Monday, 15 December 2008

Called by Name - Freedom from...

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.

Pauls letter to the Galatians 5:13-26 (The Message)

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Freedom from… Freedom to….
Freedom from…! Freedom to…!
Freedom from…? Freedom to….?

I often read stories in the media about lions, whales, bears being kept for years in cramped and cruel conditions; cages that barely allow them to turn around; circuses that abuse them for entertainment; minds turned by loneliness and neglect; terrible stories.

Then, now and again, I hear of protesters, of a mission; to return them to the wild; to set them free. And the mission fails, because the lion, the bear, the whale has forgotten who it is; where it belongs; how to live; what is ‘free’.
The animal, we are told, dies of stress; gives in to madness; hurts people and livestock in an attempt to find a familiar scent or memory and has to be killed. Its cage, its pool, its enclosure was the only world it knew – it thought it was free. The protesters fade into the background. It was not meant to end like this. They only wanted the animal to be happy; to have its rights; to be free.

Freedom means so much to us; freedom of speech, free will, free access. Some of us will kill for this freedom – to get what we want; what we deserve without limit, without deadlines, without censorship, without consideration for the freedom of others. It is a right- but it is my right first.

More or less this is what I believed freedom to be – so it was a real shock when God called. Because the freedom of God’s love called me to let go of the bars, limitations, and structures of my life – it threw me out into a wilderness I had no understanding of. God’s love for me is utterly wonderful but it is not a possessive love; it’s a wild unfettered love that has no limitations that had no boundaries. It pushes you out beyond comfort zones, beyond perceived family bonds and friendships groups, beyond self. Other people matter, more than I do. People I don’t like; people I don’t know; people I have barely spoken to in passing conversation suddenly become important, needing to be helped, needing to be prayed for.

I’m not saying I’m very good at it, in fact I’m not very good at it, but I pray and the Spirit pushes me along, like a watchful sheepdog bringing the lamb home through the mountain pass.
And I don’t want to go back to the imaginary freedom, because I do, as Paul says, have far more interesting things to do with my life
‘Freedom from…Freedom to…’

There is something considered ‘nice’ about being a Christian. It seems very genteel, very middle-class, very organised. And if you agree then perhaps you need to consider how much of the Christian message you are hearing.

Our buildings are lovely, our rituals thoughtful and devout. Our prayers are polite (though not always our scripture). And wrapping ourselves up in them is a comfort and, maybe, a protection against the outside world.
We are not meant to be defended against the outside world. Like the disciples at Pentecost we are not meant to hide – the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s grace and love for one reason – to go out and give it to others. And not to worry about it running out - in fact the better your relationship with God, the better you understand the message; the faster you give it away; the smoother the channel becomes; the more you will receive. We are told this over and over again.

Take time to consider the reality of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Jesus preached freedom and the freedom he gave was to others, to be healed, to be forgiven, to be made clean. This is the gift he sent his disciples to share with others.

Has your life ever been like that? What have you found difficult. Did you ask for the Lord’s help? What was his answer?
What can you learn to help you in the future?

Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.

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