Sermon – 06-26-22 – Proper 8 – Cycle C
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62
Sermon Title: “Freedom From What and For What?”
Paul speaks boldly about freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
We just recently learned to celebrate “Juneteenth,” the anniversary of the date in 1865 when supposedly ALL slaves learned that they were officially free. What did freedom mean to this large group of persecuted people? You may have read historical factual books or historical novels about the transforming new life. In most cases the people needed to create the new life; they had to make it happen. They could not be passive about it. Instead they had to forge into a new life. How long did this period last? We can’t say! This long, long period of forging a life that looks fair and equal is not ended. It is on-going! Do we think God wants it this way?
Are there other kinds of slavery? About what was Paul speaking? “For freedom
Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Do you feel caught in a trap and you can’t see a way out? Surely addiction is a trap, a form of slavery. But we say, we are not addicted. Paul lists these nasty habits or addictions. One of them may hit us on the head. Fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. Of course these are all bad, but once we have fallen into their traps, we are slaves; it is like being in quicksand.
On the other hand, what actions of comfort do you pursue each day? Is it that cup of coffee or three cups of coffee? Does your house have nice hot water whenever you want it? Maybe just the reverse. Maybe you like a camping lifestyle and you really feel free when you are sleeping in a tent and walking a distance to a common toilet and shower house. What makes you feel free? How about sunlight rather than dreariness?
Whatever it is, do we remember to thank God for it frequently? What is freedom to one person is prison to another person. Most of us have freedom of health care. Even so, many of us find ways to escape medical attention when we need it and it seems that we are managing just fine. When all of a sudden, out of the blue, something happens to us and we admit that we are the patient and it is time to give in. So it was with me this past week. All of a sudden I had a leg that was functioning like jello; then, like a tree trunk. But even so, God had that happen in the right place. I could be a good marketing person for Pro-Medica Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.
Upon saying the word “stroke” fairly loudly, I had immediate attention from at least one doctor, several nurses, more assistants, and a live connection to the hospital. In no time an ambulance appeared with two trained medical people who wasted not a minute getting me connected to all sorts of wires. And then upon being wheeled into the Emergency Department of the Reading Hospital I was rushed into what seemed to be a rather small room with at least eight people facing me, ready to go into action. That was impressive!
As a pastor I have walked up and down many hallways in many hospitals. Now, I was not allowed to walk any hallways without a walker and without being attended by a trained person who carried my wires and pushed the machine to which the wires were attached. These people were wonderful! Truly kind and helpful. But did that take away my anguish at this sudden change in my schedule and having no choice in the matter? No! However, I did remember to converse with God and asking God to help me to be calm. Did you catch my saying that I was walking with a walker? Yes, with all of these wires and intravenous liquids, and surely with God’s care, my leg started cooperating quickly.
My speech was never effected, nor my eyesight. My hands were good throughout. So I feel very, very blessed. I thanked God, but I did not feel free. As I faced the canceling of appointment after appointment and as a short trip to the emergency room turned into a three-day stay, I felt helpless. But because God has helped me time after time to turn a problem into a good experience, I trusted God to do the same thing again. But, even getting discharged takes time! Returning to my car was freedom! Everything in my car was just as I left it. Once again God gave me freedom and a good solution to a problem
Enter Paul and his words, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. Aha! So no matter in what situation we find ourselves, we are to care more about the other person. I like to think I was kind and courteous with the kind people who cared for me and wanted the best for me. I like to think I was a witness for God’s love.
But, what was really real was the love that was shown to me by the five people I had contacted to cancel a Zoom meeting during this escapade. Not only did my feeling of entrapment fade but I felt truly lifted by the offers of help. Throughout this whole experience, Paul’s nine “Fruits of the Spirit” were revealed and active: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In these qualities are freedom to be the people God planned for us to be.
So what about the people in this world who are caught in actual entrapment, in slavery. Shall we just thank God for our freedom in Christ and all of God. Shall we watch the news, shall we read in the paper of people who have lost homes to bad weather, of people who lost homes and freedom because of war, have lost loved ones to violence, of people whose health is gone because of illness, of families who live in violent neighborhoods, of people who are in prison wrongly or people who are in prison for their bad actions, of people who are still serving as slaves, people in sex-trafficking in our backyard, people caught up in gang warfare, in cults, in cultures of crime methods, and simply thank God for our freedom OR should we ask God and follow God’s directions to arrange freedom for these souls in the kingdom of God on earth?
In our passage from Luke 9, Jesus is telling us to put our hand to the plow and keep moving forward to be fit as people of the kingdom of God – that is us. Do we have our hands on the plow and our sights on the freedom of everyone SO that as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” we realize that this is our responsibility. We have work to do, do we not? Amen