evil, good! Nowhere is this clearer to me than when it comes to the staggering number of abortions, the growing call for euthanasia, the defense of the death penalty and now experiments with "designer babies." It all sounds so good to be so bad! In the face of all those simplistic solutions to complex problems, we have a tougher and tougher job. Our job is to work for changed hearts! That, my friends, is the real solution to many of our social problems – coming to a new way of thinking, seeing and acting that results from a changed heart!  




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