“My chains are Gone; I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me.”
I hope you had a chance to celebrate July 4th. We are such a blessed and fortunate people. Oh, we are a broken and struggling nation, but we have so many advantages others around the world can only imagine and yearn for.
We live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Or so the song goes. But much or many of the people I meet don’t seem to be free. They’re bound by all kinds of things. Some are bound by fear--fear of illness, fear of becoming financially destitute, fear of being alone, fear of the “other”, fear of the future. Some are bound by pain--the pain from poor health. Or the pain of some trauma that was inflicted on them. Some are bound by addictions-- to alcohol, drugs, food, and gambling, among many others. I find that many who are addicted to something are usu- ally trying to cover over the pain of whatever trauma they may have suffered. Then there are those who are bound by economic issues. Perhaps they simply cannot make enough money to support their family. Or perhaps they’ve made some bad choices and have gotten themselves into more debt than they can handle. Or perhaps they simply live in a place where a decent house costs more than a family can afford and are strapped with a huge mortgage that they can barely pay.
When you look more closely, it doesn’t seem like many people in our society are truly free. And if you asked them where freedom is to be found, I’m afraid not many people have a very good answer. These days, it seems that we as a people believe--I mean really believe--that all our problems would be solved if we had enough money. And so, our culture has a fascination with playing the lottery--which most people have about as good a chance of winning as“getting mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear on the same day” (a quote from one of my favorite commercials of all time).
Others believe that if their political ideals could come to fruition all would be well. Others are looking for and/or thinking that the “right person” might come into their lives and that will solve all their problems. In short, I’m afraid we’re looking for freedom in all the wrong places.
Throughout the Gospels there is much to say about true freedom and where it is to be found. Freedom is found in Christ. Jesus didn’t have to use elaborate means to “cast out” the demons that bound and tormented people. All he had to do was say the word. In fact, in every instance when Jesus encountered someone who was “possessed” by a demon, the spirit cries out in fear at the very sight of Jesus. They seem to know that he has a power they cannot possibly withstand.
Ironically, although people generally responded favorably to Jesus’ healing miracles, they didn’t do so in response to his exorcisms. When Jesus released a person from whatever was tormenting them, those who witnessed it were afraid. In the case of the man chained amongst the tombs, they begged Jesus to leave.
One thing we can say, however, is that when Jesus worked exorcisms, there was a purpose to them. The healing miracle stories demonstrate that through Jesus, God was present among them and at work carrying out the compas- sion and mercy of the Commonwealth of Christ. In the same way, these stories demonstrate that through Jesus, God was setting people free from all that kept them bound. And in the face of the freedom of God’s kingdom, the powers of evil have no defense.
Whenever Jesus encountered someone who was “possessed” by a demon, the spirit of evil was instantly terrified. Not only did they know who he was, they also knew what he could do--he could banish them with just a word! Also, Jesus left the man amongst the tombs who had been set free as a living testimony to the truth that evil cannot prevail over God’s freedom.
Christ is still working in ways that release and set free in our world today! And while God’s Living Spirit is the con- duit for the source of Resurrection that releases and frees, we can be the vehicle through which this work is done! Freedom from the evil and pain and trauma and injustice that binds people in our world today is the power of God’s kingdom at work among us and through us.
Be God’s, Pastor Jim