For the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany:
So, here we find ourselves in midwinter and the crazy Texas weather has us turning on the AC one minute and the heater the next. We have to look at the daily forecast before getting dressed so we know if we need shorts and flip flops or big sweaters and fleece leggings. And if we weren’t confused enough, the prayer assigned for today for those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary sounds more like it is for the Fourth of July. At least my coffee supply is consistent.
“Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”The Book of Common Prayer, page 216
Freedom and Liberty. These two words can can spark some lively conversations, can’t they?! I think for most folks these words conjure political debate, flag waiving, enthusiastic speeches, and defensive, fist-shaking postures to protect what is ‘mine’. Don’t tread on ‘me’. Give ‘me’ liberty or give ‘me’ death. ‘My’ country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.
The American culture, as a sweeping generalization I admit, understands freedom and liberty to be for the individual. We live in a society and abide by or tolerate certain laws in order to protect me the individual from those whose behavior would threaten my ability to do as I please. And somehow we’ve come to believe that one group claiming to deserve the same freedom and liberty we have somehow threatens our freedom and liberty as if there were a limited supply to go around.
But freedom and liberty are like love – the more we give the more there is and there’s always a sufficient supply for everyone. As followers of Jesus, we need to stop and consider whether we let the civil or cultural understanding of freedom and liberty inform the way we follow Jesus or do we let Jesus’ teachings to inform the way we live into the gifts of freedom and liberty given us by God?
In God’s kingdom, societies and cultures don’t exist for the benefit of the individual. As native born citizens of God’s kingdom we are created by God as unique individuals and in God’s image for togetherness, collectiveness if you will. We are most fully human in community with each other and with God.
When we choose to live in the awareness of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven, we come to realize that we are most free when we let go of our ego which demands we get what we want (this is “the bondage of our sin” that we ask God to set us free from) and live in a way that ensures WE are all provided for. This is abundant life!
This is the good news that Paul talks about proclaiming. This is the good news that Simon’s mother-in-law celebrates as she is made well and able to live into her gift of hospitality and care for her family.
The abundance of life that God has for us isn’t about fighting to ensure I have all I want and more but working together so that everyone (yep, even ‘those’ folks) has what we need to be well and good as we build each other up in community bound together by the life of Jesus.
Whatever the weather where you are, proclaim the freedom and liberty of God’s kingdom with the same confidence as Paul knowing that in God we all have an everlasting supply of love to share with our neighbors.