Monday, October 26, 2009

What Will You Do With Your Freedom?

Sermon from Reformation Sunday
October 25, 2009

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, freedom means ““the
quality or state of being free;// the absence of necessity, coercion, or
constraint in choice or action;// liberation from slavery or restraint or from the
power of another.”// But do we really know what it means to be free?//

My friend Jon sat around the refectory table telling us of the horrific tale of
the genocide in Rwanda. He shared with us about fighting for his life and
family, searching for food, and praying for strength in the midst of this
horrible event.// And as he told his story, you couldn’t help but see the pain in
his eyes as he told his story.// But then he looked at each of us and explained
how he was so thankful for his freedom. And as we listened to his story, I
couldn’t help but think of what it truly means to have freedom!// Lutheran
Theology at Gettysburg President Michael Cooper-White once asked a
similar question in a sermon he gave at LTSG, “When, when will we be made
free?”//

The reality is that freedom has been given to us through God’s wonderful act
of love of sending his Son to die for each and every one of us. In today’s
Gospel reading from John, Jesus reminds us that we are ALREADY free.//
We have been set free from our sin by Jesus’ death on the cross.// Well known
theologian Douglas John Hall once wrote, ““The cross, not only,
demonstrates the lengths to which God is ready to go in God’s loving search
for lost, alienated humanity; it also represents the grim extent of our human
capacity to reject love when it is offered us. But it is in this altogether honest
confrontation of God and estranged humanity that real love begins to be
learned.”//

Jesus’ death is a gift of grace that liberates us from sin, death, and the power
of the devil. This gift is a gift that is not earned or even deserved. It is a free
unmerited gift given to us freely by God even though as the book of Romans states “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”// It is a gift that assures of God’s love for all of humanity.//

Robert Capon in his book Between Noon and Three poses a question for us as we trust in the promise that freedom comes through Christ and God‘s love for us.// He writes, “It is essential that you see this clearly. The Apostle is saying that you, and Paul and I have been sprung. Right now; not next week, or at the end of the world.// And unconditionally, with no probation officer to report to.// But that means that we have finally come face to face with the one questions that we have always thought we were aching to hear but that we now realize we have scrupulously ducked every time it got within a mile of us.// It was the question I raised in the very first chapter, and it has been lurking all along: What would you do with freedom if you had it?// Only now it is posed to you not in the subjunctive but in the indicative: You are free.// What do you plan to do?”//

16th Century Lutheran Reformer Martin Luther saw this freedom and was
willing to take a risk. Over 2000 years ago, Martin Luther showed us what he
planned to do with that freedom when he posted his 95 theses on the castle
doors at Wittenberg calling for debate. He was willing to stand up for his
Freedom and faith and say firmly, “Here I stand! I can do no other!”// By
uttering those words, Luther opened the door to renewal and reformation for
the church….a renewal that was founded on “justification by grace through
faith.”//

Luther’s reformation of the church reminds us that God’s grace is universal.//
We don’t have to do anything to earn that grace. God gives us that gift when
he sends his Son for us and reminds us that freedom comes in his love for all
of humanity.// And as a result, Christ wants us to live, not simply knowing
freedom, but using that freedom to share his love with all humanity.// Again
we are reminded, “You are free! What will you do with that freedom?”//

Many people in our world have seen what it means to live knowing they are
free. Mother Theresa opened her hearts to many children because she knew
they needed God’s love. When once asked why she helped them, she replied
“You see a sick child. I see the face of God in that child.”// My friend Jon and
many of the international students I met while attending Wartburg seminary
were faced with their freedom and now have a deeper understanding of
knowing that freedom and sharing that freedom with others.// But do WE
truly know that we are free?”// What would we do if we were faced with the
freedom given us?//

As we celebrate this Reformation Sunday, let us remember that we have been
given freedom through God’s love and Christ’s death on the cross.// Christ
will come again to judge the living and the dead!// Christ is with us now and
always.// Listen for a moment to these words from Christian band Tenth
Avenue North.// Why are you striving these days?//Why are you trying to earn
grace?// Why are you crying?// Let me lift up my your face; Just don’t turn
away.// Why are you looking for love?// Why are you still searching; As if I’m
not enough?// To where will you go child; Tell me where will you run?// To
where will you run?// I’ll be by your side whenever you fall; In the dead of
night whenever you call; please don’t fight these hands that are holding
you//My hands are holding you.// Look at these hands and my side; they
swallowed the grave on that night.// When I drunk the world’s sin so I could
carry you in and give you life.”// Christ is the One who came
to bring us hope, life, and freedom.//

In all actuality, Christ gave us life when he died on the cross for us.// Christ
says to each of us, “ I have made you free!”// So how will you live knowing
you have been made free through Christ’s death?// What will you do with
the freedom given you? Amen!//

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

We Love Because Christ First Loved Us!

"We Love because Christ first loved us!" I've been thinking a lot lately about the actions taken at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. I know many people have been hurt by those actions and are contemplating leaving the ELCA. I also know that many others are delighted and are joyful. What I find myself asking and wondering is how can we continue together? I know what the Bible says about homosexuality but I also know what it says about love and grace. Besides, aren't we all sinners? Isn't divorce, greed, envy,etc sins too? The other day I partook in an event with youth from church. We spent the night in cardboard boxes and fasted for 30 hours to raise awareness of the homeless in our communities. One of my youth wrote the verse from above on her box and it has been ringing in my brain ever since. Don't we love because Christ truly did love us first? Doesn't Christ claim all of us as his children? As the CWA 09 unfolded, I found myself trying to find the words I was feeling as I tried to capture what was happening. I find myself returning to the words that my friend Mark was quoted in the NY Times for saying. He basically said, "Let us stop leaving people behind and be the family God has created us to be." I also find myself turning to the words I penned that day as well. They are as follows:

The world watches
as this church
makes a gigantic decision

And as voices are heard
and resolutions debated,
many hearts break
yet at the same time,
many other hearts are hopeful,
so we pray.

We pray
that no matter today's outome
we still can be the church,
not divided,
but rather united in love,
love for one another.

And as we love one another,
despite our differences,
may we move forward
as one bread and one body
rooted in God's love for all God's people