From the Pastor July 2024

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NRSV)

“Don’t go there!” That’s pretty much Paul’s line of thought in his correspondence with the people of Galatia (Central Asia Minor/Modern-day Turkey). Why would they
even think of doing so? I mean, some things are worth revisiting (cheaper gas, soft drinks in glass bottles, and sneaking that first chew of tobacco), but a time without freedom? Surely not! And, chances are pretty good the Galatians didn’t even realize that was happening. Galatians is a letter which is sort of a “mixed bag.” That’s to say, it has elements of encouragement, but also challenged those who were trying to discredit Paul’s ministry and burden Gentile Christians with the rigors of the Jewish faith. Some were attempting to make the Galatians into “good Jews” by insisting upon circumcision in conjunction with their acceptance of the Gospel. Paul states in the aforementioned Scripture reference that for the Galatians to turn aside to another version of the Gospel was to place themselves under a yoke or burden similar to slavery. Rather than being enslaved by additional requirements, Paul encourages readers/hearers to consider the freedom which Jesus has attained on behalf of humanity.

Now, before the Galatians or we ourselves get too excited, we must realize this freedom isn’t a “free for all” way of living. Paul indicates it’s for the sake of freedom that we have been set free. From what have we been freed? The most obvious answer is the bondage in which our sin nature keeps us captive. A second, yet closely related, answer is the necessity of performance as the basis for our salvation. For what purpose has this freedom been provided? In order that we might be free. Free to do what we want? In the early years of Christianity, that was the thinking of those who came to be identified as “Gnostics.” Their logic was that the soul is of greater importance than the body.
The soul is essentially “trapped” in this prison of flesh, therefore, do whatever you so choose. For Paul, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The freedom made available through Jesus is one which releases us not to be who we want to be, but who God wants us to be. You might call it “freedom with responsibility.”

By the time you read this, “Freedom Week” at Camp Vandemere will be a couple of weeks behind us and the Fourth of July just around the bend. It’s this time of the year when we remember our nation’s birthday and express gratitude for the freedoms which we enjoy in the United States. Flags will wave, pools will overflow with kids, and fireworks will illuminate the night sky. While we may not have similar rituals when it comes to our freedom through Jesus Christ, we do have much for which to be grateful. We continue to be transformed through the grace of God and have the ability to start over rather than being locked away without hope. That’s more than good news; it’s the best news ever! However, we must embrace this free gift. God has taken the initiative and done the “hard work,” but we have to respond. God isn’t one to force upon us that which we don’t want. The door is unlocked and we have to step through it.

With the arrival of summer, it’s that time of the year when people are pulled here, there, and everywhere, which is why it’s so important for us to take our faither wherever we go. We do so by being mindful of our words and actions before others, but we also must continue those practices which nourish our souls and keep us accountable. Take Little Rock with you wherever you go this summer through our livestreaming, YouTube channel, Facebook page, and weekly calls. Please be in prayer for our upcoming Vacation Bible School the week of July 14 and join us on Tuesday mornings at 9:00 as Bible study will continue. Be safe, have fun, and enjoy the freedom we have through Christ.

Together in Christ,
The Reverend Kelley Smart