Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, July 2, 2006, Psalm 42:1

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 4th of July Weekend.
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Howard, SD
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1, ESV)
From a Sermon by Rev. John Nunes.
Grace and Peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Repeat after me: Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Glory to the name of Jesus! The Lord our God is King!
Does that make you uncomfortable… don’t feel alone it makes me uncomfortable too.  Now if we were down south it, speaking and shouting like that would be common place.   But there are places where speaking like that is downright dangerous.  The US State Department says that in nearly 70 countries it’s legal to persecute Christians.  It’s legal to imprison torture, enslave, rape, assault, and even murder by crucifixion people who confess words just like those.  In some places in the world what we are doing right now would land us on death row.  Today, a few days before the 4th is a good time to take about the wonderful gift of religious freedom we’ve been given through our God, in this country.  
For some Christians worshipping Jesus Christ is a matter of life and death.  But for us, actually it means even more than that.  You see, all eternity hangs in the balance.  It’s not just a mater of life and death; it’s a matter of everlasting life and everlasting death.  Through His presence here today, God gives us life and life to the full.  Through God’s Word and the Sacrament God puts Jesus into our lives in a way that gives us much more than worldly freedom.  He is the way the truth and the life.  Through Word and water, bread and wine he enters our lives and we are changed, we are set free from sin and death.
Our freedom was won on Calvary’s Cross, where Jesus bled and died for your sins and mine.  His death changed all of human history forever and more importantly his death changed your history forever.  His resurrection gives us a freedom that’s greater than the freedom promised us by The Constitution.  Jesus lives and promises new and eternal life to you and me.  He will raise our bodies from death.  That’s the freedom we’ve been given.  Freedom from our greatest enemy death.  Martin Luther said, Human freedom might change laws without changing people, but Christian freedom changes people without changing the Law.
But Jesus life, death and resurrection frees us from the claws of the law.  
  • From living in a dead end valley of the shadow of death to living an abundant life.

  • From slavery to sin to having all the rights and privileges of the Children of God.

  • From having broken spirits to leaping with joy in the Holy Spirit.

  • From thirsting for righteousness to drinking from the cup of salvation that runs over.
There was an African American poet from in the 1700.  Her poetry won her freedom from human slavery. Her faith in Jesus Christ won her freedom from sin, death and hell.  Her name is Philis Wheatly.
In every human breast,
God has implanted a
Principle with we call
Love of
Freedom; it is impatient of
Oppression, and pants for
As much of a blessing worldly freedom is the problem with our “panting” after it is that we are panting after the wrong kind of freedom.  No matter how good the freedoms granted by governments it’s only temporary.  It’s not a real, complete and permanent freedom.  All human institutions come to an end.   All governments fail.  History confirms it.  True freedom is only found through faith in the One True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That’s what the Psalm is talking about, “panting” for the Only True God.  Finding in Him true freedom, freedom that lasts forever.
So here we are today, gathered in the name of the One True God.  We’ve come here because we pant for the gifts that only He can give, forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.  We sit and stand together here in a unity that comes through that faith.  We are connected together through Jesus.  That freedom compels us to share what God has given us with people who don’t know Him yet.  People who are still enslaved to sin and death.  But there are many ways to serve.  Some serve quietly, like in prayer frequent for friends and neighbors.  Others serve outwardly working for a better life in our community.  Some serve by visiting hospitals and nursing homes.  Others by working hard and doing well in their chosen profession.  God gives each person special and unique gifts to serve.  St. Paul says that we are one body with many different parts, each gifted to serve in a special way.
Also being a Christian means that there isn’t necessarily one way to vote either.  We are free to serve by participating the political process.  We are responsible to carefully vote in ways that protect human life, and the property of our neighbors.  Constructive debate on issues can help us to make God-Pleasing decisions about our participation in “government of the people.”  The Missouri Synod has produced a nice booklet called Render Unto Ceaser… and Unto God that is a great help here.  If you’d like to read it I’ve got a copy you can borrow.  Our government is put together to include us in the process.  There is a time and place for creativity… a time to challenge long established assumptions… a time to question the way we’ve always done things… and propose changes.  There’s room for many opinions among God’s people on the best way for government to run.  We enjoy the wonderful gift of freedom to participate in the process.  We should do so.  But we shouldn’t expect the freedom given by the government to answer all our needs.  That belongs to God alone.
The freedom we are looking for, well the freedom that everyone is looking for is found only in Jesus Christ. He is with us here and we are free! We gather here to eat and drink his very body and blood that is our freedom. We deeply drink in the Word of God spoken to us, which brings us the deliverance that comes from knowing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are totally delivered from the slavery of sin. We are delivered and free, now! Not sometime in our future after our death, but right now. We struggle with sin every day, but Jesus death has freed us from it. It doesn’t control us because we have forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Whenever sin tries to bind us again we know that Jesus was bound to death instead of us. We can set sin aside and move on to a better future, a future of freedom in Jesus Christ.
Think of what it means for your life now that you are free from the slavery of sin. You don’t have to worry about punishment for your failures. When you fail you can move on, you can forgive and forget when someone hurts you. All of that pain and suffering was placed on Jesus; you can give it to him and live free from it. You don’t have to worry about your eternal future.  That’s made sure by the death of Jesus for you. What happens to you after death is assured through Baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  His life is your life.  His death is your death to sin.  His resurrection is your full and complete life forever.  Doesn’t that make your life different than it would be otherwise? You are free to do all kinds of things now.  You can service other people instead of having to worry about yourself.  I’ll be you can think of all kinds of different ways to serve others, all the while pointing them to the One who has set you free… free to serve.
That’s really what life is about. Being free in Jesus lets you see and know it. We have a small taste of that because of the freedoms we enjoy here in the US. We can be very thankful for that. But most of all we can be thankful that Jesus Christ has really set us free. Amen.
The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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