2 Corinthians 12: 2-10; Mark 6: 1-13
July 4 6th Sunday after Pentecost
It Is for Freedom 6th Pentecost
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 July 4, 2021 Mark 6:1-13
The word freedom is tossed around a lot these days, and it has been especially on my mind as we have approached our country’s Independence Day. Freedom! It’s the battle cry of every person who is struggling against powers that would enslave them, that would imprison them unjustly. Freedom.
I’m remembering a conversation I overheard in which a young single man was talking to a friend who had recently married. He said something like, “Well, marriage is alright for you, but I am happy with my freedom.” That kind of puzzled me, because, as a happily-married man, I don’t think I have less freedom than I did when I was single. It’s true that I’m not free to date other women, but in my committed relationship I am MUCH MORE FREE than I have ever been!
You might know the song “Desperado” by The Eagles. There’s a line in there that keeps coming back to me: “And freedom, oh, freedom, well that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone.” Your prison is walking through this world all alone.
There are all kinds of prisons out there—things that keep us from living freely and fully. In our reading from 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul described a “thorn in the flesh” that seemed to be keeping him prisoner, and he asked the Lord to take it away. Instead, God reminded him that God’s GRACE empowered Paul to live fully and freely despite the physical ailment that bothered him so much. Perhaps he remembered that, when the Hebrews were escaping from Egypt, they were blocked by the Red Sea. God did not remove the Red Sea, but God DID make a way through it! And God did not remove Paul’s pain, but helped him find a way through it. In our Gospel reading, we hear about a time when Jesus went to his home village and taught in the synagogue. The people there tried to imprison him by insisting that he was just a common person, someone who had grown up among them, NOT someone special. But all they ended up doing was reducing the amount of help that he could give them! They were “imprisoning” themselves with their unbelief!
Now, obviously, “freedom” means different things to different people, often dictated by circumstances. Let’s take a look at these passages, as well as some others that speak to the concept of FREEDOM, and see if we might find some light for living in freedom.
Christ Has Set Us Free (Galatians 5:1)
Paul wrote a terrific line to the church in Galatia: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. He was writing to people who were, for the most part, descendants of former slaves in Egypt. Their ancestors had been liberated (physically) from Pharaoh. Then, through years of growth and discipline, they had gradually been liberated from their mental slavery.
Soon after they were liberated, the Hebrews experienced hunger and remembered how they had been provided with food when they were slaves. They longed for “the fleshpots of Egypt” (forgetting that slavery was the price they paid for all that “free food.”) It took time for the people to grow up into the freedom that had been granted to them. The church in Galatia was struggling with folks who were //:trying to enslave them to the old law:\\, and Paul was encouraging them to live into the GRACE that God was providing them. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Remember: “FREEDOM” is the battle cry of every person struggling against powers that would enslave them.
Some weeks ago, we bumped into Paul’s words in Romans 8, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we ARE children of God.”
Invitation to Relationship—not Slavery
I suspect that there are a number of people who are leery of getting into a relationship with God because of their fears. Like the young man who chose “freedom” instead of being in a relationship, there are people who don’t respond to God’s invitation because of what they think they will be giving up!
We have a loved-one who is in the process of breaking free from a cult. For years, they were “enslaved” to the cult’s practices and beliefs, but they began to see cracks in the belief system and they walked away. But there are those who are doing all they can to get this person back into the cult. Our loved-one has said “no” to that slavery, but now they don’t want to be a slave to anyone or to anything, perhaps even God.
And, let’s face it, for many, religion is very much like slavery! There are leaders who try to impose cult-like behaviors and beliefs on their followers. They would do well to hear Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Anyone struggling against powers that would enslave them needs to hear, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” And “It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” And “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a Spirit of adoption.”
God has invited us into a RELATIONSHIP of LOVE, a relationship in which we are free to live our lives in joyful freedom. We discover that accepting God’s grace makes us free, and that extending grace to those who have hurt us makes us even more free!
In freedom, we can choose to be God’s instruments of healing and comfort and hope—either a lot or just a little. We can choose the degree of blessing that we wish to receive. We are free to follow God as closely—or as loosely—as we choose.
They Obeyed, and They Were Blessed
I’ll finish today by taking us to the last paragraph of the Gospel text for today. It tells us that Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out with authority over the unclean spirits. Any of them could have said, “You know, Jesus, I think I’ll just sit this one out.” But they would have missed out on a tremendous joy!
When Luke reports this event in his Gospel, he says that they returned to Jesus with JOY, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He goes on to say that Jesus then rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and then blessed the disciples. They obeyed, and they were blessed! They had the freedom to refuse, but they had tasted enough of God’s power and love that they boldly obeyed. Their freedom took them more deeply into their relationship with God.
So, when I consider the statement made by that young single man, “I am enjoying my freedom”, and when I compare that to the joyful freedom we experience in a committed relationship, I hear Paul’s words in a new way! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery!”