the one about freedom...
July 4, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from July 3, 2016

Text: Galatians 6: 1-16

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

Leading up to this weekend – specifically tomorrow – we hear a lot in our nation about ‘freedom.’ Those who fight for our freedom – thank you for those that do and have and will. Those who have stood up for their freedom – blessings to you in your struggles and I hope that I and we as a community of faith can see and walk with you in that burden. Those who have been freed from imprisonment – grace to you in your journey. And more.

We also hear a lot about wanting to protect ourselves so that we can retain our freedom. Where we uplift the notion that we are a country of freedom that gives us privilege and permission to do and say what we want.

Whenever I think of freedom I at times cannot help, but think of one of the last scenes of my favorite Disney movie, Aladdin. The Genie has been set free and he asks his friend to wish for something – something outrageous – wish for the Nile! Aladdin obliges and says rather reluctantly, “I wish for the Nile…” and the Genie’s response? “NO WAY!” And he’s giddy, happy, and ecstatic because he is free to not listen to anyone, but himself.

And, as lighthearted and heartfelt as that scene is – I think we have envisioned freedom like that. We are free to listen to no one, but ourselves. We have the right and the permission to say, “NO WAY!” And then laugh on our merry way.

And, in many ways that is what the world tells us as well. You don’t have to listen to other people. You don’t have to make others feel comfortable. You don’t have to respect those around you who are different. Why? Because we’re free and by golly we can do that!

I saw this play out in our country in two separate, yet linked tragedies that happened recently. Both involved young children who were caught up in two terrible situations. The first was a young boy who walked away from his mother and fell into a gorilla enclosure in Cincinnati. The other was a young boy who was pulled under the water by an alligator while swimming with his father at Disney World in Florida.

In both situations, the response was deafening and near unified – what were those parents thinking? How could you let your toddler do that? Why was she not watching her son more attentively? Why? I know! It must be because they are terrible and inattentive parents. Shame on them! Let me tell you how great of a parent I AM and how I would and could never let that happen!

Each of those situations was terribly tragic, one the trauma of seeing your child fall and then drug around by an immense animal not knowing what is going to happen next and being helpless to do anything. The other; the absolute crushing knowledge that when your child was pulled under by another immense animal that hope might be lost for his survival.

In each of those situations, people fully lived into their privilege and right that freedom has afforded them and us to proclaim to the world how parents like these shouldn’t be allowed to have children. How they never make mistakes. How they cannot believe where our country is headed with adults like these caring for our future.

I lamented in those words and responses. I lamented because I remember a time when that wasn’t the response that we were free to live into. I remember two other tragedies where the first thought from the world and those around the country wasn’t of shame and hostility, but of compassion and support.

One of those situations I actually remember – because I was alive – and the other I remember from my parents talking about it years later. How many remember Baby Jessica? The young 18-month old girl who was playing in the backyard and fell down into a drainage pipe. I remember that because it was one of the first major stories picked up by the first 24-hour news network, CNN. I remember the seemingly tidal wave of emotion for that family as rescue workers labored for almost 59 hours to free Baby Jessica from 20 feet under the ground.

I remember the responses from my parents and other adults being that of compassion for Baby Jessica’s parents, the heartache that they must be going through because of this accident.

The other incident was one that I was not around for, but have heard of because I have been playing video games for a long time; the story of Adam Walsh. Adam’s mother left him at an Atari kiosk with other kids while she went into Sears to shop. Adam disappeared. He was found later after he was brutally murdered.

In each of those incidents and tragedies, the entire country of moms and dads came together in support of those grieving parents and family. No shame and no blame raised upon them.

And all of that got me thinking a bit more about what freedom means for us, not as Americans, but as those who follow Christ.

Because we have heard a lot about freedom within our scriptures. Freedom from sin and death. Freedom to live. Freedom to serve God.

Yet, I think the freedom we receive in this country gets mixed up in what we know and believe that God has freed us for.

In our second reading today, Paul writes to the church of Galatia and begins in a way that hit me square in the stomach. In the second verse from our text from Galatians Paul writes that we are to bear one another’s burdens. That in that action of compassion, hospitality, and relationship we will fulfill the law of Christ.

Wow. Think about that for a moment.

In Christ we have been freed. We have been freed from sin and death. We have been freed from a worldview that pulls and lures us into that sin – the sin of not seeing, not caring, not loving others – only ourselves. We have been freed from the bonds that chain us to that life.

Yet, what are we freed for? Yes, we are freed from sin, death, and evil (thanks be to God), but we are freed for community. We are freed to serve. To serve God and to serve one another. We – as Paul might state it – we are free to carry one another’s burdens.

Carrying one another’s burdens is deeply personal and full of care, love and compassion. When there are those who are struggling – whether it be physical or emotional hardship – we are called to be with them. Not to shame and blame. We are freed from that pull and that call to join in with the world living into our ‘freedom’ to shun and chastise.

Christ has freed us to love and serve our neighbors. We have been set free for the sake of the world – to carry the liberating Good News of Jesus to a world in desperate need to hear. We have been set free for joy – to discover – again and again – what God has intended for all of the world. We have been set free to serve; to carry; to be with; to live as sacrifice for others.

We have been set free from thoughts and words placed upon us where we are made to feel that we cannot be seen as ‘broken’ or ‘in need’ or ‘lost’ in anyway. We are freed from the bonds that keep us from asking for help in our lives – our lives as parents, family, friends, spouses, people of God.

We are freed in Christ to know that struggle is a part of life and that we come together to lift our burdens. We are freed to talk and share, to pray and carry, to mourn and grieve, to love and cherish.

In Christ our Lord – we are freed from the bonds, and words, and thoughts of our world that tell us that we have to be perfect, without blame, a life that is always ‘on,’ that we don’t need ‘help,’ that we cannot appear weak in any way.

We are freed from the constant deluge that we are not good enough and this is how you have to be better.

We are freed in Christ.

We are freed so that we might know we are good enough. That God is present with us – always. That the Spirit moves and work through each of us in all that we do. We are freed to serve those around us, because we are freed for others. Freed to see each person before us and who we hear about as a fellow sister and brother of Christ; a fellow forgiven and loved child of God.

That is what we are freed for. Let us remember what God has freed us for and let us pray for the gift of God’s Spirit so that we might be able to live into that Gospel freedom. Amen.

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