“For freedom Christ has set us free” – sermon for June 26, 2016

“For freedom Christ has set us free.”

Paul must be talking about us. About us Americans. We who are privileged enough to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. That’s what our history teaches us. Give me liberty or give me death—Patrick Henry declared in 1775. We wanted our freedom—to be free from taxation without representation, free from England, free from tyranny. We believe some things are just self-evident we have the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

In the words of another more contemporary great man.

 

I’m free to do what I want any old time

I’m free to do what I want any old time

So love me, hold me, love me, hold me

I’m free any old time to get what I want

I’m free to sing my song though it gets out of time

I’m free to sing my song though it gets out of time

So love me, hold me, love me, hold me

And I’m free any old time to get what I want

Love me, hold me, love me, hold me

But I’m free any old time to get what I want

I’m free to choose what I please any old time

I’m free to choose what I please any old time

So hold me, love me, love me, hold me

I’m free any old time to get what I want, yes I am

 

Those are words written by Mrs. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones – the British rock band. So, evidently the pursuit of freedom is not peculiar to this continent; it is not just an American dream. It is a universal desire, and as Paul tells us this morning a divine right given to us by God. For freedom Christ has set us free.

 

And, what better place is there to explore and experience what it is to be free than Las Vegas, Nevada. Most of you know that I spent 3 days there past week with my sister. So, you might imagine where as a preacher I could go with Paul’s list vices: fornication, impurity, licentiousness (which if you’re unfamiliar with this word, that has kind of fallen out of style means: lewd, immoral, outside the rule of manners, customs, and law), idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these—so forth and so on. Basically just about everything that built and continues to make money in Sin City.

 

Oh the temptation, what makes it so difficult is choosing, how can to pick one or even just a few from this Sin City menu. I’m talking of course about preaching, not indulging. I imagine innumerable preachers down through the ages pounding the pulpit or pavement about any or all. The thing is, Paul isn’t as focused on this list of vices as our lectionary or the pericope makes it seem. You may have noticed that someone has stripped quite a few verses from the section— 2-12. And, in those 10 verses, you will see when you go home and open your bible and read them, Paul’s subject is circumcision not sin. Paul is reminding the early Christians that Christ has set us free from circumcision, from the Torah law and commandment that circumcision was required to be one of God’s people. So, if Paul spends ten verses on freedom from this law and one verse listing obvious vices like fornication, sorcery, drunkenness, carousing are on the same list as jealousy, anger, envy, and quarrels, then perhaps there’s more to following Jesus than don’t do this, that, or the other thing.

 

For freedom Christ has set us free. The freedom of a Christian is not to be free to do whatever we, I want. You don’t have to fly to Vegas to see how our pursuit of happiness, how appeasing our attitudes, appetites and addictions enslaves us and others. It is not a stretch either to say that our country has become captive to one interpretation of the 2nd amendment—free to bear arms. Again these are merely the symptoms of a greater and “gravier” slavery.

 

Paul calls it flesh, but perhaps a better word would be self. For Jesus frees us from trying to save ourselves (through following the law of circumcision or any law for that matter). And Jesus frees us from ourselves, from focusing on our selves. As followers of Jesus we are not free to do whatever we want, we are not free from others, instead we are free for others.  

 

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for me to buy a semi-automatic. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for me to be able to say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you to beat anybody up, including yourself. From what I hear Paul saying in these words, is that Jesus didn’t die on the cross for me. Christ hasn’t set me free. For freedom Christ has set us free. Freedom means that we do not enslave others or ourselves for power, pleasure, or profit.

 

Freedom isn’t words on a paper, it isn’t everybody standing while somebody sings a national anthem, it isn’t God, guns, and glory—flag waving and fireworks.

 

Freedom looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Of course, these traits, these practices have fallen out of fashion. We don’t use these words to describe America do we?

 

Of course, can we honestly use those words to describe us Christians, as followers/disciples of Jesus? Each of us may know someone who displays, who lives these gifts of the Spirit. Now it would be totally awesome if you or I could have, could be each and every one of those. But aren’t we then setting ourselves up for failure and not freedom. How about we pick one, perhaps pick one for a week or a month and follow Jesus by focusing on one of those gifts of the spirit, hold onto it in your prayer and in practice of discipleship every day. Hold onto it till it has a hold in you so that together we can experience, share the freedom for which Christ has set us free. Amen.

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