"The Freedom of a Christian: Twitches Edition" by Vicar A.J. Houseman
Happy Reformation Sunday everyone! Today for our annual celebration of our Lutheran heritage and remembrance of the teaching movement started by Martin Luther 503 years ago, I want to share with you the concept of Martin Luther’s writing of “The Freedom of a Christian”. It is the 500th anniversary of this writing, and Bishop Eaton has invited us to study this together this year.
To understand this concept fully, we have to understand the “bondage to sin”. See human beings are made in God’s image so we are inherently good, however, we are in bondage to sin.
Martin Luther has said we are simul justus et peccator meaning we are simultaneously justified and sinners, or as we more commonly say, simultaneously saints and sinners. That at all times we have both the image of God reflected in us and are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.
We each have the capacity to show immeasurable love and grace and be incredibly destructive, both of ourselves and of others.
This destructive capacity is our bondage to sin. We cannot escape it on our own. Pastor Carmelo Santos who is the ELCA director of ecumenical and interreligious engagement recently described this bondage to sin in a Living Lutheran article as this: imagine a dog with a big juicy steak in its mouth, looking at his reflection in the surface of a pond. In it he sees a bigger, juicier steak. The dog, of course, tries to snatch the bigger steak, but the moment he opens his mouth, he loses the real steak.
In human terms, we drop the steak reaching for all kinds of things. The American Dream of bigger and better is built on this bondage to sin. The bigger house. The nicer car. The “perfect” body. “If only I just made a little bit more money.” “If only I can lose that next 5 pounds.”
This lust for bigger, better things, for more and more and more, is a concept called concupiscence. And we are innately in bondage to it. This bondage permeates our lives, our society, our church, our politics, and our community. The lust for power and to be better than others. This concupiscence manifests racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. It manifests in divisions in our politics that run so deep and for so long that we don’t even realize what we are fighting about anymore.
So the freedom part. As a response to our sin, our destruction, our God responds in the most remarkable way. God comes to us as broken destructive creatures not with punishment. Not raining down fire and brimstone. Not showing up and casting everyone into hell.
God shows up with reconciliation and love. Instead of punishment, God chose to become human in Jesus and bear the weight of this bondage himself to reconcile us. To forgive us. We have been freed from this bondage by Christ.
Through Christ we have been freed from the bondage of our darkness. We are freed to love.
So It’s Halloween season and being a good child of the 90s I still follow Disney’s 31 days of Halloween every year. One of my favorite Disney Channel original movies is “Twitches”. Twin witches who cast our the darkness of their home world of Coventry with love. There’s a defining moment for the main characters when one of their mothers says to them, “Love is infinite, you can always make more when you need it.” And drawing on the strength of this love, they cast out the darkness.
“Love is infinite. You can always make more when you need it.” See, the thing about the freedom that we have as created and redeemed children of God is root in this infinite love. The bonds are broken for us to love infinitely in Christ.
Luther calls it the “happy exchange”. He compares our relationship to Christ with marriage. Just like an ideal marriage, all that belongs to us now belongs to Christ, and what belongs to Christ now belongs to the believer. So what once belonged to us is now Christ’s. So Christ now owns our sins. And in turn, we receive all the beauty, love, holiness, grace, righteousness, and eternal life that belongs to Christ.
The infinite love of Christ has been bestowed on us in this relationship and in exchange Christ takes upon the darkness and takes it to the cross.
God’s love is infinite. In our Christian freedom we can tap into that infinite love and always make more. Make more to share with those around us. This is that evangelical part of our Church’s namesake. Sharing the good news. Making more love for those that need it. That is the freedom of a Christian. That through Christ we are equipped with the infinite love of God. Now let's go make some more. Amen.