Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Year A Proper 5 WED 2020 For Freedom

Year A Proper 5 Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Video service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“For Freedom”

The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 5:1-15
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Matthew 16:1-12
The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then he left them and went away.
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have brought no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!’ Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Good morning, friends. I hope you are well, and pray for your safety and wholeness.

Today, we are in such confusing times. If I say anything I will upset someone. And if I say nothing, then I am moot. So I take the risk, and pray that I am sharing light and not heat. If you have issues with what I say, let us “come reason together.” Phone, Skype, whatever. I could be wrong. I could be right. My relationships with you are more important than being right.

I have a lot of freedom as a public speaker, especially in our polity. I could say anything. But because I treasure that freedom, I strive very much to not abuse or force my freedom and its exercise on anyone else. 

In the Gospel, Jesus confronts the control of the Pharisees, and their unhealthy approach to faith that Jesus calls out over and over again. God did not send Jesus to play Gotcha, and we as his followers should not exist to practice to make people feel condemned or less than. I saw a great line on Facebook yesterday. “If reading the Bible causes me to scrutinize others more than I scrutinize myself, then I am not reading the Bible correctly.” (@scottsauls on Twitter, found on Facebook) I trust that for real and substantive life change to happen, I have to let the Holy Ghost do the Holy Ghost’s job. That may be convicting our sinful ways. But that is not my job, or the church’s. Now I may confront something that is blatant and obvious, but it is not my job or role to convict anyone. Especially anyone apart from the Church.

We have been given freedom to do what we should do, and somewhere we have adopted the immature and adolescent attitude that we can do what we want. That is not the same thing. 

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And because we do not see ourselves as once bound and now freed we miss the point of our liberation. Freedom, in all its manifestations, is the state of existence God enables for us and desires from us. 

I was flipping channels the other day, and one channel was finishing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you remember Charlie, at the end, had broken the fine print of the contract he had signed, and “lost” the Chocolate Factory. Mr Wonka was cruel and mean and dismissed Charlie and Grandad. And then Charlie’s spirit came out. He had freedom to run away, and make a lot of money from the everlasting gobstopper he had been given. But Charlie, though disappointed, gave back the gift, closing off any ties from the Wonka Factory. In his freedom and his disappointment, he continued to do what he should do. And therein lies the test, the rub.

We have been set free, enabled, gifted, encouraged, to become our full and true selves in Christ. For freedom Christ set us free. For freedom, true freedom, Mr Wonka severed ties with Charlie to truly see who he was and what he would do. When I was a child I did not understand. Mr Wonka seemed mean. But now, when I see this, it reminds me of God. We have been given so much. No one prevents us from misusing and abusing, from sinning and blessing. We are autonomous moral agents, free to do what we will. And in so doing, we have the ability to be godly, or not. 

For freedom Christ has set us free, and in so doing God and everyone else, can see who, and whose, we really are. Amen

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Blessings, Rock