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Beyond the Pulpit

June 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sandwiched between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, the two civil holidays when we celebrate our freedom as a nation and honor those who have provided it for us, is June.  Of course, as a child, June meant freedom to me.  With June came freedom from school, lots of outdoor time, picnics, swimming, summer camp, vacation, and no shoes (except for church on Sunday).  In my mind, it would be a long time until the oppression of school began again.  Those were great times, and they still are.  Of course as we grow up, freedom takes on different meanings.

Galatians 5:1 reads, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  Many preachers over the years have turned to this passage in an effort to inspire the congregation to remember the virtues of liberty and freedom that come with our salvation in Christ as well as with our American heritage.   We must work as hard at preserving the freedoms of our nation as we do in celebrating our freedom found in the Christian life.

There is nothing wrong with these ideals, indeed I would pretty much agree with their ideals.  Living the Christian life is difficult and involves a great deal of hard work in praying, studying, worshipping and resisting temptation.  Like-wise the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this nation have been won and preserved at a precious price.

However it is interesting that later in Galatians 5, Paul writes, “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 neighbor as yourself.’ (Galatians 5: 13-14)

What an ironic thing to tell us, “do not submit to slavery”… and then in the same chapter he goes on to encourage the faithful to become slaves to each other.  Of course we need to put it all into context.  Paul is of course speaking about the Jewish laws that pre-scribed that certain actions were necessary to attain salvation.  For the Christian, faith in Jesus supersedes the Law.  But that freedom is not a license to do whatever you want.  On the contrary, as people freed from sin and death by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we now have an obligation to love one-another as we have been loved by Jesus.

Out of that love we are called to serve one-another.  To give our lives as Jesus did in service to God and the community.  Ironically, that brings us back to the nation.  For what really makes us strong is the willingness to share and to serve.  On average, Americans give more donations and volunteer time than any other nation.  We are protected by a volunteer armed force, and the bulk of our fire-fighting is done by volunteers.  When there is a disaster, it is the volunteers that do most of the clean-up and rebuilding.  What drives us?  There are many reasons, only you can decide what inspires you to service.

As we enter into the freedom and excitement of summertime, remember the call to serve others.  Remember that it is Christ Jesus that calls us to love and serve every day.  Take some time to do something for someone else, be a good example to your kids and your neighbors.   Serve with gladness and strive to love each other as we love our nation.  Besides, serving each other is not really an option, as one of my esteemed colleagues said, It’s “Biblical, it may not be about what you want.”

May the peace and blessings of God, the joy of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit be with you all,

Mitch