“First Class Freedom”
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Freedom Clip (1)
Freedom. Freedom is the last word spoken by Mel Gibson in the epic movie Braveheart. It is also the first word spoken when he voiced the character, Rocky, in the claymation movie “Chicken run.” I’ve always liked the irony and humor of that, even though I’m not sure anyone else ever noticed.
Freedom, it’s what we celebrated with parades and fireworks yesterday. Freedom, it’s what makes this Nation so unique. In a sense, it’s what brings us here today. Our freedom of religion allows us to gather and worship without fear of reprisal. And why do we worship? In part, because of the freedom from the burden and guilt of our sin which Christ took upon Himself at Calvary.
While we celebrate our freedom, the
Apostle Paul offers up a precautionary word about using our Freedom. In Galatians
5:1, 13-14 (NRSV)
 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Paul was addressing an insidious argument going one between the Jewish Christians in the community and the newly converted Gentile Christians. The Jewish Christians were saying that in order for a Gentile to become a “true” Christian, they had to submit to the laws, customs and rituals of Judaism. Paul argues that’s not necessary. And to do so is simply binding yourself with fetters which have already been broken and cast off. Paul basically calls us to a life of “First Class Freedom.” And that’s the title of this first sermon in a series titled Flying First Class.
First Class Freedom involves two principals found here in these three verse. First: Beware The Snare
And Second: Satisfy, Don’t Gratify
I. BEWARE THE SNARE:
A. A lot of us live a life of Faux Freedom. We have accepted our freedom in Christ and the freedom we have in this country but we’ve allowed ourselves to become ensnared and enslaved to habits which have slowly stolen our freedom. Drugs, whether illicit or over the counter; tobacco; alcohol; work; power; pornography; the need to have the best, the most and the latest; and even our memories and past. All of these are things and attitudes which we have allowed to ensnare, fetter, and enslave our spirits. Spirits which were meant to be free; spirits and lives which were bought with a price on the cross.
I think there’s a perfect example of this in the Disney/Pixar movie “Up.” In my opinion, this is Disney’s best movie ever. Here’s a clip that is not actually in the movie but gives both a flavor of the movie and illustrates the whole idea of Becoming Ensnared. Watch:
If you haven’t seen it, The basic story is about the adventures of Carl and Russell. Carl Fredricksen is a 78-year-old man, stuck in the past and stuck in his house which he has been ordered to vacate by the city to make way for high rise office buildings.
Carl thwarts them by tying thousands of balloon to his home and sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, Carl learns he isn't alone on his journey. Russell, an eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer in Tribe 54, Sweat Lodge 12, has inadvertently become a stowaway on his fantastic voyage.
Russell is simply trying to earn this last badge for, “Helping Old People,” to fill out his sash, but early on he reveals that his father isn’t in his life very much. He wants this badge so maybe, just maybe, his father will show up to pin it on him and be proud. Carl and Russell have both let themselves become ensnared by their past and their expectations. They lug the burdens with them everywhere they go. Carl in his house and Russell in his badges and backpack. (2)
We have to Beware The Snares of life if we want to live the First Class Freedom which Christ offers. As Paul says in Eugene Peterson’s The Message, “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.”
II. SATISFY, DON’T GRATIFY:
A. Second we’re called to Satisfy, Not Gratify. Actually what he said was, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”
Paul calls us to Satisfy Christ, not Gratify Ourselves. Then he reminds us that the entire law is summed up in the command by Christ to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’ve always understood that to mean that as followers of Christ, we have a mutual responsibility for one another. Everything we do has an impact upon the body of Christ and the worlds’ understanding of what the Christian life is all about. Paul makes it very clear, it’s all about Jesus. We’re called to live for Jesus and to live so that others SEE Jesus in us. We’re called to Satisfy Christ, not Gratify Ourselves.
The reason Paul reminds us to “Love our neighbor” is because of this Mutual Responsibility we have for one another. Especially for those who may be struggling with some aspect of life or faith. Or may have a weakness we don’t know about.
B. Let me give you an example. How many of you drink Welch’s Grape Juice? Do you know why we use it for Holy Communion rather than wine as some other denominations? Because of this idea of Mutual Responsibility for one another. Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch was a physician and dentist by profession. He was also a Methodist and communion steward in his church in Vineland, N.J.
The story I’ve been told is that, Dr. Welch was a staunch Methodist and heavily involved in the Temperance Movement in part because his son was an alcoholic. He had helped his son sober up only to see him fall off the wagon because he took communion using real wine. That was the spark for his desire to created an unfermented wine for communion. Which he did in 1869.
At first the church would have nothing to do with it, but Dr. Welch was hardheaded and persistent and finally convinced his local church to use it by appealing to the idea of Mutual Responsibility. He eventually convinced his Annual Conference and then went on to convince the General Conference. Welch’s Grape Juice was invented as a religious social statement against the use of alcoholic wine for Communion. Dr. Welch didn’t want anyone else to stumble and fall, like his son. (3)
Alcohol was not a problem for him, but it was for his son. Dr. Welch sought to Satisfy Not Gratify. We’re called to live the same kind of life of Mutual Responsibility, not for ourselves but for Christ.
There is a touching story floating around the internet right now written by a Viet Nam Vet. In it he recounts how as a 19 year old kid, he was critically wounded, and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley on November 14, 1965. Their unit was outnumbered 8 to 1. The enemy fire was so intense, from 100 to 200 years away, that his Infantry Commander ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop coming in. His family was 12,00 miles away and he knew he’d never see them again.
Over the machine gun noise, he faintly heard the sound of a helicopter. He looked up to see an un-armed Huey, but it didn’t seem real, because there were no Medi-Vac markings are on it. Inside was
Ed Freeman. He wasn’t Medi-Vac. It wasn’t his job. But he flew Huey down into the machine gun fire, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.
He came anyway. He dropped it in and sat there in the machine gun fire, as they loaded 2 or 3 soldiers on board. Then he flew out through the gunfire, to the doctors and nurses. And he kept coming back, 13 more times and took 30 soldiers who would never have gotten out without him.
Congressional Medal of Honor Ed Freeman, died March 25th, 2009 at the age of 80, in Boise, ID. He exemplifies someone who went back to help set others free and bring them home. (4)
We, too, have one who came back. Jesus. He wants to bring us home. He IS the Medivac, He is the great physician; He is the one who gave His life for us so we don't have to bear the weight of our burdens, so we don't have to be ensnared, bound, imprisoned, slaves to, whatever it is that is holding us. So we can be Free and live a life of Mutual Responsibility.
And today we meet Him at this table, a table open to all people, young and old alike. This table, this banquet of Grace is offered to all. Jesus, the son of God is host and we are the invited and honored guests. While we will only receive a small piece of bread and a little wine, this table of Grace is an all you eat buffet of God's Grace where we can empty ourselves of all the burdens of life. This table of Grace is where we can fill our souls. It is also where we can be set free from whatever ensnares us and experience First Class Freedom Through Christ.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
3. A story I heard a long time ago and the Welch’s Grape Juice site
4. Emailed by a friend
Other References Consulted