The exercise of mercy is the measure of freedom--that state of being which is universally hailed as a human ideal in the Western world. When he healed on a Sabbath, Jesus was violating the rules and norms of his time because he was merciful, not because he [thought that the authorities were too strict.] Jesus understood freedom from the point of view of mercy, not the other way around. For him, freedom meant that nothing could stand in the way of the exercise of mercy.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Free to ... ?
What is freedom? Perhaps you remember being in worship at Grace church when you were part of a moment when people spoke about freedom and what it means or what it has meant to them.
Certainly we hear the word a lot. Particularly at this time of year, the stretch of days that run from Memorial Day through Flag Day and into the Fourth of July weekend, people make reference to sacrifices that have been made to preserve our freedom, sacrifices and efforts that have been made to bring freedom, to liberate people. These pronouncements, conversations, reminiscences, and retellings are a significant and valuable part of binding ourselves together as a nation. They are also a valuable part of binding ourselves to our brothers and sisters around the world. In yearning for freedom and struggling for freedom we walk in each other's paths and carry each other's burdens. Like the freedom song with the chorus, "None of us are free (if) one of us is chained, none of us are free."
I have a follow up question, if I may? What are you free for? What are you free to do?
From a political posturing, and somewhat of a historical, point of view, the answer is usually "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That's pretty good and maybe that is your answer. My question is a little more specific and I invite you to consider it from some specific points of view.
First of all, consider your perspective, your personal understanding about the meaning and purpose of life. What that is vitally important to you are you free to do? The "pursuit of happiness" is a fine thing. How is that manifest in your particular life? How do you pursue happiness? What in your life has ever made you deeply satisfied and filled with light? And are you free to seek that thing?
Second, from your everyday life of being a citizen, what freedom is really important to you? Perhaps it is vital to you to vote in elections. Really? The voter turnout in the United States is uninspiring, to me at least. Is your freedom to practice a religion of your choice or no religion at all vital to you? Perhaps it is. On the other hand, it is frequently spoken at Grace Church that some of us are afraid of being "those people," the ones who bend one's ear about the truth of one or another aspects of religion. If that is true for you, then I wonder what it is that you are free to do with your religion. If we never speak to anyone outside of our religious community about our faith and what it does in our life, if we never speak of God outside of church, if we never speak to God except during the Lord's Prayer on Sunday morning, then I question how free we really are.
Finally, from all your experience in Sunday School, in your home practices of faithful living, in your reading, doubting, thinking, discussing, listening, and worshipping, from what kind of bonds have you been freed? What are you free to do now?
I'd like to suggest that we are freed for more abundant life in an wide range of ways. Consider this perspective from Jon Sobrino in The Christian Century (April 3 1991), thanks to Church of the Savior at www.inwardoutward.org
Here is the concept of freedom from our deepest Christian tradition. Freedom can mean for you and me something expansive and bold. Freedom of this sort means that nothing stands in the way of our exercise of mercy. Faith frees us from anything that would keep us from loving each other like we are family.
We claim Jesus as our model, our guide, and our inspiration. We thereby claim that we are free to love our enemies.
We choose the way of the cross and we are thereby free to give up our long-smoldering resentments and start to forgive those who have offended or harmed us.
We are citizens of God's kingdom. That means we are free to exercise our responsibility, direct from God, for how we take care of this world.
We are free to set fear aside and then speak clearly and act in opposition to injustice.
What is your freedom good for? You are freed from selfishness and released for compassion!
In a season where talk of freedom most often refers to political freedom, let us applaud. Then let's deepen and claim as well your freedom to be whole; both loving and loved!