(This is a rough outline of the sermon I gave at the building dedication for The Future Church of Tomorrow)
I've been asked today to speak to the issue of freedom. What "freedom" is for a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In the 16th Chapter of Acts, we read that Paul and Silas travel to the port city of Philippi. There they encounter a young girl, who the scripture says is possessed by demons. The girl, who works as a fortune teller for men who make a living off her misery, follows Paul and Silas for a couple of days, telling all who would listen, "These men are God's servants who have come to tell you how to be saved." Finally, Paul gets fed up. He casts out the demons and the girl is free.
Free of the evil spirits.
Free of men who would exploit her.
Free to get on with her life.
But when the men who had taken a shortcut to make a living found out they had lost their meal ticket, they got angry. So they lobbied the city fathers, used the system, and had Paul and Silas imprisoned. Imprisoned in the deepest dungeon of the city jail.
Imprisoned men, who spent the night, not in despair, but praising God, singing his praises.
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see."
A great earthquake strikes the city. The shackles of all the prisoners, bolted into the walls, fall useless to the ground. The prisoners, who have been listening the singing all evening, and the singers themselves can now leave anytime they like.
But strangely enough.... nobody moves.
The jailer, arriving on the scene, thinking all is lost, draws his sword to take his own life, only to be stopped by a voice from the darkness.
"Don't do it. We are all here."
The jailer puts away his sword, and after listening to the prisoners, the peace they've found, for it's peace they've lacked, invites Paul and Silas to his home where all the members of the household are baptized.
"Through many dangers, toils, and snares. I have already come. Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."
Freedom is boldly proclaiming a message of forgiveness and love to all willing to listen, and offering grace to those who don't.
Freedom is offering liberation to those who are oppressed, while fearlessly standing up to their oppressors.
Freedom is a willingness to do what is right, even if it might mean our liberty is comprimised, but our bodies might be imprisoned, but not our souls.
Freedom is offering comfort, singing sweet words of mercy to those who need to hear it the most.
Freedom is trusting in God to stay, instead of flee when the walls come tumbling down and the shackles come off our hands and feet because there's still work to be done.
Freedom is to offer real justice to those who only know the world's justice, only to realize there is something better for they and their family.
Freedom looks past Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor, male and female, black and white and red and yellow and every color of the rainbow.
Freedom looks past urban and suburban, denominational and non-denominational, evengelical and progressive, high church and low church.
Freedom knows the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
Freedom doesn't just apologize for the past, but makes the present right, while giving hope for the future.
Freedom demands justice, but only justice on God's terms.
Freedom believes a mother can change her community.
Freedom believes a child can make a way where there is no way.
Freedom doesn't believe a grandmother or grandfather is too old.
Freedom craves a father's love and guidance.
Freedom can take our family out of our comfort zone into the dangerous world of God's liberating, upending love.
Freedom is knowing that there is a father to the fatherless, and a mother to the motherless.
Freedom can speak the truth in love and leave arrogance to the pretenders.
Freedom loves justice and won't rest until all know her warm embrace.
Freedom knows this our moment and won't waste it on old animosities and resentments. Won't waste it on fear and anxiety. Won't waste it on old labels, old divisions, old differences, and old ways of thinking.
Freedom makes all things knew.
Freedom will make new friends, befriend old enemies, and rejoice as the lion lays down with the lamb.
And freedom dictates that today should only be the beginning of something new. A re-dedication of ourselves to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who call us to bring comfort to the afflicted, and affliction to the comfortable.
Together. You. Me. All of us. Choosing this day whom we will serve. Freely.
That, in my humble opinion, is what freedom is.
Let it be so. Let it be so.