Sermon by Rev Janet Bromley

Sunday 26th June 2016 St Thomas

Paul writes to the Galatians: ‘It is for freedom that Christ set us free. You my friends were called to be free – serve one another in love – love your neighbour as yourself’

Freedom is a state of life which most of us value very highly – those who are not free, actively seek freedom – work for it, even fight to achieve and preserve it –
But freedom from what?
And freedom for what?
Freedom from injustice – poverty – starvation – oppression – war are important from all points of view – but there must also be a longing for freedom from addiction – disease – damaging relationships for some people. It is a state of life that for many seems to be elusive – however hard we try – however committed we are to achieving it – it appears to be unattainable.

Consider for a moment the war on terrorism – the attempt to free the world – or certain parts of it – from the fear of indiscriminate acts of terror – the attempt was focussed in Iraq – a war was fought to bring freedom to the Iraqi people – freedom from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein – it seemed at one stage as though the fight had been successful – there was great rejoicing all over Iraq when the regime was toppled –
but where has that freedom led the people of Iraq and the rest of the world? The country remains very troubled – there is still much to fear – there is still indiscriminate violence – acts of terror – distrust – and those who were at first hailed as liberators are no longer seen in that light – in fact it is quite the opposite … Iraq gives us a very potent example of freedom being very difficult to achieve …and when the refugees are freed from Feluga in Syria– what freedom are they discovering in the camps when they arrive there exhausted, physically, emotionally and psychologically?

The problem appears to be that no amount of human effort – no amount of legislation and living under the rigours of the law provides the freedom for which we strive and seek to achieve.
This freedom can only come through a new relationship with God — it is the freedom that we have in union with Christ as a result of faith and baptism – it is through the rite of baptism that we are made sons and daughters of God – and this is what can change the context and quality of our lives. The Christian life is one of freedom – but that freedom is not a licence to do just as we like – it is a GIFT from God which enables us to be responsible in our discipleship – in the way we follow the example of Christ. Christian freedom is that liberty which makes slaves of none yet servants of all.
We are called by God to be free – free to serve one another in love.

In our reading of St Luke’s Gospel, today we have reached a turning point – all that comes after this passage is placed in the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and what will happen there – and on that journey, Jesus is the supreme teacher of his disciples – he instructs them about mission – the use of possessions – and about prayer – he challenges them with parables such as the Good Samaritan and the Lost Sheep – he teaches them about the nature of the kingdom of God. From today until early November we will be able to listen to his teaching – to feast on the words of Jesus – and then take them into our hearts and put them into action. BUT be under no illusions, there is no place here for indifference – no place for half heartedness – Jesus requires us to become like him – penniless – homeless – endlessly working – sacrificing home and family – whoever joins in the fellowship – joins the mission of Jesus and the claims of the Messiah must have priority in our lives. This is freedom. And we are confronted with the real possibility of rejection just as Jesus and his disciples were in Samaria – they set out on a risky journey and sometimes too we will be called to take risks – go into places of known hostility or perhaps even harder – places of total indifference.

Each of us here this morning has at some point in our own journey made a decision to follow Christ and for each of us that may be worked out in a different way – but we have decided to join the Body of Christ in this community – and so we have committed ourselves to loving and serving the people of Monmouth and God’s mission in this place – and that mission involves dedicating our freedom to God’s service – so that we and the people of our town may know something of the glorious liberty of the children of God.

This week-end our parishes have come together for a big mission event: the Flower festival at St Mary’s Church – this is much more than a flower festival because we and our community are meeting in church .. and those who come and pass by know we are Christians – we meet with them and they with us .. and if my experience of this kind of event is typical we have plenty of opportunity to talk of the glory of God….
we will have opportunities to talk about suffering in the world, the healing power of God, issues of justice, about homelessness and the joy of finding somewhere to live; we may be asked to pray for particular situations – we may meet with hostility from certain people and sheer indifference from others – but contact is made and bridges are built because the Flower Festival made it possible to serve this community in love – it brought people to a place where they found it possible to ask the questions – a place of peace for some – a place of reflection for others – a place of hospitality – a place of friendly welcome – a wonderful experience for most………

This is why it is so important for all of us to try to be here for events like this, for summer fetes, for Town Festival events – and yes – day by day – as often as we can – as someone once put it to me ‘lurking with intent’ – not our own but God’s intent. And God’s intent is one of ‘a people in perfect community’ just like the persons of the Trinity – God’s intent is the healing and wholeness of humanity and the world – God’s intent is that we should live life to the full and become an Easter people with Alleluia as our song.
And this is the most important part of our work for God’s kingdom – when we enable the alleluias to begin to be felt in people’s hearts – alleluias to ring in our visitors ears – and, of course, the alleluias that we are enabled to sing in praise of the freedom we have found in Christ.

If today we have reached a turning point in Luke’s gospel – let us pray that we too have come to another moment of decision in the life of both our churches – let us in our freedom declare that we are prepared to follow Christ wherever that may lead us – working together building the love and trust within the Body of Christ so that we can build more bridges with the community we serve – because Monmouth needs a church which is alive to God – a church that is human – feeling – loving – one which knows some things but will admit to not knowing others – a church that exists in the real world – that is able to quicken the hearts of people

A church that is patterned on Christ

This is the church that I hope and pray for – one which has the passion of possibility beating in its heart – in its very being – as it lives out its discipleship in this place and with all God’s people. Leaving behind everything that is negative and empty – not just seeing the obstacles and hurdles – but a church that looks forward in optimistic hope to the endless opportunities which exist and then sets its face faithfully and resolutely towards all that leads to life and freedom in God – so that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God.