thinking theology

Freedom: Not Just Another Word

This past week, I was in conversation with some folks and we were talking about what we meant when we said we had good news. Most people talked about the good news in terms of liberation. Understanding God as divinely inclusive love meant a freedom from judgement. Some people talked about the good news as radical inclusive community, a freedom from isolation. Others spoke the freedom to question, to learn. to expand one’s mind and consciousness. Still others talked about the good news as freedom from anxiety.

This reading from John is one of me favourites:

Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

The suggestion here is that although humans cannot either contain or manage the Spirit of the Divine, we can be born into it or of it. It sounds reassuring but that Spirit is also unpredictable. How disconcerting for a species that thinks to elude death by creating monuments and shrines, rules and cultures. It is not that any of these activities are ill considered on their own necessarily. The problem is that we tend to rely on them to save us rather than on the living presence of Christ in our midst. And that unpredictable Christ will cause us to ride along with strangers, eat with the socially unacceptable, lay healing hands on the undesirables of each society. That Spirit will not let us recline on comfortable sofas, or even uncomfortable pews. If we want to be participants, we must leave the safety of our emotional and cultural assumptions with other treasures of our past. We are called to sail on stormy seas, even when we are unsure about our competence for the water.

Freedom in the missional sense is not without boundaries, however. It is our ethic, expressed in tribal terms in the decalogue, and in first century terms in the beatitudes. For us, living in this time, it might expressed as an ethic of responsible relationship, of mutuality of service and support, of compassion beyond pity or reason. Of eagerness to learn, to question, to make connections across the boundaries; a willingness to sacrifice in order to cultivate new friends, to stretch the network of love.

Freedom is not the easy path. Freedom requires thought and planning, effort and openness. The only way to escape the wind is to hide inside a cave. The only way to escape the Spirit of truth and love is to shutter the windows of our hearts and minds. The only way to experience the wonder of resurrection is to let that same Spirit blow through us like the seeking wind that will recreate us and teach us to live in the holy and eternal moment of God’s love.

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