Saturday, June 25, 2016

Three Word Wednesday: Joy in Freedom

Galatians 5:1
background photo from Kasia Górska; graphic design by me as suntreeriverdesign

Kristin Hill Taylor's Three Word Wednesday for this week features Joy in Freedom. I teach the mostly lectionary-based adult Sunday School class at my church, and the RCL has been reading Galatians sequentially—in fact, Galatians 5:1 of my header illustration opens the second reading for this coming Sunday, Pentecost 6 (Proper 8, Ordinary Time 13 for its other designations).

Joy in freedom is joy in the bounded freedom of obedience. The Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant offer us guidelines for every aspect of our lives in community and in the world. In Christ Jesus we know the fullness of freedom, yet Jesus came not to abolish the commandments – the law – but to fulfill it. To simplify, possibly? Not sure about that, but Jesus does assure us of unconditional forgiveness when we break a commandment and then repent, and that has to equal liberty!

Joy in Freedom! The EKD in Germany brings us a recent Foundational Text anticipating Reformation 500 in 2017: Justification and Freedom.

Tomorrow morning with my class I plan to reflect on some ideas related to freedom and joy.

For the past few weeks we've been doing a continuous reading of Galatians with its emphasis on the gospel of death and resurrection, its central theme of freedom. In Galatians the apostle Paul cautions about human-made laws such as sacrifice, ceremony, keeping kosher, and circumcision; last week in Galatians 3:23-29 Paul finally talks about law in the sense of the ten commandments of the Sinai covenant as he juxtaposes law and gospel. We mentioned the three uses of the law that theologians in the traditions of the Reformation sometimes opine about. In all of his letters, Paul makes a huge deal of our organic incorporation into Christ that happens in baptism, of our essential identity in Christ, who as our mediator between earth and heaven embodies the law and the prophets, who shows us the way to the Father, in whom we discover the freedom of obedience and the joy of grace.

The appointed Psalm 16 for Pentecost 6 connects especially well with Galatians. It centers on monotheism (acknowledgment and worship of only one God), and on the joy of obedience. Psalm 16:7 and 16:9 mention the human heart that in Hebrew biology mainly is the seat of the will rather than of the emotions as modern Westerners think of the heart. The human heart that wills to obey God, to love, nurture, and protect all creation, to seek the highest good for all.

Psalm 16:11 tells us God shows us the path of life, the way of obedience to the commandments, and the way of Christ that is death and resurrection. In God's presence we find "fullness of joy." In God's right hand (God's sovereignty) we discover "pleasures forevermore." Joyful pleasures abound when we live in the freedom we find in Jesus Christ

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