CLAIMING OUR FREEDOM
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
- Galatians 5:1
Church family, I want to start by acknowledging a hard truth: change is always accompanied by loss. Any time something changes, there is some measure of loss, both in terms of the thing itself that has changed and in terms of the future impact of that change. I have been thinking frequently about loss these past few weeks, and how the immediate absence of a beloved also spills out into “losses of future” in terms of plans, hoped-for experiences, imagined outcomes, and possible accomplishments. The doubling of grief in this way is overwhelming at times, compounding the current moment ’s loss with a vision for the future betrayed. Our only option is to simply stay in the moment (where, in fact, we are truly needed) in a bid to hold back the grief of those “losses of future”.
I trust, because I have experienced, that abiding in this present moment is in fact a calling, not simply an avoidance tactic. I have found that so often I am living out my life and many of my relationships in a “how will this play out in the future” calculation, often missing the real needs and profound opportunities right in front of me in this moment. When St. Paul addresses the church in Galatia, he sees them losing sight of the present moment and the present community. They are getting caught up in “doing it right” and are fostering a transactional relationship with God and with one another. In Christ, we are liberated from the limited, whether it is a too-small concept of God, a too-narrow concept of success, or a too-enmeshed concept of ourselves. As we arrive in the present moment, we are trusting the leadership of God to show up and show us the next faithful step.
When someone asks me, “But what do you want?,” I have a choice about my response. Either I answer with the core values that I hope will be guiding all my decision-making (authentic relationships, purpose and integrity, freedom for creativity and boldness) or I answer with my strategies and plans for achieving such things. Often people want the strategies and plans (myself included) because they give us a sense of control, a sense of accomplishment and agency over the course of our lives. When what I want is concrete, easily measurable, and hopefully already modeled out there in the world, it is no longer quite as risky. It is also no longer God’s plan for me, but my plan for myself.
In Paul’s letter, the “yoke of slavery” is a self-limiting belief about what one must do to earn grace. This contradicts Paul’s central teaching about the grace freely given and wholly unearnable by humanity. It has less to do with human sinfulness and more to do with God’s unfathomable Love for us. Any belief system that makes us work for our belovedness, work for our welcome and our reception into the family of God is a yoke of slavery. We can avoid this yoke by simply meeting the moment and receiving it as grace, encountering the people in front of us for who they are (not what they can do for us). We arrive and are able to stay fully present when we are free from all those things that hold us back: our trauma, our fear, our self-limiting beliefs, and our despair. Being freed from those things allows us to be free to express and pursue those core values with whoever we meet in the present moment. Even in our most dramatic seasons of change, we always have the present moment in which God can show us a new way of being, where our mourning can be turned into dancing and a new revelation can break through.
In Peace and With Love, Pastor Andrew