Set Our Hearts at Liberty - Sunday, October 7, 2018
Too many people feel alone, figuratively wandering in the night. They search for purpose, meaning, and connection. They long to love and be loved, to help and be helped. Often their wandering is more desperate because they feel they don’t deserve love or help. Perhaps they’ve made poor choices or haven’t lived up to expectations—their own or others’.
In Victor Hugo’s beloved classic Les misérables, Jean Valjean is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. He is finally released after 19 years, but because of his criminal record, no one is willing to trust Valjean with employment or housing—or even a friendly word. Disheartened, he finally goes to a cathedral, where he is offered a meal and a place to sleep.
That night, Valjean sneaks away with the church’s silverware but is caught by the police. The officers drag him back to the cathedral, where, to everyone’s surprise—especially Valjean’s—the clergyman reports that he gave Valjean the silverware and wanted him to take the silver candlesticks as well. The police leave, and the cleric challenges Valjean to use this gift to become an honest man. This stunning act of grace—a gift some might say wasn’t deserved—forever changes the course of Jean Valjean’s life.
Don’t we all find ourselves in need of help that we don’t necessarily deserve? Aren’t we all beneficiaries of unearned favors? Certainly, everyone falls short and needs forgiveness. In those moments when we fear that our mistakes have put peace and joy forever out of reach, we can turn heavenward and find what 18th-century hymnist Charles Wesley called “love divine, all loves excelling.” God’s love is “pure, unbounded love,”2 and He grants it not because we are strong but because we need strength, not because we are good but because He is good.
Such love seems to enter most readily into the “trembling heart.” And once it enters our trembling heart, our undeserving life, we are forever changed. We can no longer see anyone as undeserving of the gifts of grace and love we might be able to offer. In this way, as Charles Wesley affirms, God sets “our hearts at liberty.”3
1. See Victor Hugo, Les misérables, trans. Christine Donougher (2013), 91–99.
2. “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” Hymns of Faith (1980), no. 56.
3. “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” no. 56.
October 7, 2018
Broadcast Number 4,647
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
German hymn tune; arr. Mack Wilberg
If the Savior Stood beside Me
Sally DeFord; arr. Sam Cardon
Percy E. Fletcher
My Song in the Night
American folk hymn; arr. Mack Wilberg
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Rowland Hugh Prichard; arr. Mack Wilberg