Tag Archives: fruit of the Spirit

For Freedom Christ has set us free…

Galatians 5.1, 13–25


Fearing that the Galatians might misinterpret their freedom as a license for immorality, Paul offers ethical instructions throughout this passage. In the history of scholarship, some interpreters have considered Paul’s ethical exhortations as inconsequential ‘filler’ with no integral relationship to his theology. On the contrary, Paul’s ethical admonitions ‘are not secondary but radically integral to his basic theological convictions.’ (Victor Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul) In other words, authentic Christian discipleship requires both righteous beliefs and righteous behaviours. — Renata Furst, Connections, Year C,  Vol. 2

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. — Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being


Do you have any favourite bible verses? This is one of mine: 

For freedom Christ has set us free… (Galatians 5.1)

See how the Apostle Paul doubles down here? We are set free for freedom, pure and simple! I don’t know, that still just makes me feel excited. 

Freedom has been in the news lately, couched in terms of freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. (Everyone seems to have forgotten about the threats to freedom of the press, still a live issue in Australia following recent Australian Federal Police raids on a journalist’s house and on the ABC. Funny that…) 

Now, it’s the photogenic Izzy Folau and his right to tell people they’re going to hell while he (allegedly) breaks his multi-million dollar contract with Rugby Australia. 

Of course, this is a sermon and not a political speech; though I’m sure I’ll come back to Izzy later. Since I was preparing a sermon and not a speech, I took a look through the New Testament during the week to see where it refers to freedom. Some examples: Jesus says

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release
   to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
(Luke 4.18–19)

Freedom is release from oppression, however that oppression comes. 

Or this:

[Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
(Luke 13.10–13)

Those who have been bowed down are lifted up. 

And this one: 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Galatians 1.3–5)

Jesus Christ has ‘set us free from the present evil age’. when I was younger, I might have baulked at using that language, but in a time of 

  • looming climate change catastrophe; 
  • people dying in spirit and in fact in Manus and Nauru; 
  • and potential loss of habitat for species like the black-throated finch if the Adani mine goes ahead (do you remember, God once looked at that finch and declared it ‘good’—have another look at Genesis 1). 

In a time like this, I reckon ‘present evil age’ is putting it very mildly indeed. 

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Church & world, RCL, sermon

Repent, rethink, return (Advent 2, 2016A)

Isaiah 11.1–10
Matthew 3.1–12

‘In those days,’ as Matthew’s Gospel tells the story, ‘John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”’

When the kingdom of God is near, we’d best repent. Or we may miss it.

The kingdom of God is full of grace, peace, justice, hope, love and joy.

The kingdom of God is greater, wider and deeper than we can possibly imagine.

The kingdom of God is full of people from all races, languages and cultures. Repentant people. We’d spoil it if we didn’t repent.

I want to talk today about the repentance that is needed for the coming kingdom of God. I’m going to do it in two ways:

  • Firstly, repentance from sin;
  • Secondly, the repentance needed as we grow in maturity.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, church year, RCL, sermon

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 4 July 2010

Bear one another’s burdens: Ubuntu

Galatians 6.1-16
John 8.2-11

A couple of weeks ago, I reminded you that I’m from Yorkshire. I’m happy that my birthplace was in Yorkshire; it means that I’d achieved something as soon as I was born!

It can be a hard place, Yorkshire. People sometimes wrongly say that Scottish people are mean. Well, it’s been said that the difference between a Yorkshireman and a Scotsman is this: A Yorkshireman is a Scotsman wi’ generosity sooooked out of ’im. And there’s a saying that Yorkshire folk are famous for:

’ear all, see all, say nowt;
tak’ all, keep all, gie nowt;
eat all, sup all, pay nowt;
an’ if th’ivver do owt fer nowt,
do i’ fo’ thisseln

Hear everything, see everything, say nothing;
take everything, keep everything, give nothing;
eat everything, drink everything, pay nothing;
and if you ever do anything for nothing,
do it for yourself.

But you know, anyone who were to live by that motto would be making a mistake.

Perhaps another piece of English wisdom is better: it’s from the poet John Donne, who eventually became the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In 1624 Donne wrote,

No man is an island, entire of itself…
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne got it right; others have got it right, too. I’ve been reading something of Desmond Tutu lately. He speaks of the interdependence of all people using an African word, ubuntu. I want to spend a few minutes on what he says later; some of it may be familiar to those of you from Africa, particularly southern Africa.

So, according to John Donne and Desmond Tutu, we are all interconnected; therefore, next time you do something for nothing, do it for someone else.

Continue reading


Filed under church year, RCL, sermon, ubuntu, Yorkshire

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (27 June 2010)

For freedom Christ has set us free

Galatians 5.1, 13-25

We’re still on a journey through Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia.

Remember that people had come who were wanting the Galatian believers to obey the Jewish laws like eating only certain foods, being circumcised and keeping the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul would have absolutely none of it, because he had discovered that the law he had loved so much was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, now his Lord and Saviour.

Now the centre of Paul’s life was Jesus and not the law.

Jesus had brought one new people into being, a people in which

there is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

This new people is the Christian Church. It’s the Body of Christ, it’s the fellowship of the baptised.

Paul’s concern in the later parts of this letter is what it means to be this one new people in Christ.

And in Galatians 5.1 he gets right into it:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Why have we been set free? So we can be truly free! We have been set free from the ‘yoke of slavery’. This ‘yoke of slavery’ is not the ‘easy yoke’ that Jesus promises when he says:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This ‘yoke of slavery’ is obedience to law. It is living rule-bound lives. So does that mean we Christians are law-less? Can we disregard the law? Can we do what we like? We are free, after all! Continue reading


Filed under church year, RCL, sermon