Pentecost 3 2022 Proper 8 – Vicar Installation
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
June 26, 2022
1 Kings 19:9b-21, Gal 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62


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            When I was at seminary in St. Louis, often after chapel, a squadron of F-15 fighters would fly over fairly low.  They were pretty loud.  We’d remark, “It is the sound of freedom.”  Freedom.  What is freedom? 

            A teenager wants to go out with her friends and her parents say no.  The teenager gets angry and longs for the day she moves out so she will have the freedom to do what she wants to do. 

            School students wait for the last day of school to begin summer vacation.  “No more homework, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.  The students long for freedom to do what they want to do.

            A man counts down the days until his retirement when he will no longer have to get up early and commute to work and have to listen to all the people telling him what to do.  He longs for the freedom to do what he wants to do. 

Simply put, freedom is being able to do what you want to do.

            Soon will celebrate our freedom as a nation on July 4th when we began to throw off the rule of the king of England and established our own constitutional government.  Our forefathers fought for our freedom to do what we want to do.  As they were establishing this nation, the founding fathers must have really have wondered, “How well will this work?” John Adams, the second president of the United States, said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Why would John Adams say this?  What was he worried about? 

            I believe it has a lot to do with our reading today from Galatians 5. Galatians 5:1 (ESV) 1 For freedom Christ has set us free… Galatians 5:13 (ESV)  13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 

            Freedom is being able to do what you want to do. The big question, the huge question, the question with eternal consequences is... “What do you want to do?”  You, Christian, have been set free by the blood of Jesus.  You are free to do what you want to do.  What do you want to do?

            When you face this question ask yourself two additional questions.  Who am I? Where I am heading?  Who am I?  Where am I heading?

            Who are you?  Are you a slave to your desires?  Are you a child of the world?  Are you a follower of the devil?  Where are you heading?  Are you on the road to hell?  Are you seeking out immoral sexual activity?  Do you pursue spiritual adultery by following after other gods?  Do you seek wisdom from the dark forces of the world?  Do you break relationships with others and feed division and anger and hatred?  Do you overindulge in alcohol?  Do you gather with others who pursue works of evil and encourage each other to sin?  Is this who you are?  Is this your identity?  Are you bound for eternal damnation?

            No! No! No! No!  A thousand times, no!

            Who are you?  You are a baptize child of God.  Your sins have been forgiven by Jesus on the cross.  You have been set free by the blood of Christ.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, you will rise from the dead to eternal life.  You have renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways at your baptism and confirmation. Your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit.  That is who you are.

            Where are you going?  You have a reserved seat at the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. You are bound for eternal life in heaven with the Lord. 

            So, Christian, you have freedom in Christ.  What do you want to do?  You want to love your neighbor as yourself.  Often when you are trying to make a decision or evaluate your behavior it is easy to start thinking in categories such as, “is this a sin, is that a sin?”  Certainly we need to beware of sin, but, perhaps, a better question is, “Does this show love for my neighbor?  Am I loving my neighbor?” 

            You are free in Christ and freedom is tricky.  Living in the freedom of Christ there is temptation to go back to the old ways.  Vicar Yaeger hopefully will learn during his year with us how to better live in this freedom and how to teach others how to live in this freedom.  It is an ongoing challenge.  The devil is actively trying to get you to abuse your freedom. You say, I am free, I can do what I want to do, but then you find it is not what the trueyou wants to do.  You find that you are doing what your old, dead, sinful self wants to do. 

            You will struggle with temptations because you are a natural born sinner and sin comes easily to your old self, but this is no longer who you are.  When you find you have given into temptation to sin, do not give in to the temptation to despair and give up, or the temptation to become self-righteous and think your sin is not as bad as that other person.  Instead, get on your knees and bring your sins to the Lord Jesus and know that He has set you free from the condemning power of the law.  Hear the words of absolution.  Receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  Your sin has been taken away.  Live in the freedom of Christ.

Our Epistle lesson today brings a warning about freedom.  St. Paul is very clear.  Galatians 5:16–17 (ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 

            To be extra clear, Paul lists sins of the flesh.  Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV) 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies [or carousing], and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

Paul lists three sexual sins, two sins of following false Gods, eight sins of division and anger and fighting, and two sins of overindulgence.  I fear that it is too easy to get caught up thinking about sexual sins or sins of overindulgence and let down your guard about idolatry and division.  You certainly need to beware of temptations to sexual sin and drunkenness and decadence, but you also need to be very much on guard against fearing, loving and trusting something other than the true God.  Beware of falling into a life of letting differences tear people apart.  It is too easy to fall into a life of fighting and anger which consumes you.

            On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision and the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision about abortion.  States now have the authority to regulate and forbid abortion.  We give thanks for this huge step in defense of human life from conception to natural death. It is a time of joy.  But it is also a time where many in our nation are angry and frustrated.  This is a moment to speak the truth in love without gloating or stoking division and anger and hatred.  It is a time of prayer.  Matthew 5:43–44 (ESV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”  

            You are free in Christ.  Freedom means doing what you want to do.  What do you want to do?  Who are you? Where are you heading? 

            Paul clearly warns not to live a life fulfilling the desires of the flesh.  Do not embrace sin as your lifestyle or the goal of your life as if you are a child of the devil bound for hell.  This is not who you are.  This is not your future.

            Who are you?  You are a baptized child of God set free by the blood of Jesus.

Where are you going?  You are bound for eternity with the Lord in heaven.  Your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit.  Walk by the Spirit.  Love your neighbor.  Bear fruit in your walk in the Spirit.  Bear the fruit of joy…peace…patience…kindness…goodness…faithfulness… gentleness… self-control.  This fruit is not an event, it is not a sporadic, occasional activity, it is your lifestyle, it is your goal of life because of who you are and where you are going.

You are free in Christ.  Freedom means doing what you want to do.  What do you want to do?  Love your neighbor.  Walk by the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit because you are a baptized child of God. Because you are on your way to heaven.  Amen.