Freedom to Become

Biblical Text: Matthew 3:13-17, Romans 6:1-11
Full Sermon Draft

I think I mentioned that because Christmas was a Sunday there are a bunch of small feast days that end up on the calendar. Today was another, the Baptism of Jesus. These days might seem extraneous, but with a little reflection are often quite deep and meaningful. The baptism of Jesus is connected to our baptism. Because he stood under those waters for us, we receive his baptism of grace. He took our unrighteousness and gives us his righteousness. This sermon meditates on a slightly different theme supported by the Epistle lesson. When we have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised to new life – freedom – what is the quality of that freedom. Are we made free to do whatever we want? As Paul answers, by no means. The freedom that Jesus displays is not the freedom to do what he wants but the freedom to become what we are. In Jesus’ case he is the Son of the Father and the savior of mankind. Was Jesus at liberty to proceed right to the fire? Well, he could have, but that would not have been freedom because it was less than Jesus was to be. We also, through our baptism, are free to become Children of God. We are freed from our fear of death and our bondage to sin, free to live as God intended. And we do this by faith. The sermon investigates

Passing Through the World


Biblical Text: Luke 4:16-30
Full Sermon Draft

One way of talking about our three great enemies is as the devil, the world and our sinful nature. (The alternate three are sin, death and the power of Satan. The difference is a question of time. Those second three are what own us prior to Christ and justification. The first three are what tempt us back into slavery.) What this sermon does is concentrate on the middle one – the world. It does so based upon the appeal of the Nazareth crowd, which is the argument of the world. You are one of us, right? All things in the world come from selling our freedom in Christ to that desire to be one with the world. The sequence looks at how Christ has freed us and the nature of Christ’s prophetic office. Then it looks at how we can fight the world in our lives. And it grounds the necessity of this in the eschatological reality that this world is passing away, while the word and promises of God stand forever.

The Perfect Piece

Sometimes you run across that perfect piece. That piece that the author thinks is a stunning and oh-so-smart slap-down demonstrating their clear superiority and ultimate wisdom. But in reality it just exposes sloppy thinking, conventional wisdom and political platitudes. Carol Howard Merritt writes just such a piece. And as much as it pains me that paying attention to it would actually be defending Rick Warren, this is a teaching opportunity that can’t be passed up.

Carol Howard Merritt (henceforth CHM for short) writes in response to a ham-handed metaphor from Warren.

The UN has declared that birth control is a basic human right. Birth control is often needed for women’s health. Contraception allows women to get an education, go to work, and get out of poverty. Selling pork does none of these things. To equate the two makes no sense.”

This is so shoddy there is even a red-herring. The red-herring is the impossible to ignore citation of the UN as being a legitimate body on Human Rights. This is the same UN that passes daily bills against Israel’s existence such that a translator in French (a language not know for its philosemitism) even says “it’s a bit much”. The same UN that, oh, I must stop because I’m going after the red-herring. No, the real meat is “birth control is needed…” No, absolutely no. CHM, an ordained minister, should know better. What Christ says we need is chastity. And chastity would/should apply to both men and women. Through the indwelling of the Spirit we are able to turn away from our sinful selves and live lives full of the better things against which there is no law. In one paragraph CHM displays her true authority (mankind) and her philosophy (materialism). The better advice would be that the person who absolutely needs the material item is actually the person who should not have that material item. We only have use of them when we are free of their mastery. Only the chaste would truly be able to use birth-control rightly. Instead CHM condemns women to a slavery to passions and material items.

I’m already at 300 words and there is just so much exposed. Trying Quickly to run through:
– Paraphrasing, “eek, Corporations are ruining the world, we must have a big daddy to save us from corporations forcing their views on us.” When the truth would be we are free to not do business with or work for any individual corporation, but the big daddy implied we become enslaved to, because unlike with Hobby Lobby where you can go to Michael’s or any other number of places, where do I go when the US government tells me I must give my penny to Planned Parenthood?

– “Who gets to decide the legitimate practice of religion? (once again implying big daddy).” Well, the constitution that was written to limit big daddy would say the practitioner of a religion gets to decide- “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If you are gay, and want to have a wedding with a cake, fine. I’m sure there are lots of bakers who would like your business. But in CHM’s world things like this are just peachy. Because it is not the practitioner who gets to decide but big daddy. And big daddy is saying bad-boy, to 4000 years of Judeo-Christian teaching and understanding. CHM is exposing her true goal of imposing her views of proper practice by means of the state by trying to save you from persecution, when if you walk across the street you’d find someone who didn’t have a moral qualm about it. Another part of her true goal is trying to prevent anyone from actually speaking God’s law, because through that law we become cognizant of our sins. And that might hurt our self-esteem. Especially if we haven’t heard the gospel that Christ saved us anyway.

– Last note, “what about when the CEO’s religious rights clash with mine”? Again implying that that there must be some lowest common denominator for freedom that big daddy must enforce. When the truth is that if you don’t like the CEO’s religion you are free to start your own company. But when big daddy comes along, nobody is free. You might think you are when it is doing your bidding, but that is just a temporary illusion because he is weighing in on your side of the scales.

Regardless of CHM’s final statements, what she is arguing for is non-sense. In fact she is removing and hiding the very things that would lead to our liberty. Materialism instead of the Holy Spirit, expansion of Caesar at the expense of civil society, and a removing of what witnesses to the law remain in our society.