Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Our theme this week is restoring freedom with special acknowledgement for those who help freeing people from addictions, abusive relationships, cultural expectations that feel more like shoulds than help, and those who work towards freedom from other oppression. We celebrate those in mission who free other beings from bindings or situations, from the chains that hold them. We also celebrate those who have been freed from whatever holds them back from being the creation God has created as whole and good.
Freedom is a tricky topic because our concepts of freedom are so different from one another. My idea of what is freeing may not be the same for you. This is most definitely played out by our scriptures, especially 1 Samuel. The people come to Samuel asking for a king. Samuel is distraught by this. He goes to God. God and he confer and they decide to offer the people a king. Up until this point, the people ofIsraelhave been ruled by many different judges and whatever voice might bubble to the top. The people ofIsraelare seeing other nations being ruled by a king and it seems to be more fair in their opinion. This is a discussion of freedom. The people think that they will be freer to live if they have one monarch who will rule fairly. Samuel thinks that freedom will be lost with one voice ruling all. What does God say?
Surprisingly God recognizes both sides, says it is not about Samuel, and tells Samuel to give them a king. God realizes that either way there may be issues to resolve beyond who rules what. The fundamental issue is how the people of God will relate with God. God can free God’s people no matter what we do. God wants us to live into our call and help others free themselves from whatever is binding them from being whole.
As the CoOp celebrates a new form of church, we need to celebrate those who are creatively restoring people to a kind of freedom that allows the whole person to thrive. This includes programs such as AA, NA, and Community Compassion Fund. If there are people out there who are being told that they are not loved, let’s free them up to be loved and to thrive!
In addition, the world is constantly telling us that we should be certain ways or could do other things. Maybe we feel bound by expectations of how to look or how to act. Maybe we need to remember to whom we belong. The culture is conforming and Jesus calls us to break free from those bonds. Part of why Jesus, in our gospel lesson, pushes his family away is because of the expectations being placed on him. In some ways, his family is pulling him from his call to free. God calls us to live the counter cultural life in loving, creating and restoring. Now is the time to restore that freedom and to preach the good news in a newly formed church beyond these walls.
Quotes for the Week There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. –Nelson Mandela
Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect. –Eleanor Roosevelt
Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. –Albert Camus
Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.― Shel Silverstein
1 Samuel 8:4-22 (Message)
Fed up, all the elders of Israelgot together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.” When Samuel heard their demand—”Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.
God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out ofEgyptuntil this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.” But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.” Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.” Then Samuel dismissed the men ofIsrael: “Go home, each of you to your own city.”
Mark 3: 21-35 (NRSV)
When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalemsaid, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Questions for the Week
What is freedom for you?
Where have you felt most free?
What would your advice be to someone who is struggling with something holding them back?