I recently found the first sermon I ever preached to a congregation, over 30 years ago. It was called “Freed to be Free,” based on Galatians 5, and I preached it on a summer Sunday when all the regular church staff was away. I was in seminary, had had no preaching classes, just trying to imitate what I had always heard from the pulpit. I am not sure why I was preaching on that text, because I didn’t know much about the lectionary at that stage of my learning. But as I re-read it, I could see clearly that the call to freedom in my spiritual journey was compelling and urgent for me. And the call to a journey of freedom in the Spirit still compels and invites me.
I began to wonder how I have lived into the FREEDOM that is called me so deeply when I first preached on it. I see how careful I was, coming from whence I came, being sure not to allow for uncontrolled license, or to confuse FREEDOM with “doing what comes naturally.” I felt is necessary to speak a cautionary word about anger and self-centeredness, but I was not able to anticipate the ways in which I would become free on my journey of Spirit.
This past month, I have found myself unable to write anything. And maybe that was the FREEDOM I needed–no self-imposed deadlines, no internal pressure to find meaning or something meaningful, no meeting my own carefully crafted intentions. Maybe I needed to listen to the Word that came to me when I was on retreat, which was to “Just stop!” I am at a delicious location in life, where in most ways, I can do just that–stop, let it all go for awhile. And so I have. This July I have completed no projects, no ambitions, not even many lists of to-dos.
But I have been and still am continually musing on how, when and where I am living in the freedom for which Christ made me free:
- I am free to remember and marinate in, maybe even to trust, that there is nothing that can separate me from the Love of God.
- I am free to love and appreciate my person that God created–body, mind and spirit.
- I am free without fear to allow the Spirit to gentle and guide me through whatever means She chooses: sources from my own tradition, those of other traditions, using words or no words.
- I am free to love those that are brought to me whether or not we seem to have things in common or whether we agree on anything.
- I am free to let go of judgement of another person’s motives and behaviors, while holding one to my own beliefs and convictions.
- I am free to speak and act for justice and mercy for those who have no voice or agency or protection.
- I am free to bring my gifts and talents to the communities in which I dwell, and free to say “no” when the call does not have my name on it.
- I am free to trust my own discernment about where and when the Spirit is inviting me to show up; to quote a beloved teacher, “The need does not constitute the call.”
- I am free to enter into the deep waters of forgiveness–offering it, asking for it, receiving it–and then “letting it go.” This is applies even when musing on my own failures and shortcomings.
- I am free to give thanks for the abundances of my life–people who have loved and are still loving me, places I have dwelt where I experienced Holy Presence, moments of “kairos” time, where I with others recognized that surely God was in that place.
- I am free to continue to be a growing up, all the days I am given to live, not ever needing to call a halt to the practices of Spirit that deepen my understanding of the Holy and how I am called to live and move in the moment.
My understanding of God’s freedom for and in me keeps growing…I keep being set free; I am banking of the words of Jesus from the book of John: If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. May it be so!