Human Freedom

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What does it mean to be free? We value nothing more in our culture: ‘live free or die’! Yet we also imagine various ways in which we are anything but free: our genes, our families of origin, economic forces, etc. We think of freedom as room I must win, as autonomy I must wrest from others. Freedom is our prime cultural goal and our problem.

Christianity agrees the the human is made for freedom; in fact it contributed historically to this very goal. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us truly free (John 8:36), but the truth spoken of here is not only in our minds, since the ‘good I would do I do not do.’ (Romans 7:19). It involves the freeing of our wills from bondage, distortion, fear, and guilt. Without this, what we imagine to be freedom is really the limited power to choose between forms of moral and spiritual slavery.

Trusting obedience to God then is not the opposite of freedom, but its condition, nor does it diminish our dignity, but rather enables our flourishing.


google the poem ‘Stations on the Road to Freedom’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


The Altar: Jesus Christ: Four Shockers

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We are building a spiritual temple within which the believers sees the true God and worships as we were made to do. At the center of such a space is the altar whereon the life of Jesus was played out and still affects us, the one who is appropriately the center of the witness of the New Testament, and of the church who hears it.

Best to grasp what its claim about Jesus, consider four truths about him which familiarity has obscured. First, rabbi Jesus, according to all the Gospels, forgave sins. This was reserved for God - who is this Jesus to claim such a power to himself? (Equally surprising was his tendency to claim nothing to himself - ‘can no one ‘father’..., ‘ no one knows the hour...’ He shows utter audacity and humility.

Secondly, he dies a cursed and shameful death, one in which he cries out to his God with the alienated words of Psalm 22. This was at best a ‘minority report’ in messianic expectation. No one supposed the anointed would ‘become sin who knew no sin’ (II Cor 5:21).

Thirdly, he is raised, but ahead of schedule. This was to happen at the last day, the ushering in of the Kingdom of God. Here too the prophecies are fulfilled, but in a shocking way. What does it mean both to enter and await that kingdom?

Fourthly, and as a result, the early Christians worshipped Jesus. But this was reserved for God. What it meant to do so was what five centuries of churchly reflection on the Trinity and Christology would clarify over time.

Fully God and fully human, bearing our sins, asking us who we believe to be, but doing so in the mode of surprise: that is where these four too-customary shockers should lead us.

Read Philippians 2:6-11 in this light and discuss.




Complete the Race (II Timothy 4:17)

At the end of our vacation we find ourselves in Chicago for its Marathon weekend (the fastest, I have read this morning, perhaps because it is cool and relatively level). Marathons offer many good things. You can see world-class athletes from places like Ethiopia and Kenya. There is a feel of fiesta with signs by family members, getups by some for-fun runners, and food for sale.

But as I looked out my hotel window at 7:30 a.m., I watched the race of competitors who have lost legs or their use. Wheeling vehicles by arm for 26 miles means serious fitness and determination.

Those competitors were to me, this morning, a symbol of the Church too. For each is wounded. The larger family cheers them on. Each by grace has risen up to run the race. Ahead is the goal, the prize, the welcome home. We find the companionship of Jesus the Lord, there, and along the route too.