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Wed, Mar 15, 2017

Freedom

On Ash Wednesday we began our Lenten journey around the theme “Living the Sabbath” by talking about grace and how we need to open our hearts and hands to receive if we are going to experience God’s grace. Last week, Tim Owings invited us to Live the Sabbath by sitting down, by stopping our work and busyness, so that we might be fed by the Lord.

This evening we take the next step on this journey as we consider how Living the Sabbath opens us to know freedom in Christ. We first hear the Sabbath Commandment as it is found in the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 5, verses 12-15.

12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Special Music

Hear also these words from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 13, verses 10-17, as Jesus encounters a woman in the synagogue as he teaches on the Sabbath

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

My friends, slaves do not celebrate the Sabbath.

Those who are bound do not get a day off.

And yet, the good news of the gospel is that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are set free. We are like the Israelites who were commanded to observe the Sabbath not just because God rested on the seventh day, but because God had delivered them, had freed them, from slavery in Egypt. Therefore they might celebrate the freedom of Sabbath and extend that freedom to everyone in their community.

In addition, we are like the woman bent under the weight of her affliction for eighteen years but whom, after encountering Christ, now stands upright and praises the Lord. She is freed to be the person God created her to be.

Yes, my friends, in Christ we are invited to know freedom from bondage. To live the Sabbath is to exercise our God given freedom. This is good news! Thanks be to God!

And yet we continue to live in chains.

What is it that binds you? Where does this church and our community long for release and freedom? What is preventing you from truly being the child of God you are created to be?

Perhaps you are bound by your work. What started as a vocation has become toil. Days of initial excitement have waned. Each morning you struggle to get to the office on time. You once believed, “you are what you do.” But now you wonder if there is any meaning or purpose in what you do. And yet you are bound by bills, by debt, by obligations, by expectations so you continue to toil, every day, every week, without end.

Or maybe you are bound by technology. What started as a great gift, to be connected to the world and unlimited information 24 hours a day, has become burden. You are never off line. In any moment of downtime you pull out your phone and scan Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. You are looking for the likes and the loves and the shares. Because that is how you know what you post has meaning, right? The number of likes is how you know that you have meaning. You are bound as your self-worth depends upon the eyes and clicks of others, by your inability to turn your phone off and set it down, by minutes and hours wasted flipping through pages in hopes that there might be something of value there.

Or perhaps you are bound by your façade. What started as an attempt to be accepted has become a mask that you wear. It matters more than you are willing to admit the brand name on your clothes, the restaurant you choose for dinner and what time you eat, the house you bought and the neighborhood in which it sits, the school your child attends. Maybe that mask hides something deeper – a fear, an insecurity, a past wound, a love, a desire, an identity that you don’t want anyone else to know. You are bound by what you think others want and who they think you are.

Or maybe you are bound by your age – you are too young to lead or be taken seriously by your elders; or you are too old to try something new (even though you want to) or to be taken seriously by the emerging generation. Maybe you are bound by your gender – you know women don’t do those kinds of jobs and men don’t act like that. Maybe you are bound by your race and the limits it places on you. Maybe you are bound by your politics and the limited worldview it provides. Maybe you are bound by how we’ve always done it – you know that the seven most deadly words in the church are “We have always done it that way.”

In so many ways we continue to live in chains.

Those who are bound do not get a day off.

Slaves do not celebrate the Sabbath.

The world tells us that the way to break free of our chains, our bonds, our limits, is to struggle and to fight. And yet, as we do so, it seems that the cords draw tighter.

The gospel invites us to know freedom as we lay those burdens down. For our primary identity is not as workers or consumers.

Lay it down.
Our worth is not dependent on the number of likes we get or the picture we present.

Lay it down.

The burden you carry, whatever it is that binds you.

Lay it down.

To live the Sabbath is to lay that burden down, to refuse to be defined by what binds us, to stop turning the crank and wonder as the world continue to spin even without our assistance.

Yes, my friends, to live the Sabbath is to recognize that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are set free, we are unbound, we are unchained. You are a child of God, redeemed, bought with a price. You are forgiven. You are free.

Whoever and whatever tells you that you are not

Lay it down.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

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