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Sermon "Freedom Furrow"

Sermon "Freedom Furrow"

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Published by Alan Neale
Sermon Preached at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia on Sunday June 30th 2013 by The Reverend Alan Neale
Sermon Preached at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia on Sunday June 30th 2013 by The Reverend Alan Neale

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Published by: Alan Neale on Jul 01, 2013
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Sermon preached at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia,Sunday June 30
2013The Reverend Alan Neale, “Freedom Furrows”
Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free”.Next week we begin a program called “Sermon Review or better PreacherUnder Fire”… I confess to you, my brothers and sisters, that I am so relievedthat this program begins next Sunday and not today. Before ever questionsrose in your minds this morning about the Gospel, they rose first in the mindof this preacher – today we read some of the so-called “Hard Sayings of  Jesus” (not quite the gentle Jesus of childish archetype), we read of disciplesas potential arsonists and mass murderers (not quite the harbingers andbringers of peace). But the program begins next week… Though sorely tempted to take on these theological twisters head-on, Ifound myself drawn to the clarion call of Paul to be free, free indeed. Thisrelatively new American has no embarrassment to reflect on this theme asthe celebration of freedom, July 4
, draws near. July 4
, at its best, is thecelebration of freedom hard won, freedom shared within community andbeyond and, sadly inevitably, the need to safeguard and protect freedom.Freedom! In today’s text, “For freedom Christ has set us free”, Paul definesthe provider, the place and the purpose of freedom.
The provider of freedom.
“Christ has set us free”. Yesterday in church Italked with two visitors; after a few minutes of conversation the man toldme that he is enjoying twenty years of healthy sobriety. Freedom fromaddiction and all its collateral damage. He spoke openly of the Lord, hishigher power, who had worked in him a miracle of freedom that he couldnot do himself. Christ is the provider of our true, authentic freedom; afreedom that has about it the mark of eternity, the mark of the Spirit. By hisdealings with all people, Christ displayed His profound and deep concern forthe freedom of all those with whom He came into contact – demoniacs werefreed from demons, lepers from social and religious alienation, foreignersfrom racism… all and many more set free as Jesus met them and talkedwith them and endowed upon them freedom from bonds that weredestroying them and from attitudes that were defining them. And there’smore… by his birth, by his death, by His resurrection He cancelled foreverthe chains of guilt and even death itself.Christ the provider of freedom and…
The place of freedom
. “Christ has set us free”. Doubtless Paul has in mindthe individual but the individual in the place of community. Freedom entails
service, a divine paradox, and that demands community. Elisha is set freefrom a life that, for him, was less than free; freed from a life that, for him,would neither recognize nor utilize his gifts and then…( I Kings 19:21) hebecame a servant to Elijah (sweet and heavenly irony, yes?). The GalatianChristians were to celebrate their freedom as would a slave celebrate hismanumission from slavery and yet that freedom was to be exercised incommunity as “they became slaves to one another”. And those disciples inLuke 9 with arsonist tendencies – well, they were gifted with some awfulweapons of mass destruction but they were not free to use them at the periland risk and harm of others. Individual freedoms are to be cherished butalso exercised mindful of the community. Coming from England I felt noenergy to drive on the side of the road long part of my practice; I willinglysurrendered that freedom for the benefit of others and myself andpassengers. Taxation, Gun Control, Freedom of Religious Expression mustfind their proper place in the context and place of community and thefreedom of others.Community the place of freedom and…
The purpose of freedom.
“Christ has set us free… for freedom”. And hereit’s all about prepositions. Christ has set us free
that which enslavesus but He has also set us free
life; abundant, happy, free life. TheGalatian church was beginning to suffer from anger, resentment, bitternessand overweening pride and what followed was that exhausting list that Paulrelates in Galatians 5:19-21. They were beginning to lose their freedomfrom chains but also beginning to lose their freedom for the fruit of theSpirit Galatians 5:22 “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. We have been set free not justfrom… but also for…In a sense, the land of the free must also be the home of the brave – brave,courageous and daring to examine itself and ask, in the memorable wordsof Mayor Koch, “How I’m doing?”.As we think of freedom, we also have to be brave to ask, “How I’m doing?”and as a church, “How we doing?”. Today’s Gospel ends with this statement by Jesus, “No one who puts a handto the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. To look back and observe that our freedom furrows are crooked, erraticthreatens our task and the task of others but, the great news, we can everbegin again.

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