June 30, 2019


In 1776 the Thirteen British colonies in the Americas declared their independence from England.  Representatives of each of the colonies signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th that year, setting the American people free from English rule and governance.  It was a freedom that was costly because it was bought in blood over the course of many battles in the Revolutionary war, and in numerous wars since.

The Declaration of Independence declared the American people free from a government in which they had no say in the decisions that were made, thus the founding fathers stated, they were declaring freedom from foreign rule and all that foreign rule dictated.

They declared that the people shall have the freedom to be represented by officials whom they elect. They shall have freedom to worship as they believe, without interference from the government or the majority of the population. They shall have freedom to protect themselves. They shall have freedom to speak openly of their beliefs, opinions and desires.

In other words, on that July 4th two hundred and forty-three years ago my nation was founded as a place in which people were promised freedom, equality and the hope to make lives that hold meaning.

Over the intervening years my nation has fought to keep these rights, and we have also fought amongst ourselves as we have tried to define what this freedom means for each successive generation.  There have been times we have failed to uphold the ideals and hopes that were established by those first members of our independent government, but we have also succeeded to uphold and add to the dreams those first dreamers had for our nation.  Thankfully we still have the right to try and try again to live out this great, wonderful experiment that is America.  And today, here in Oslo, up at Frogner Park we celebrate America and it’s freedom.

As I stated, one of those freedoms is the freedom to believe and worship as one desires.  In gathering this morning we are living out that freedom which is offered also here in Norway, another nation founded to create freedom.  Yet as we gather here this morning, there is another freedom of which we need to speak, dare I say an even more important freedom in regards to our lives, on earth and eternally.

It is not a freedom that we have won, although it was gained in pain and by blood, but rather it is a freedom that is given.  And so it is the greatest gift in the history of the world, and that is, the freedom that can only be found in Christ Jesus.  It is more than an earthly freedom it is an eternal freedom, one that is ours forever.

And it is not simply a freedom from the power of sin taking hold of our lives, but it is a freedom to…to set others free in Jesus’ love.  It is not a freedom to selfishly hold onto, in fact the only way that this freedom is truly free, is when it is acted out in the lives of others.

In the early days of the United States, though the Declaration of Independence stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” it was not so for the first eighty plus years of the American republic.  Though certain men attained freedom from Britain’s rule, they were selfishly indulgent in their new won freedom and used that freedom to keep others oppressed so that they themselves might gain power and wealth from others’ statuses as slaves or wives and daughters.  It took the Civil War and a civil rights movement to at least by law, bring equality to the lives of our African-American brothers and sisters, and a twentieth century amendment that was fought for to bring equal voting rights to that half of the nation that are women.  And still today there are those who struggle for freedom in my native land.

So you can see that freedom for one person or people does not always translate to freedom for all, because too often those who have gained it first are not willing to share it with all.  Our human nature, our original sin fights to bend us to the world’s way, rather than to God’s.

And so it is that the Apostle Paul emphatically declares in today’s reading from Galatians, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love becomes slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Why is it that we need to be reminded so often in the Bible to look beyond ourselves?  Why is it so difficult to reach out and love the other person?  Why do we instead seek out life only for ourselves?  Why, because we are tempted constantly by that which we think will bring fulfillment to our lives.  That, which in the end only causes us more pain, disillusionment, and ultimately bitter loneliness.

Paul calls us to, “Live by the Spirit…for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…if we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”

So you see, as Paul writes, the freedom that we are given by Jesus Christ is the freedom to live in love, joy and peace by focusing upon the Holy Spirit each day, for then we will find that we are being patient with our spouse or child when they have made a mistake.  When we seek to follow God’s call to love one another we will find that we are treating our neighbor with kindness rather than suspicion. The Spirit will lead us to give generously to God’s work in the world and through the church.  The Spirit will make us strong in our faithfulness to God, helping us to walk by faith and not by sight.  Jesus will teach us gentleness in our relationships with those in need and the sick.  The Spirit will lead us to self-control over our own suspect motives and the temptations that follow, and help us to turn to God to lead us in his ways.

You see in the ultimate freedom that only Jesus Christ can give, we are given the freedom from selfish sin, to live in spiritual and physical community, community that Jesus called, ‘The kingdom of heaven.’

So, as some of us celebrate today, up in Frogner Park, the community established in the Declaration of Independence and the constitution, the community that is called the United States of America, let us all celebrate every day the community of freedom that God gives us.  Let us live thankfully in the freedom that Jesus bought with his blood, and gives  us anew each day, the community that he calls the Kingdom of Heaven.

Turn to the Holy Spirit to guide you each day, so that you might know and experience the fruits that can only come from God, fruits that are to be shared with all in the community. Live in the fullness of God’s love today!


Bible References

  • Galatians 5:1 - 1
  • Galatians 5:13 - 25
  • Luke 9:51 - 62



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