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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The Truth Will Make You Free

John tells us:

If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.” [Jn 8-31]

These much quoted words echo in these last days of the desert walk. And yet, we remain ofttimes unsure of their meaning.

Do we, like the Jews listening to Jesus immediately exclaim, “We are the descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone, . . .” or do we sense as Jesus suggests that this is not the kind of freedom he is talking about?

When Jesus, by way of example, says that sin is slavery, most of us stop there. “Oh,” we say, “this means that we are to try to be as sinless as possible in our lives.”

Well, yes that is true. But too often that simply means to many, that they follow the dictates of their church teachings. Be good orthodox Catholics or Methodists.

I think this is not at all what Jesus was getting at. Notice he uses the phrase, “make my word your home,” and if we do so, “you will learn the truth. In other words, internalize what I have been saying to you, stop trying to be “good” religious folk, instead love God and love  your neighbor as yourself.

This internalization is what we call “putting on the mind of Christ’  and is nothing less than a total immersion in God, until the false ego gives way to the Spiritual Self united to God eternally. When we can do that, we will learn the truth. We will learn the truth from the Father, and Jesus makes that clear in verse 40,  “[truth].  . .as I have learnt  it from God.”

Where we err is, I think, in looking for some “interpretation” of truth. Another blogger pointed this out. Wherever we go, to theologians, biblical scholars, faith creeds across Christendom, we find different opinions. There is no unanimity as to “what Scripture means” and we look to scripture to determine “what God wants.”

We are looking in the wrong place. Scripture is a guide. It reflects work already done in reflecting on who God is and what God wants. But it is not definitive. It attempts to give us the “words of Christ” but only through the lens of what the writer is trying to get across. We must take all such things “with a grain of salt” therefore. They help in not having  to redo work already done, and they serve as a guide to “The Way.”

Can there be any doubt that if we dwell within, loving God, loving neighbor, that truth will emerge? Love is the truth, and until we embrace that love into every fiber of our being, we will not know the truth that Jesus received from the God, that we too can receive from God by following as his disciple.

The freedom offered by Jesus, is the freedom to live life in utter freedom, freedom from fear, from want, from any desire no in keeping with the good of all creation.  It is the freedom to be fully human, secure that we are united with all of creation and with the Creator, eternally. That freedom is the ultimate freedom.

Come, follow me!

Amen.

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