Sunday, July 4, 2010

Re-Think Freedom

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 4, 2010
Luke 10:1-20

We’re here today in a church. There are many Christians around the world who just like us gather in a church on Sunday. But we’re in this specific church, located in San Diego. Our city is in the United States of America. Just as it’s our city, it’s our country, our nation. On this day in our nation we celebrate independence. We like to call it freedom. And it is. We have freedom to believe what we want. We have freedom to come here on a Sunday morning without fear of being thrown in prison or brought to the firing squad. The fact that we are here on a Sunday morning, in church, in San Diego, in America, tells us a lot.

Across time zones, cultures, nations, Christians gather in churches for worship. Some gather underground because they live in a nation that doesn’t value freedom as we do in our nation. Some of you may have come from other countries. Some of you may end up living in other countries. Some of you may never travel outside of our own country. But no matter where you end up, gathering in a church on Sunday morning is a custom that crosses all barriers: time zones, cultures, nations. In our country we have a particular affinity for freedom. But we are here in God’s House because we are Christians and the freedom we enjoy in this country doesn’t get to the heart of who we are here in God’s House. The Christian Church has existed long before the United States of America. God’s Holy Church exists in free countries and the most oppressive ones. The freedom we enjoy in this country is something we can truly rejoice in. It’s most definitely a gift from God.

But what’s even better, is that God gives us the opportunity to re-think freedom. The freedom God shows us is even greater than what we Americans normally think of as freedom; that we are free to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The reason this is so is because of a thing that was around long before the Declaration of Independence. It is the Word of God. The Declaration of Independence is a great document of history, certainly one of the most cherished of our nation. And it no doubt stands the test of time and is timeless in its truth. But the Word of God truly addresses all people of all time of all cultures and nations. The Word of God was proclaiming freedom long before the founding Fathers of the United States began writing the Declaration of Independence. The Bible was written in times far different from our own, in times far removed from our own, to people of different cultures than ours today. Yet the freedom that rings out from the pages of Holy Scripture is not freedom that is bound to political regimes or certain societal structures. The freedom God proclaims in His Word is freedom that is intact no matter what country, culture, or time you find yourself in.

So even though we are Americans and we are grateful for the opportunity to live in a free country, we see from God’s Word that as Christians no matter what country we live in we have true freedom. Look at how Jesus teaches us this in the Gospel reading. It’s an isolated event but tells us so much about who we are as Christians in the world. Jesus sends out seventy-two men to make known the Gospel. Now, how would you like to be sent out in the way He sent them out, as lambs in the midst of wolves? I’m not crazy about the prospect. Maybe they weren’t either.

But we should be. We should be because in His way of sending out there is true freedom. Jesus sets the t0ne here, doesn’t He, for the kind of freedom He brings about. It is freedom in Him. It is freedom from sin and our sinful flesh. That’s why His sending out of His servants must be as lambs in the midst of wolves. If we are not sent out into a hostile environment then where is our freedom? We will seek it within ourselves. Or equally as bad, from the world itself. We will be left in our sins and separation from God. Being sent out into a hostile world is how we see that our freedom is in Christ. Freedom from oppressive governments or things like that is a blessing but is fleeting. Freedom in Christ is eternal.

Jesus drives this point home with His injunction to “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” How will these men be sent on their task? With everything they need in Christ. He will provide for them. That is what their freedom is in. Freedom of knowing they don’t need to rely on themselves or on others or the things of the world in order to carry out the mission Jesus has placed before them. Jesus isn’t saying we shouldn’t make use of the things of the world. He Himself did and that should be enough for us to know that we are free to eat and have shelter and enjoy the wonderful creation God has given us. But in sending them on their way with nothing they see off the bat that their lives are entrusted to Him and in that there is freedom from being enslaved to their desires and what they perceive as lacking in their lives.

The freedom Christ gives is freedom that we have no matter the reception we get when we make known the Gospel to others. There will be those who are receptive to it. Others will respond in hostility. Jesus gives the words to say to each: blessing upon those who hear the Good News gladly and judgment upon those who reject the Gospel. But to each the message is made clear that “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Just think about what freedom Jesus is offering us here. We do not have to be bound to our feeble attempts at bringing the Gospel to others. We rely only on Christ and the message He gives us. We rejoice when people hear it gladly and speak the solemn message of judgment to those who reject the Gospel. But in either case we entrust it all to God. He is the one who converts people. We are free to bring the Gospel to others without the bondage of wondering if they will be converted. We leave it God.

You are here today hearing the same Good News that was proclaimed on that day. You are receiving the same message of salvation that has been made known over the past two thousand years. As you hear it, you are hearing Christ. He is the one speaking because He speaks through His servants. As you have heard, you also go out and make it known. Not everyone will hear it gladly but you can rejoice that at the very least you have planted a seed. God can do far more with the planted seed of the Gospel than we can with all our abilities and ideas. There is freedom in simply being in the Word, absorbing the Word, growing in the Word, and making known the Word to the world. There is freedom in that because it doesn’t all fall on you. It falls squarely on Christ.

And that’s really where He has been going with this whole thing from the outset. He’s the one who was going. He sent some to prepare the way before Him. But they were simply servants. They were making known the Gospel. He is the Gospel. He is the one who was making His way to Jerusalem and the cross. He was the one on whom the sin of the world, the guilt of every person, the eternal punishment of all fell. He took it all upon Himself in His suffering and death.

And in that is freedom. True freedom because it is freedom that rings for all eternity. Freedom you can rejoice in whether you live in North Korea or the U. S. because you know that your name is written in heaven. Amen.


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