Sermon 6-5-2015; ‘Bound for Freedom’
2 Corinthians 3:7-17, Jeremiah 31:31-34
Ruthie Tippin, Pastor, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
This weekend, we as Americans celebrate our independence – we declare our independence once again from all powers that would bind us to themselves. We are an independent nation, secured by liberty, blood, brilliance, and the courage of many who have and still work to maintain our freedom. We need to remember to be thankful, always, for the gift of freedom. Many people in the world today do not enjoy the freedoms we have. Which we why we have so many people, the ‘tired, the poor – the hungry masses yearning to breathe free’ – wanting to come to America. It is also why we need to remember that it is only through God’s grace that we are here, and not in some other country around the world.
Many of us, living in a free society, are still bound. Bound by things our legislatures, our courts, our government cannot change. Bound by internal chains our Creator never intended us to wear.
The scripture reading this morning is full of opposites – the ministry of death and the ministry of spirit; Moses’s glory and God’s glory, veiled and unveiled faces, things set aside and things permanent. These things lead us to freedom – within and without.
What was chiseled in those stone tablets, anyway? Commandments, laws, rules for making and holding together a community of people who had been freed from slavery; people used to being ruled, not used to self-determination. This covenant, this binding promise came from God, out of love for God’s people, to Moses, who saw God in God’s glory. Once Moses saw God, his face shone with the glory of God’s presence. He had to cover his face, because God’s people were so amazed at his appearance… they couldn’t concentrate on what he had to say.
A revolution has happened. Just as the American Revolution brought freedom from the rule of England, the advent of Christ has brought freedom from the ministry of death and condemnation. King George had given security and nurture in the very early days of the Colonies as they learned to govern themselves. The commandments and rules for the priesthood and God’s people did the same. Once, they and we, were condemned by the law – by what we did and did not do. Now, through Christ, they and we, are made just, affirmed, validated – not by what we did or did not do, but by what Christ did and did not do.
God’s radiance - the glory, presence, and power that was great in the time of Moses is much greater now in the time of Christ. The old covenant – the commandments, laws, rules have been set aside, now fulfilled by Christ.
Whenever the books of the law – the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are read, they are made clear to us. They are not veiled in misunderstanding. We are not overwhelmed by God’s glory shining forth from Moses’ face. Why? Because we ourselves participate in God’s wonderful glory! We know what it is like to be in God’s holy presence just as Moses did… to speak to God directly, to spend time with God, to listen, to write, to sing, to breathe, to wonder, to walk.
‘When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.’ It’s in the turning that understanding comes. Turning from the old to the new. Turning away from old ways of thinking and being, to new ways of seeing and believing. Turning from Moses to Jesus – from law to love.
When my husband Jon was in medical school we lived on “Pill Hill”… a high hill in Portland, Oregon near the school’s hospital complex, in a tiny old house, that leaked air like an old balloon. I remember the corrugated plastic door that closed off Jon’s study from the rest of the house - it would blow in and out with the wind… Those were the days! We had a cat named Boots that had gotten hit by a car. He was never the same again. If Boots needed to turn left, he would turn to the right and go all the way around until he was headed left. He couldn’t turn left without turning right.
Some of us are stuck trying to turn. We can’t figure out how to make that work. It’s not that we’ve been hit by a car… we’ve been hit by a covenant. Moses chiseled the commands of God – what Paul called the ministry of death – into stone. And that stone is killing us. At least, it’s causing us to be bound to one place; one way of seeing, one way of knowing, one way of experiencing life, faith, hope, love, the future. We are so used to being ruled by rules, so used to desert dwelling, that we can only see God’s glory reflected in others’ faces, and not our own.’
The prophet Jeremiah spoke this wonderful promise into the world, long ago:
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
God calls himself the husband… not the master, not the leader, but puts himself in a relationship of intimacy with his people. And where does he write the law? Not in stone, but in their hearts. It’s a law of love… love made flesh. Law meant to be lived in love. And how did he do this? Through the life and example of Christ.
Jesus invited us to love each other, but some of us forget that he also asked us to love ourselves. To remember that God loves us, and forgives us, and we are freed to forgive ourselves. That God transforms us, and sees us as transformed, and that when God sees us, God sees God’s love in us. This is why Quakers believe that there is ‘that of God’ in each person… we have found it true in our own, individual lives. If it is true in me, it is true in you. And if it is true in you and me, it is true in each and every person. But you don’t see this, unless you turn…
‘Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces (because we have turned to the Lord) seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.’ When we look in a mirror, we no longer see ourselves… we see transformation. We see law turned into love. We see God’s glory. We see God’s Spirit. We see one another being transformed into the image of God’s glory. ‘Oh say, can you see?’