“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female for all are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
A few days ago at our book study at a Trinity Lutheran in Nampa we were studying and conversing via Zoom about Rachel Held Evans book “Inspired.” The question was asked what is the Gospel or good news in one word? My answer was “freedom.” Yet in light of everything are we truly free? That question has been floating around my mind since that conversation. How can I be free if I can barely leave my home? How can I be free when I can’t see my kids or other members of my family? How can I be free if I live in fear of a virus I cannot see and a sickness I don’t understand? Is there really any freedom at all?
We do love to talk about freedom a lot in this country. You know it’s the “land of the free and home of the brave.” We believe that freedom and patriotic fervor go together. Yet now we are restricted and told to stay at home. It’s like being grounded only, I’m 65 not 10. Many in the world see themselves through the lens of freedom that says “I get to go where I want to go.”
That though isn’t really freedom in the biblical sense. As the powerful passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians states we are free in Christ. The boundaries between us are gone. The categories that we place people into does not matter to God. The walls have disappeared in Christ. What we have now is true freedom as Luther says, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Our freedom is in the context of Christ and what he taught us, love God and love neighbor. Yes we are free, but that isn’t mindless, foolish freedom. It’s a freedom to care and love our neighbors and our communities in this world right now. While I can no longer give all those I love a hug or a kiss or just be there with them. We can still care. We can still reach out and show my love to someone who is even more isolated than you and I might be right now. Social media can, for once, be used for good and not harm. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and all the other platforms are there for us to use. You can even write a letter. And when it comes down to it, let’s exercise our freedom to pray. Everyone sees prayer through a deeply personal lens, so however you do it, pray too.
When I lived in Shishmaref, Alaska, a native village 22 miles from the Arctic Circle, for six months I learned how those people depend upon each other and yes, depend upon prayer. They believe in its power, much more than I do to be honest. They believed that it changes things, yes, they have faith in miracles too. They name everyone in the village who is in need of prayer each week and I mean everyone! When they gathered at church all were named. Yet along with it was powerful action. They helped, they provided food for elders, they were there for them in grief and it joy. They saw it as their freedom to care and love each other.
This is what freedom is really about. Freedom to care! Now the ways we care are rapidly changing. They happen so quickly that we are not certain what to do. Our head spins as we figure out what to do in this time. What we are to do now is to stay at home and care from a distance, but that doesn’t make that any less real. This was what Jesus, Paul, and Martin Luther were teaching us. Freedom is costly, it’s a pearl of great price, but we are now free to be good servants and show the love found in Christ.
Holy God you gave us freedom to care and love, not just our neighbors, but our enemies, not just our family, but our community and world as well. We lift up this battered and bruised world to you today. We lift up our care givers, our hospitals and doctors and nurses who daily risk infection and harm. We can’t go out like we used to go. We cannot even worship together and that is so difficult, but we know it must be done. Give us strength not to “go out with good courage,” but to stay at home. Comfort the bereaved and lonely ones. In Christ’s name Amen.