Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reborn Free

Reformation Day Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Anchorage, AK
October 28, 2007 Vicar Julia Seymour

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36


Peace and grace to you in the name of the Holy Trinity who gathers us here, nourishes us and will go forward with us into the world.

Is there anyone else here who grew up in the American South? I don’t know if you had this experience, but more than once in my life I’ve had people who were not from the South and had never been there ask me one question. This question was not “What are grits” or “Why do you talk like that” or “Why is your tea sweeter than pop”. People will ask if they can make a personal inquiry and then lean in and quietly ask, “Do you still have slaves in the South?”

That’s the equivalent of asking an Alaskan if he or she lives in an igloo or sees penguins all the time. I was usually tempted to put on my thickest drawl and go on and on about the joys and trials of household help, but I never could because of the serious edge to the question. Despite slavery’s end over one hundred and forty years ago, people still believe it might exist in pockets of the South and they want to know about it.

My surprise at that question probably is not even close to how Jesus must have felt when the people to whom he was speaking said, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” Jesus was able to resist sarcastically naming the people who had enslaved the children of Abraham over time- the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians… it was a long list. He could see that his audience needed to understand themselves as never having been slaves. Those of us hearing the gospel today may well feel the same way, but we too are slaves.

We are shackled to a world that tells us our worth is in how much we can do in a given amount of time, how much we have at any moment, and whose side we are on in a given situation. It may seem strange in this day and age to talk about evil as a spiritual reality, to mention the old satanic foe. However, that is how that Darkness, capital “D” darkness, the frigid emptiness seeps in- through the cracks we do not think are big enough to let anything slip. There is a brokenness that surrounds us, that we see and experience every day- in relationships with one another, with creation and with our Creator God. That brokenness is sin and we are in bondage to it and cannot free ourselves.

Considering things we cannot do ourselves lead me to thinking about reunions. My husband, Rob, is scheduled to be home in less than a week and a half. In fact, I might be with him at this time next week. There are not words to describe to you how excited I am. He has been in Iraq since late April, flying cargo planes. We have been able to talk on the phone and email, but I am overcome to think that I will hear him laughing again soon and to know I’ll be able to sit next to him and just reach out and touch him. And I know there are those here who have recently experienced that kind of reunion and those who are waiting for one- whether in this world or the next.

If that is the kind of joy we have in being joined with the ones we love, when nothing else at all matters, we cannot comprehend how God feels to be reunited with us. Yet God is always with us, always rooting for us, always fighting for us and always forgiving us. The reunion happens when we have those moments of clear faith comprehension. When our eyes widen and our hearts break in overwhelming awe as God meets us in how someone else cares for us, in words we hear, in our life experiences and in the sacraments.

Without our own effort, request or even knowledge, God forms and reforms us. Giving us faith and feeding it, God is with us in our wanderings as the prodigal and in our realization of where we belong. There is a place for us at this table, at the Son’s table, where we are always welcome and where we bring nothing- except ourselves as God’s own claimed children. Here is always the greatest re-union

Though we live in a world bound by sin, it will not and cannot win. So hear the words of our emancipation proclamation: You are beloved by God. God’s covenant with you is this: God is always with you, hearing your prayers, giving you faith, and crying with you in darkness. God loved you enough that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died for you so that you might be a child of God. As the Son, Jesus’ death has won for you a place in God’s house-forever. It’s the best name drop or recognition, ever. You will never be asked to prove your worth for this gift, because Christ’s own righteousness covers you. And because of Christ, God reformed and reforms the covenant with all his people.

This is the truth and all other ground, all other ground, is sinking sand: Welcome the the reunion.You are God’s beloved. Your sins are forgiven. You are free indeed.

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