Freedom?

plow-580x250It’s ironic. We hear a lot of talk about freedom these days. We’re all in danger of losing it. If you believe the political right in this country. Those “freedoms” that are usually left unnamed. You know, “our” freedoms?

Of course “freedom” tends to come down to me doing what I want when I want to. And that so-called freedom ends up not being freedom but slavery. We become imprisoned in a world we create. We find ourselves wondering why we are not happy as we sit among our riches.

Jesus understood that. So did the writer of 1Kings, who wrote about the encounter between Elijah and Elisha. “Just let me kiss my mother and father goodbye!” Paul understood it when he wrote: “For freedom, Christ set us free!” We mistake freedom for all the stuff of life that prevents us from getting on about the business of actual freedom. We always have something to do first. And that leads to one more thing, and then another, and finally we are lamenting that we can’t wait for retirement so “we can spend more time doing charity work”.  I hate to tell you this, but at retirement you will find more reasons to put things off–for just a bit of course.

Elijah, Paul and Jesus are trying to save us from ourselves. Left to our own freedom, we will become mired in acquiring things, building “security” for the future, getting ourselves into the position we believe necessary from which we can then, “follow Jesus”. In a word, we will never get to it.

True freedom is not in getting our way with the world. It’s not in bank accounts or houses. Elisha demonstrates how well he gets the message, when he turns back not to kiss his parents goodbye, but rather to “burn his bridges”. He kills the oxen necessary to his very survival, cooks them, and hands out the meat to all who are hungry. He now has nothing.

Jesus told the rich man that he should go and sell everything he had and follow him in order to secure the kingdom.

When we hear those words, we blink, and we look with begging eyes to anyone to assure us that we aren’t supposed to take that literally are we?

And indeed it should not be taken literally. Civilization would come to a screeching halt (some might think it should), if we all simply walked away from home and kin and went off to preach to each other? We would soon come to the conclusion that those farms were useful since we all need to eat. Somebody needs to build and maintain transportation. Someone needs to build and maintain shelter.

Of course it can be literal. Elisha was “called”, as were Jesus’ disciples. As were and as are others. Sometimes God is insistent that a particular person has a particular job in this time and place to accomplish and the call is literal. Radically give up your life as you know it, and FOLLOW ME.

But I believe that that call is there for all of us in a real sense too. We are all being called to follow Christ into a new but very real freedom that severs the slavery aspect of our relationship to things and ways of being. It is the radical realignment of our relationship to this world that is being offered in these passages.

While we respond to deadlines and mortgage balances with renewed dedication to acquiring assets, we are enslaved by our possessions. They own us. We have no time, emotional or real, to address the real issues of the planet, the issues of the Kingdom that Jesus lovingly called us to.

These are not small requests, but the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Today our world spins more and more out of control. Our political leaders are invested in a game of their own, one that involves the pursuit of naked power and riches. Our business community, structured as it is, places almost an exclusive premium on the “bottom line”. Profit drives the industrial machines of the world.

Meanwhile people are hungry, without shelter. People are sick, without care. The planet groans under the massive assault of an indifferent populace which rapes its bounty and leaves sludge and barren useless land. People labor in real slavery, unable to make a decent wage, unable to care for themselves or their families.

We are too busy in our “freedom” to address anybody else’s problems. We are lost in our own slavery to “the good life” however defined. We are not free to follow Jesus, because we don’t have time. See me next week, year, decade, and maybe I can do something, but not now. The mortgage is due and I need to work another overtime shift to make it.

These things are real. I don’t minimize them. But the way out of this morass is not less attention to discipleship but more. Paul warned us:

But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

No one is free until all are free. To follow is not to mouth platitudes. It is to do the work. Love your neighbor as yourself IS the law as Paul stated.

We are not losing our freedoms. We have yet to gain our freedom.

Today’s readings point the way and make that path straight. Follow it.

Amen.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shannon
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 18:02:08

    We celebrated 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time with the Final Profession of a Dominican sister on Saturday night. Filling up the pews were her own Dominican community, members of other Dominican groups, a large number of associates, as well as several dozen sisters from more than half a dozen other congregations.

    Sunday morning, the parish community blessed and sent our youth group for a week’s work with the migrant up in the Skagit Valley.

    I may be the only one who sees these two celebrations linked, but with the readings this weekend, how could I not? Such great examples of listening and responding to God’s call at different times in life.

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Jul 01, 2013 @ 09:11:52

      Shannon, yes I certainly do see the connections. Wonderful news! Once upon a time, I was headed into the Dominicans. Alas I realized that I was not truly called. But it remains one of the most important times of my life, and I remember those times so fondly. !END

      Reply

  2. Tim
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 13:20:04

    Sherry,

    Sorry for the delayed response–Pride Weekend pulled me out of the loop for a moment.

    Thank you for distinguishing between privilege and freedom. They are not the same. We believe that privileges of wealth, class, gender, etc. lighten our burdens and “free us” to live happier lives. Every day, it seems, we discover this is not true. We encumber ourselves with peer pressure, the compulsion to be “right”, the continuity of wealth and privilege–all of which distracts us from freedom we’ve been given to do the hard work of discipleship. Jesus said, “You can’t put your hand to the plow and look back,” and how true that is! Either we’re in it all the way or not in it at all. Either we’re practicing freedom in a commercialized, power-mad culture, or we’re surrendering freedom for the pursuit of transient status and pleasure.

    When we think of freedom this way, our concept of who is rich and who’s not, who’s happy and who’s not, who possesses real power and who doesn’t is bound to change radically.

    Thanks for the reminder and the challenge!

    Much love,
    Tim

    Reply

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