On Sunday, June 30, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached on the topic “Make Us Fruitful” from the sermon series “Come Holy Spirit.” Her sermon is based on the scripture reading from Galatians 5:1, 13-25.
For Freedom, Christ has set us free, so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. How appropriate this is on the 4th of July. Freedom is our current culture. Many grew up in the US, far removed from the experience of foreign rule or political oppression. Yet still, they grapple in some way with concepts, experiences – freedom and bondage; many terms – political, economic, religious, psychological, spiritual, physical. We can also be held captive by loneliness, addiction, abusive relationship, fear, bitterness, jealousy, our own pursuits, disordered passions, sin, selfishness, pride, subtle avoidance, or isolation.
Paul says, “Christ has set us free! We are no longer bound, or captive. If we ever moved from captivity to freedom, liberation is a process, a limited space in the wilderness. For what then are we freed? Paul says very clearly: “Freed for love.” Deep, sacrificial, radical, messy love.
Now, the Galatians were a young congregation of new Christians. They were embroiled in debates and infighting, which are outward signs of inward enslavement. Biting and devouring one another through jealousy, strife, discord, factions, and widespread envy. Have you been to places like this? Maybe, even at Church. This was a different way, which doesn’t make sense of the conventional ideas of freedom or freedom in Christ. This was doing what we want, the way we want, and when we want. This was one of fierce independence, such as freedom from attachment or obligation.
Freedom in Christ frees space in us to let the Holy Spirit in. It reorders our passions, attachments, and desires and moves us from the realm of being self-serving to focusing on others. It engages us in a call to love – not from a distance, not on the surface, not part-time, but to know how much we need Christ and others. This kind of love shown by Christ and taught by Paul requires deep bonds and attachments with others and God. This may not make sense to our modern sensibilities, especially in our self-centered world.
This is why the Church exists. Religion comes from the Latin word ‘Ligare’ which means ‘to bind together’ – with God and others. We must invest ourselves deeply in God and one another. Feeding and being fed. Not at arm’s length but up close. It can be risky, hard, counter-cultural, even vulnerable to let others love us, knowing that we won’t do this perfectly. Churches indeed bring out the best and worst of people. Yet, I have great hope for the Church and the way it could be, even if this depth of love is elusive, even if there are seeds of a rift that lead to a gorge, distance, and friction. But I have also seen people that have enormous patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. This could only be borne by the Holy Spirit, which makes one want more, bond more deeply and see God and Christ more dearly in one another, in love, in a relationship.
Brothers and sisters, Christ sets us free in faith and trust. The Holy Spirit produces fruits in us to know Christ more. Let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and trust that we are free. Look around! How is the Holy Spirit making you fruitful? How is the Holy Spirit freeing you to love and be loved?
The sermon is podcast on this webpage under the category “worship.” Here is the link
For the complete video of the June 30 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.