Summary: things to be grateful for as we celebrate Independence Day

Next Sunday people in the United States celebrate Independence Day, the time the little colony of the thirteen states threw off the English yoke of domination and established a new country. It is the time that we remember those forefathers who were brave enough to take a stand and risk war to say ‘We want to be free’. They established the freedom of the soon-to-be United States to govern themselves without external interference. To be able to make their own mistakes and move forward.

Freedom is a very precious thing. And I would say that there is no human being on earth that doesn’t want freedom. And our forefathers fought long and hard for us to have the freedoms we have today. We have the freedom to vote for our favorite candidate, care or not care for the people who live in the United States, and even the freedom to make mistakes and be unkind to others. All these things come with the freedom to live in the United States.

But there is another kind of freedom that is even more important than the ones we celebrate on Fourth of July.

Today’s scripture is a relatively short one (only three sentences), where Paul reassures us that we are set free by Jesus, saying:

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Galatians 5:1)

We are no longer shackled with “must do’s” and “should do’s” and “can’t do’s” of the Old Testament laws. This means freedom from the law and freedom from anything and everything that might limit someone's following of Christ. But this freedom came at a high price from Jesus, through his death and resurrection. Just like soldier who pay the ultimate sacrifice, so did Jesus so that we would have freedom to never be enslaved by religious rules, or other’s definition of who we can be or what we can do. We are free to be ourselves.

But it's an interesting kind of freedom: a freedom that is not just, "Okay we can do anything we please," because we have been forgiven through the grace of God. It is not a license to do whatever we want, regardless of what the impact of those actions may have on other people. It is freedom to act according to Jesus’ teachings:

• We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

• We are to help our neighbor.

• We are to take care of the ‘least of these’.

• We are to love our enemies as much as we love our friends and family.

• We are to forgive others who may have harmed us

• We are to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.

We all know that we sometimes stumble and fall, but we need to remember that God is patient. We are human beings, and will make mistakes – but we are assured by the grace of God that we are forgiven. Nothing will be taken away from us because we do something that isn’t quite right.

We still have God’s love and the reassurance

that we are loved,

that we have eternal life.

This freedom and grace is given to us, we don’t have to earn it. If we had to earn it, we would never make it. It is a gift from God. And we need to cherish it, and try to live up to Jesus’ example.

This freedom is granted with no strings attached. But if you remember, Rev. Martin Luther King,

Jr. said:

‘No one is free until everyone is free’.

So it is our duty,

our responsibility,

our privilege

to take the freedom that we have been given and strive to ensure that everyone else has that same freedom,

freedom to be who they are

freedom to be what they are

freedom to live as they wish

freedom to love who they wish

Let us pray:

God of freedom and grace, please give me your Spirit of wisdom to understand more fully all the ways that you have blessed me. Please help me use those blessings to share your grace with my family, friends, and enemies. May I never take for granted your gifts or abuse my freedoms won at such great cost. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

The Rev deniray mueller, In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 26 June 2016

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