Sunday, June 19, 2016
THE GIFT OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM
Beloved people of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. AMEN.
Freedom is one of
our nation’s most cherished values. The Declaration of Independence, adopted on
July 4, 1776, states: “We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
But recently it
feels like liberty, our constitutional freedoms, and the new birth of freedom
are under assault in the land of the free. Friday marked the first anniversary
The people of
In the presidential campaign Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee rhetoric continue to be major themes.
We as a nation are struggling to discern what it will take to address our security concerns and yet uphold our freedom. Obviously, not all are in agreement. One could argue that the heart and soul of our nation are at stake.
Paul’s Letter to
the Galatians has been referred to as a declaration of Christian freedom. Paul
was in a battle for the heart and soul of the Christian community in
Over the next three Sundays I am preaching a sermon series on Christian freedom, using key texts from Galatians. Today we will focus “The Gift of Christian Freedom.” Next Sunday our theme will be “The Spirit of Christian Freedom. And then on Sunday, July 3, Fourth of July weekend, the theme will be “The Burden of Christian Freedom.” The hope is that we will come to a deeper appreciation of the freedom of a citizen of the community of Christ. Such freedom is at the heart and soul of living as a follower of Jesus. Along the way we also want to address how Christian freedom is related to the freedom we will celebrate on the Fourth of July.
For Paul Christian freedom is rooted in the free grace of God. Grace is God’s unconditional love for us that has been revealed in Jesus Christ. God freely chooses to love us. Faith is about trusting that God loves us. As God promised Abraham so long ago, the blessing of God’s love is intended for all peoples, not just for a chosen few. God’s unconditional love revealed in Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
One blessing of
the gift of Christian freedom, therefore, is to live in the confidence of
knowing we are loved by God. Friday was the last day of school for students in
It is also freeing in a marriage relationship when spouses are confident that they are loved by one another. So many struggles in marriage relate directly to that lack of confidence.
Paul wants the Galatians to know in their hearts and souls that they are loved by the God of Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe. In Galatians 3:27 he highlights the role of baptism in assuring followers of Jesus of that love. Baptism is the public declaration of God’s love for the one being baptized. “In Christ Jesus,” Paul emphasizes to the Galatians, “you are all children of God through faith.” It did not matter whether or not Gentile men were circumcised. What mattered was to trust, to be confident, that they were loved by God. To be confident that we are loved by God frees us to face the challenges of life and to live our lives to the fullest.
A second blessing of the gift of Christian freedom is to live in a community in which there are no second class citizens. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s vision of ethnic, socio-economic, and gender equality was radical for its time. Paul and the early church struggled to live in to this radical vision of equality. Ethnic, socio-economic, and gender distinctions did not immediately cease to matter. Indeed, the church has struggled ever since to live in to a community in which all are treated equal.
Our Welcome Statement at St. Andrew can be viewed as an effort to cast this radical vision of community in our own time. We are in the process of trying to live in to our Welcome Statement. Our version of Galatians 3:28 is in the second paragraph: “All are welcome, without exception, regardless of ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, education, income, or family status.” It is one thing to use such categories to describe or understand who we are as human beings. It is another matter to use them to reduce people to second class citizens. Paul’s main point is that before God all human beings are equal. Our primary identity is as a child of God. No other human category can serve as a primary identity marker. In Christ we have been given a vision of community that cuts across social, economic, racial, ethnic, generational, gender, linguistic, and religious barriers. Such a vision frees us to be the people God created us to be.
The final blessing
of the gift of Christian freedom I want to lift up today is that it frees us
from fear and hatred. It is obvious this Christian freedom was at work last June
17th in those gathered for Bible study at
I am glad the
Pride events have gone on this weekend here in
On Wednesday the
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Board held its June meeting at the Muslim
Educational Trust. Our Muslim hosts were so gracious. They prepared us a
wonderful meal, even as they were fasting during Ramadan. They were also a
catalyst for a statement put out this week by American Muslim and Arab-American
Are we prepared to affirm that in Christ there is no Jew or Christian or Muslim, but we are all one, beloved children of God through faith? The more we ponder Paul’s radical vision of community in Christ it becomes apparent that the heart and soul of Christian freedom is about loving all those who are loved by God.
In Jesus’ name, AMEN.