Freedom Is a Four Letter
Word - Love
There's a story told by
Leith Anderson about Abraham Lincoln that goes something
"Abraham Lincoln went
to visit a slave auction one day and was appalled at the
sights and sounds of buying and selling human beings.
His heart was especially drawn to a young woman on the
block whose story seemed to be told in her eyes. She
looked with hatred and contempt on everyone around her.
She had been used and abused all her life, and this time
was but one more cruel humiliation. The bidding began,
and Lincoln offered a bid. As other amounts were bid, he
countered with larger amounts until he won. When he paid
the auctioneer the money and took title to the young
woman, she stared at him with vicious contempt. She
asked him what he was going to do next with her, and he
said, "I'm going to set you free." "Free?" she asked.
"Free for what?" "Just free." Lincoln answered,
"completely free." "Free to do whatever I want to do?"
"Yes," he said, "free to do whatever you want to do."
"Free to say whatever I want to say?" "Yes, free to say
whatever you want to say." "Free to go wherever I want
to go?" She asked with skepticism. Lincoln answered,
"You are free to go anywhere you want to go." "Then I'm
going with you!" she said with a smile.
Of course, we can't be
sure that such an encounter ever took place between
Lincoln and any such slave girl. It is probably part of
the process by which we make legends out of our leaders.
But the story nevertheless demonstrates for us an
important dynamic on the road to true freedom and
through the Lincoln "character" we see an amazing
attribute of God and godly people.
I'm almost certain that
this story may give you pause as you think about what
was given, freedom to do whatever you want, freedom to
say whatever you want, freedom to go wherever you want.
For those who are chomping at the bit to get out from
under parental or educational rules - you may rejoice at
the prospect of such a gift. And for others of us who
have seen too much of life, we know that unbridled
freedom can bring tragic results. So, while we are
certainly excited about our own freedom we fear what
others might do with their freedom and begin to erect
fences and establish guidelines to protect us from
someone else's freedom.
Written for the cause
of separation from England, our Declaration of
Independence did not give us absolute freedom, it simply
said we had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness. That we have a right to a government that
will effect these ends. One legal definition of liberty
in fact is this: a system of laws which leaves the
citizen entirely master of his own conduct, except in
those points in which the public good requires some
direction and restraint in order to promote the greatest
moral and physical welfare of the community.
Paul, in his letter to
the Galatians chapter five tells it in another way, "For
freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you
were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do
not use your freedom as an opportunity for
self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one
another. For the whole law is summed up in a single
commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Two flags, two
expressions of freedom, two sides of a mountain - the
goal is always wider than one person, one community, or
even one nation. The prize shall always be to serve all
Today our country is
228 years old. In the course of human events, that's a
long time for one government, one country to remain free
and yet we are but a child when you compare us to Egypt,
China, Japan, Rome and Greece whose people span
thousands of generations. Yet, our country is spanned by
only four lifetimes. When Thomas Jefferson died, Abraham
Lincoln was a young man of 17. When Lincoln was
assassinated, Woodrow Wilson was a boy of 8. By the time
he died Ronald Reagan was a boy of 12. When you think
about it, that boggles the mind. So much has been
accomplished in so few years, so much exploration, so
much expansion, so much growth, so much discovery in
medicine and science and technology.
The freedom that we won
228 years ago opened the floodgates of possibility, it
freed the human mind and hands and resources for its
creative center to bring about comforts and pleasures
hardly dreamed possible by the founding fathers. We have
grand reason to celebrate and celebrate we should for we
have accomplished much. We have been richly bestowed
with gifts beyond measure by God, the creator of all
that is seen and unseen. And science daily discovers
those things that have been unseen since the beginning
But our celebration
must be tempered by reality. With such great gifts comes
even greater responsibility and not just diligence in
defending and protecting those gifts. Our nation is at a
pinnacle but we have not yet reached the tallest peak.
We must strive for wisdom. And yet all around us are
dangerous valleys. Though we have made great strides in
medicine, we know we have unleashed scary side effects
that must be overcome. In technology we have opened new
avenues for evil to have access to our lives. In
productivity we have amassed great waste products that
threaten our well being. By our amazing growth we have
destroyed our resources. By our rise to power we have
created deadly enemies.
We are a great nation,
but we must keep our eyes open. We must not be consumed
by self preservation. We must not allow ourselves to
become too proud. We must listen to Lady Wisdom. We are
at an extremely critical point in our history. Many
great empires made it to this juncture but they did not
pay attention to the cracks that were forming in their
foundation. And they fell.
Paul was very much
aware of the dangers of freedom because they were
plaguing even his small churches. He warned of the works
of the flesh. He said, do not use your freedom as an
opportunity for self-indulgence. He listed things like
fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry,
sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels,
dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing. If
you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from
the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap
eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary
in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest
time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an
opportunity, let us work for the good of all.
The story I read to you
at the beginning is a story about us and our creator.
God gave us complete freedom in everything except the
laws of nature. Tampering with those we shall reap the
consequences and we know this is true for we have done
it. In fact, we have also - unwittingly - made ourselves
slaves to our possessions, our technology, our fortunes,
our sexuality, our pleasures. We want to have unlimited
access to all of these things and so many, many of us
have become slaves to our own freedom. Those who fought
for our freedom did not intend for us to indulge but to
work and strive to make all men and women free. Jesus
Christ did not die to save his followers only but to
bring God's love to all the world.
Freedom brings great
responsibility. Paul pegged it when he said, it was a
call. Freedom is a duty, not a right; it is work, not a
vacation; it is diligence, not relaxation; it is a
choice to take on a burden - the burden of the cross.
Paul said, "May I never
boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and
I to the world. It is like the slave girl when given
complete freedom chooses to follow Lincoln. We choose to
follow in Jesus' footsteps, willing to die for the good
of all. We automatically think of dying in war, willing
to kill and be killed for a cause we believe in. But
perhaps it really means dying to oneself, giving up
those delights of the world that keep us from seeing the
true plight of people, from hearing the cries of the
everyday person not just the bravado of the governments.
I am brilliantly
wearing the colors of our flag because I want to make a
point. So many of us place flags on our cars, in our
yards, in our windows to declare our patriotism, but we
don't walk the walk. In our enthusiastic display we
sometimes alienate and deny freedom to many. Displaying
the flag is awe inspiring as long as you live the life.
It is not easy living both a Christian calling and being
a patriotic citizen. It calls for careful consideration
of every vote you vote and every action you take.
I have placed the
flags, symbols of our being Christians and Americans
beside the baptismal font to remind us of our amazing
gift and amazing responsibilities. For in baptism we are
baptized into Christ's death that we may have a life
like his. As Christians in a free land, will you rise to
the challenge that is before you? We were graced with
our freedom for a purpose - to carry God's love to every
one of God's children, to bring freedom to those
oppressed and in captivity.
May God continue to
bless our land and our people. May we not be a nation
that only waves its symbols, but a people who live its
principles and honors its creator.
sermons by Pastor Joan