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Pentecost 2 2022, Proper 7
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 19, 2022
Isaiah 65:1-9, Galatians 3:23-4:7, Luke 8:26-39

            The countdown is over.  The day he dreamed about for so long has finally arrived.  He’s served his sentence; he’s done his time; he’s paid his debt to society and today he is going to be released. 

            Prison life is hard, but he adapted over the years. It is a dangerous place, but once you figure out the written and unwritten rules and you learn to always be aware of your surroundings you can get by.  The prison has rules, the inmates have rules.  Not too much to think about.

There is a set schedule.  You don’t have to think about setting an alarm or figuring out when to turn the lights out; that is all done for you.  You don’t have to think about what to buy at the grocery store or what to fix for dinner.  Every meal is served at exactly the same time, every day.  The food isn’t that good, but it is always there; no matter what. Nothing to think about.  No decisions to make.  The rules are the rules.

Today all that ends.  Today is a day of freedom.  There is a whirlwind of activity and the next thing the inmate knows, he is standing outside the gates of the prison; outside the double chain link fence topped with razor wire.  He stands there in a new set of clothes with $50 in his pocket.  He is free.

            And, in freedom, he is seized with confusion and fear. What now?  Where should I go?  What should I do?  What next? So many decisions.  So many unanswered questions.  No one to take care of him.  He is now very much alone in the world.  He looks back inside the fence with a strange sense of longing to be a prisoner again.

            As bad as being a prisoner is; sometimes freedom can be worse.  As bad as slavery is, if you are released without any resources, freedom can be worse. The children of Israel free in the desert of the Exodus looked back on their time of slavery in Egypt with longing.

            This can happen when people are freed from slavery to the law of God.  Too often people who have been freed from slavery to the law want nothing more than to return to the comfort and familiarity of having the law as their master. It is so natural to just want a list of rules to follow because then you know what to expect.  Do this, don’t do that.  Eat this, don’t eat that.  The rules are the rules and the rules don’t change and that is so very comfortable. In Old Testament times the children of Israel had the law of God as their guardian.  Galatians 3:23–26 (ESV)  23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 

The law was like a servant whose job it is to care for a rich man’s children until they are old enough to take care of themselves.  The law was there to teach what to do and what not to do and when to do it and not do it.  The law cared for God’s children as a nanny cares for the children in her charge.  Having someone to look after you can be comforting. It is reassuring to be a child in someone else’s care.  It may be frustrating at times; but it is familiar.  It is predictable.

            God’s people are cared for by the guardian of the law until it is time.  Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.[1]

            A little of the Christmas story here in June.  When it is time, God sends forth His Son, born of woman.  Born under the law.  Jesus does not destroy the law; He fulfills the law.  He is circumcised on the eighth day.  As the firstborn He is redeemed by a sacrifice of two birds.  He follows the law of God in order to redeem those under the law.  Jesus redeems you from the guardianship of the law.  Jesus sets you free.  No longer are you under the power of the ceremonial laws.  You are free.

            But Jesus’ freedom does not leave you outside the prison walls with $50 in your pocket.  Jesus’ freedom does not leave you in the desert.  Jesus comes for two things. 

  1. To redeem those under the law,
  2. so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters.

You are not redeemed from the law and then abandoned to go it alone.  You are redeemed and adopted as a child of God. God sends Jesus to redeem you and then sends the Spirit into your heart so you can call God, Abba!  Father!  You are an adopted child of God.

You are not left alone in the world.  In baptism you have put on Christ.  You are placed into the family of God.  You are united here in Christ as the adopted children of God — united with God as your Father, with Jesus as your brother, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in you to give you the breath of faith and eternal life.

You are a child of God.  You are an heir of the heavenly kingdom.  You have been set free from the law.  So how then should you live?  Just be yourself.  Live out your identity.  Act like who you already are.  Live as your redeemed, forgiven self.  Love God and love your neighbor.

Just being who you are in Christ sounds easy enough, but there are many evil forces trying to get you to forget your new identity in Christ and go back to live in your natural, sinful and unclean ways. 

You are a part of the family of faith; the Church, but the devil wars against your new identity and your new family.

He wants you to stop coming to family gatherings.

He wants you to stop attending family dinners.

He wants you to stop thinking about the family and think only of yourself.

He wants you to act like you don’t belong to God, but rather that you are a citizen of the world; a slave of the devil; a prisoner of your own sinful flesh.

The devil wants you to forsake Christ and return to the old days under slavery to the law.  He wants you to believe that your salvation is something you earn based on what you do. In that way he can get you to despair or become self-righteous. 

But that is not who you are.  You have been baptized into Christ.  You have put on Christ.  You are free in Christ.  Don’t let the devil have you forget that.  Don’t let him drag you back to the ways of your old self. 

Rid yourself of the old sinful ways, the ways of the flesh, the old ways under the guardianship of the law.  You don’t belong there anymore. 

Stop trying to maintain a tight grip of control over your life.  Turn your life over to God.  Stop holding on to the hurts and harms that people have done to you as if you are the one to judge.  Stop holding onto the hurts, nurturing them and treasuring them so you can feel justified in your anger.  Take all your anger and bitterness and resentment and give it to God and trust in Him. 

But that is not who you are.  You have been baptized into Christ.  You have put on Christ.  You are free in Christ.  Don’t let the devil have you forget that.  Don’t let him drag you back to the ways of your old self. 

Knowing you are free in Christ…knowing that you are an adopted child of God…allow yourself to be vulnerable and admit you are not perfect.  Admit your errors.  Admit your flaws.  Admit your struggles.  Admit that you have thoughts and desires and actions of which you are ashamed.  Admit that you are hurt and broken and struggling and you cannot do it alone.  Admit that you need Jesus.  And know Jesus has given it all for you.

You have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you.  Live as Christ would have you live.  Live in Christ, live for Christ, live in love for each other. 

Through Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, He has set you free from bondage to the law.  But he did not leave you alone in the world.  He did not leave you to fend for yourself and long to return to slavery. He has adopted you as His child and He has brought you into His family.  Gather at His family gatherings here in His house.  Come to the family meals here at His altar.  Live together and love together during your struggles here on earth as we look forward to the day of resurrection. 

You are a child of God and can call the creator of the universe Father, and the redeemer of the world, Brother.  You live in Christ.  You are free in Christ.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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