“Give me liberty, or give me…death” Who said that? Patrick Henry. These are the words that swung the opinion of the Virginia Convention to join the revolution against the British Empire. Patrick Henry had a dream of liberty and freedom for the American colonies.
On Monday we will celebrate a man who cried out, “Free at last, free at last, praise God almighty, we are free at last.” Dr. King had a dream of liberty and freedom for the African American people.
Liberty and freedom are part of the DNA of our country. Yet, those ideas were not born here. They are not exclusively American ideals. There was another revolutionary leader who stood up in front of his people and said, “today I declare liberty for the oppressed and the captives! Sight for the blind, and good news to the poor!”
The word translated “release” and “free” are the same greek word “aphesis.” This word is also translated “liberty,” “liberation,” and “freedom” in other passages.
Liberty and freedom are Jesus ideas.
Over the next few weeks we are looking at the Unexpected King and the Unexpected Kingdom as it is spelled out in the gospel of Luke. Today’s story, found in Luke 4:14-30, is really the starting point of Jesus’ ministry and Luke’s snapshot of what Jesus’ message is all about. The Gospel in a nutshell, if you will.
But, here’s the big question for us today. It’s really two questions:
“Freedom from what?”
“Freedom for what?”
Are you in bondage today?
What has you tied up? The specific answer to this question is different for each of us. Some of you are in a spiritual bondage right now:
Maybe you’ve gotten yourself so deep into a mess that you think there is no possible way out.
Maybe you’re up to your eyeballs in debt.
I have good news for you today. God loves you and Jesus came to set us free from all that junk. The way of Jesus is the way of truth and freedom, and there is a way out of whatever mess you’re in. In Jesus, you are set free.
We were reminded last week that it is when we die to our sin and all that junk, and we are buried with Christ in baptism, that we can walk wet in the freedom and forgiveness of God’s love.
But here’s what I think is sometimes an even harder question to answer. We are set free…for what?
Last weekend we had our Free 2B Grace kickoff event, and it was a great time together. After the event my dad came up to me and said, “When I look at the word Grace, I see G-race. It is God’s race toward the world, through us.”
That got me thinking. There are two kinds of races.
There is the R-race and the G-race.
The R-race is the rat race. It looks like this. All of us as individuals, each chasing after our individual dreams, running faster and faster to get that ever-elusive thing called “happiness” or whatever it is that we are racing after.
If our goal is individual freedom, then the more we achieve it, the more isolated we become, until ultimately we are alone.
Is that why we have been set free? To chase after our own selfish desires?
The G-race looks like this. God is chasing after us, to show us what true love and freedom looks like. We are free to love each other. We are free to set aside our own doubts and fears and reach out to each other and help each other find true freedom.
God is racing to the whole world through us.
We have been set free to know God’s love and work together to share it with the world.
That is why we talk about being a ministry of Grace in the heart of Andover. We believe that God has set us free through the work of Jesus Christ. We have died to our sin and bondage in baptism and have been raised to run God’s race toward the world.
A couple weeks ago Jeannie and I went out into the community to see what God is doing through Grace in our community. I put this simple video together for the kickoff luncheon last week and several people requested that we show it this morning. I invite you to watch this and celebrate how God is working in and through this community to bring good news of liberty and freedom to the world.
When Patrick Henry called for liberty from England, many people didn’t want it. They told him to keep quiet and sit down because England would crush them.
When Dr. King proclaimed liberty and freedom for African Americans through nonviolence, they shot him for it.
When Jesus proclaimed liberty for all people, even Gentiles living outside the boundaries of Israel, the people hated him for it. They were afraid that Rome would crush them. The last part of our text says that the people of Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff to silence him. Eventually they executed him on a cross.
When you run God’s race of sacrificial love toward the world, it will move against the flow of the Rat Race. Whenever you move against the flow it makes waves. It’s not comfortable. It’s not even easy. But it is real freedom.
We are at the beginning of this campaign called Free 2B Grace. You will be receiving a phone call. Our goal is that every family in our congregation receives a personal visit to talk about what we can do to help Grace to move deeper into this amazing thing called God’s Grace. Imagine what we could do if everyone of us linked arms together and sacrificially provided the resources that we need to reach more and more people with the Grace of God.
We have been set free by the Grace of God. Let us never forget why. Let us live in God’s freedom, together.