Freedom

There’s a great song by the Soup Dragons that celebrates, with a great beat and bravado, that “I’m free to do what I want, any ol’ time.” This is the ideal in our society’s mind’s eye – we are free to choose what we want, to live how we want, to say what we want, and to believe what we want. Freedom!

And to an extent, this is what the American system is designed to do. The Constitution of the United States limits the power of the federal government to restrict individual liberties, providing for a great deal of personal freedom for everyone who lives in the shadow of the American flag. Exercise your liberties. You’re free to do what you want, any ol’ time.

But for we who also live at the foot of the cross and the opening to the empty grave, there’s more. Saint Paul writes that “You have been called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love” (Galatians 5:13). We live not for ourselves, but for others. We are free not for our own sake, but for the sake of others.

Elsewhere Paul writes that Christians are called to “look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39, quoting Leviticus 19:18), pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), deny ourselves (Luke 9:23), and give for the sake of others (Luke 18:22). Central to the Christian faith is the call to serve our neighbors.

This Independence Day I encourage us not only to celebrate freedom, but to use our freedom for the sake of others. For indeed, freedom kept just for one’s own use is as useless as a light kept under a bushel (Matthew 5:14-16).

(Top image: John Trumbull, 1820, oil on canvas. The original hangs in the rotunda of the US Capitol – http://www.aoc.gov/cc/photo-gallery/ptgs_rotunda.cfm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1379717)

The Blessed and Holy Task of Being God’s People (Lectionary 14, Year C)

Lectionary 14 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
July 4th, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

I went back home to Philadelphia last week for five days with my kids.
I went to a baseball game to see my beloved Phillies play – they lost
    and to an amusement park designed for young children in Lancaster County.
I stayed a few days at my brother’s house and a few at my in-laws’ house,
    drove through my old neighborhood,
    and even ate a street vendor cheesesteak on the back lawn of Independence Hall
        while my kids blew bubbles and ran around on ground
        where Founding Fathers surely held conversations
            about tyranny, freedom, and self-determination.
It was a great trip.
But despite reliving some old memories and creating some new ones,
    the trip was also tinged with a bit of sadness.

Read More