Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Free To Be

On any given day there are about three areas of my life that I have been called by God to pay attention to.
I have been called to be a pastor, a father, and a husband.
There are other things that come into my life from time to time.
I have to be a good friend, an uncle, a brother, and a son.
But pastor, father and husband are the most pressing on a daily basis.
The truth is that most days I fail at all three.
On really good days I can get two out of three.
Very rarely am I great at all three.
Truth is that on any given day I fail to be a good pastor.
I am sure there are people in worship this morning who I have failed at some point.
I didn’t do what you thought I should do, I didn’t do what you wanted me to do, I didn’t live up to whatever standard you had for me.
More than this on any given day I have not lived up to the standard that God has for me.
I didn’t use my time wisely, I didn’t speak in the best way possible, or I didn’t get to that thing that has been sitting on my desk for a month.
Thankfully our congregation is about forgiveness and love; I depend on that every day in our ministry together.
Even if I am not a perfect pastor I feel that this congregation loves me anyway.
And I don’t expect any of you to be perfect either; I love you not in spite of your imperfection but because of it.
It is our imperfections that make us who we are.
It is our imperfections that make us children of God forgiven and loved.

You can ask my wife and she will tell you that on any given day I am not the greatest husband in the world.
I didn’t remember that we were supposed to go out this weekend.
I didn’t go to a family event because I had to be a church for some meeting.
At night when my wife is talking about her day I was too busy watching the television to give her the attention she deserves.
Yet my wife and I made a commitment to one another to love each other even or maybe especially when we are imperfect.
I rely on her forgiveness and love every day.

My kids will tell you that I lose my temper sometimes.
That on any given day I am not as patient as I should be, that I am not as an attentive father as I should be.
A couple of weeks ago after taking my daughter with me to the store I went in the house and was continuing on with my day.
My wife asked me where was Phoebe.
I said she is in the play room.
A couple of minutes later we hear the car horn beeping.
I had left her in the car.
She was crying terribly scared that I had left her in the car for good.
I felt so bad.
I told my wife, “I guess there will be no father of the year award for me.”
Yet, when I come home from work my kids are there running towards me waiting to give me a big hug.
I depend on their unconditional love.

What about you?
What is it that you feel ashamed of in your life?
What are the areas of your life that you fail at?
Today we are invited by Jesus to lay those things down.
We are invited put all sin on Jesus and allow him to make us free.
“If the son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
Today we are invited to think of ourselves not as slaves to shame, failure, and guilt, but as heirs to God’s love and forgiveness.
Jesus invites us to have a permanent place in the household of God, not because we got it all together, but because of God’s love.
We are invited to see ourselves free from sin and living with Jesus in his word.
Ultimately it is living with Jesus that we experience that unconditional love that we need in our lives.

Jesus tells us today that when we know the truth it will set us free.
This is why I started this morning talking about the ways we fail.
Because that is the truth about our lives.
We often fail.
As St. Paul tells us this morning, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
And we know it.
We feel the shame, the guilt, and that sense of loss.
It would not do any of us any good to get stuck in that place.
We would end up a slave to our shame, guilt, and sin and this is why we need Jesus in our lives because Jesus helps us move beyond that to a better place.
Jesus tells us that God loves us not in spite of that sin, but precisely because of it.

Jesus tells us that this truth it leads to freedom.
“You will know the truth and it will set you free.”
To know that we fail does not lead us to despair.
It leads us into the arms of God.
It allows us to simply be.
I am not perfect and I know it.

This is how we live truly enriching lives.
God’s grace is what helps me wake up every morning and try again.
Try to be a better pastor, father and husband.
With God we don’t have to pretend who we are.
We don’t have to worry about what we have done.
Instead we can simply be ourselves.
We are free to just be.

Knowing Jesus allows us to get beyond the shame, guilt, and worry.
And allows us to live in forgiveness, joy, love, and hope.
I am convinced that people who have been down and out know this better than anyone.
Talk sometime to a recovering alcoholic or drug addict and they will tell you that it was only when they admitted their powerlessness that they came to truly be free.
For example, Judy who was 45 when I met her told me about how she lived a life a slave to her addiction to drugs and alcohol.
She will tell you that she did everything in her power to get drugs and alcohol.
She lied, cheated, and stole mostly from people who loved her.
But by the grace of God she came to realize that she was a slave.
After she lost everything her home, family, friends, and job she realized that she needed God in her life.
After finding God she got sober, she asked for forgiveness.
She found in her life that unconditional love that she wanted so badly.
And now she is free to live, free to help others, free to love herself and others, free from the shame she always felt about her past.

It is not always in such dramatic ways that God comes to us and frees us.
It is a million small ways every day.
When we mess up at work, or offend our best friend with poorly chosen words, when we squander the gifts we have been given.
God is there not with harsh words, but with love and forgiveness.

Yesterday I got to go and give a message in the parking lot near the Friendly Kitchen our soup kitchen in town.
Because our congregation had recently collected thermal underwear the Reach for Hope bus had invited me to come and see how they helped homeless people in our community.
What I saw was lots of people wanting a relationship with Jesus.
What I saw was people trying to be free.

The people from Reach for Hope are trying to start a homeless church for homeless people.
Because many of the homeless don’t feel welcomed in our churches.
They feel that if they come to church they will be judged.
This is sad because many of them desire to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
Church should be that place that we are able to bring our failures.
It is the one place we should be able to be ourselves.
Because here we experience not judgment but love and forgiveness.
Freedom in Christ means letting go of our shame and living as ourselves for others.
It means that we don’t have to live under the law, but under the freedom of grace and love of neighbor.
It is because of Jesus that I get to be and love.

Today we celebrate the reformation.
We celebrate the freeing of the Gospel to be heard and preached.
But more than this today like every Sunday we celebrate the reforming that happens in our lives every day.
We celebrate that Jesus Christ is working on us and reforming us all the time.
Jesus is taking our lives and freeing us from sin.
That doesn’t mean we won’t sin it means that we are free from the effects of sin.
We are free from the shame, anger, and resentment that comes from realizing we don’t always have it together.

Some of you hear this morning might be wondering how this can be possible.
Is it possible to live without shame, fear, guilt, and resentment?
It is possible when we remain in a relationship with the Son.
Continuing to read and hear his word helps us remain in that relationship.
Our relationship with Jesus is one of constant growth.
It is a relationship not based on what we do, but who we are.
We are heirs of God’s promise, children of God.
Therefore we are free to love our neighbors and ourselves.
We are free to be.

This week when you fail remember that there is unconditional love in Jesus Christ.
When others fail remember to offer forgiveness to them as God has given it to you.
Don’t live in shame and guilt, but in grace and hope.

This morning we leave here not slaves, but heirs of the promise of God given in Jesus Christ.
We leave here free to be.
Free to be loved and forgiven.

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