Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Church and State and Holidays of Sorts

Some people are born on the 4th of July.  I was ordained on the 4th of July.  This leads to some interesting reflections from a simply personal point of view come this day.  It's a political holiday (which always leads to some interesting thoughts coming from my thoroughly libertarian and classically liberal mind), and for me it is also a theological anniversary (which always leads to some interesting thoughts coming from my Lutheran mind).

Freedom is an interesting beastie -- and often despized.  Especially by those who have it.

As Americans we have freedom -- and yet more and more we want the government to give us stuff, and if we must tax our neighbor for it, so be it.  And in the pursuit of ever better stuff, or ever better security, we gladly tread on our neighbors when our forefathers were brashly telling England "Don't tread on me."  Freedom has turned out too be too scary for us -- we might fail, we might fall... instead of walking on our own, we would rather be carried by our nanny state. 

As Lutherans we rejoice in freedom -- we know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, we know that we have been set free, that we are new creations in Christ Jesus created for good works of love and service to the neighbor that we will simply walk into.  And yet, how often we revert back to a culture of shame and castigation, where one will assert rules and demands for "proper" behavior upon one's neighbor... not as a guide for wisdom but as the curb, the stick wherewith I will beat and berate you if you do not do as I like.

As a Synod we had once agreed to walk together, freely, without force or coercion, yet simply out of love of God and the enjoyment of fellowship to act as independent congregations and pastors yet in concert.  Now, we scrabble to win political victories... because the institution is worth so much, and rather than walk our separate ways, each taking a worthy and appropriate share, we will demand dominance of the whole beast.

Force.  Control.  Coercion.  Fear.  All antithetical to freedom.

Alas, thus is life in the fallen world, were we cling not to the love that casts out fear, but the fallen and broken powers whereby we think we can make our neighbor do as we will. 

In the midst of this, we are called, whether privately as the Baptized who bear the Name of God or as Preachers given Pulpits and Altars to tend, to proclaim freedom to those who were captive to sin - that the chains of Satan have been broken by Christ Jesus our Lord's death and that the fetters of death have been burst apart by His resurrection. 

Everything else is vain pettiness.  Everything else trades our birthright for lentils which soon will rot and fester and stink.  You are forgiven.  You are free to worship, to show love without fear.  Who condemns you -- it is not God.  Rejoice in freedom, rejoice in having neighbors to serve even as they bind you, haraunge you, abuse you.  Their disdain lasts only but a short while -- serve and love and even obey those in station above you - and rejoice for you know where your treasure truly lays, where Congress cannot tax, where no vote can steal it away (or grant it). 

We depend only upon Christ the Crucified who lives to die no more.  In Him we have freedom, in Him we are independent of all those who would bind us.  Ah, sweet and true liberty, found only in Christ!

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