“Set Free… For a Purpose!”
August 21, 2016
By John Partridge*
Scripture: Luke 13:10-17 Hebrews 12:18-29 Jeremiah 1:4-10
How many of you have access to the internet and use things like email, Facebook, Twitter and other things?
Like anything else, sometimes we take have to take the good with the bad. I am not very fond at all of the political garbage that gets circulated but I love some of the things that my friends pass along. While there is a lot of worthless junk, some things make me smile, and others can be a source of encouragement. Not long ago, I saw a video that was, recorded from the dashboard of a police car. In the frame of the video are both another police car and a police officer who is attempting to make an arrest. But there is a problem. The man being arrested is not cooperating and is bigger and stronger than the police officer. He begins to wrestle with the officer for his gun and things look pretty grim for the good guys when something unexpected happens.
The text underneath the video tells us that the officer that we are watching is, in fact, a canine handler and his canine partner is still in the car that is seen in the video. We are also told that just a short time before the events recorded in the video, the police department had installed a remote release that allows the officer to press a button in his pocket or on his equipment belt, and release his partner from the back of the car. At that moment, the officer, in the midst of wrestling with the perpetrator, manages to reach his remote release button. And in the blink of an eye, the tide turned. In a flash, the canine officer is all over the perpetrator, wrestles him away from his human partner and pins him to the ground. From the moment that the car door opened to the bad guy being in handcuffs, took less then ten seconds. It was truly impressive, especially if you are a dog lover.
But the reason that this story came to my mind was the scripture that we will be reading today. The police dog was safe and secure in the police car but being save and secure is not what police dogs have been trained for. In order to do what he had been trained to do, the dog had to be set free. When his handler pushed that button to open his door, there was no leash on him but he knew exactly what had to be done. He was set free… for a purpose.
We begin our scripture lesson this morning with the prophet Jeremiah who was probably about 12 years old when God called him. Jeremiah was worried that no one would believe him and protested his calling before God. (Jeremiah 1:4-10)
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah complained that he was too young to be a prophet probably because he had already been told this about a lot of things. “You’re too to do this.” “You’re too young to do that.” And so Jeremiah internalizes those doubts and protests to God himself that he is too young to answer the call of God.
But God didn’t care for Jeremiah’s excuses nor did he care much about his fear. God casts aside the protests of others by telling Jeremiah not to worry about his age and then he does something else. God tells Jeremiah not to be afraid because when God calls, he does not set you loose upon the world all alone. Instead, God calls you to go out, and then goes with you. To further ease his fear, God touches Jeremiah and declares that he has put his words into Jeremiah’s mouth. What’s more, God declares that Jeremiah is being called and sent out, to lift up, and to destroy entire nations, to build things, as well as to destroy things.
God called Jeremiah to be his prophet, and then he set him free… to go out into the world and to do the work of God.
God called Jeremiah and then he set him free… for a purpose.
And then in Luke 13:10-17, we hear of this encounter with Jesus:
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
The woman that Jesus met had been bent and crippled for eighteen years and Jesus simply declares “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”
But the synagogue leader was infuriated that Jesus would even consider healing someone on the Sabbath day, a day that no one was supposed to do work. But Jesus exposes the ridiculousness of this manmade rule by pointing out how any sensible person would understand that untying their animals, or feeding and watering them, was allowed. How much more so would God allow this woman to be freed from her crippling disfigurement!
Jesus healed the woman to set her free from her pain and humiliation.
Jesus broke manmade rules to set everyone free from expectations that twisted God’s commands into something ugly.
Jesus set the woman free… for a purpose.
And finally, in Hebrews 12:18-29, the Apostle Paul confronts the nagging fear of many Christians that God is big, and scary, and will strike us down because of some mistake or perceived sin. Paul understands that the stories of the Old Testament can feed this fear of God but reaches out to calm our fears by saying this:
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Paul understands that the stories of the Old Testament revealed a god that sometimes even terrified Moses. But in contrast, Paul reminds us that God is also the god that invites us to live with him, the righteous, loving, and perfect god. With God is Jesus, the priest who intercedes for us and the man who loved us so much that he gave his life for us. While we should be cautious not to refuse God, God’s strength is intended to comfort us instead of frighten us. As followers of God, God’s strength defines a kingdom that cannot be overthrown or defeated. Instead of binding us into slavery through fear, God’s strength, when added to his call, is intended to set us free.
Just as he called Jeremiah to be his prophet, God calls each and every one of us to our own, unique and special ministry for his kingdom.
Just as Jesus healed the crippled woman, God has healed us of a multitude of wounds, infirmities, and sin.
Just as Jesus broke manmade rules in order to make God’s rules appear more clearly, we too are called to understand the loving Spirit of God instead of the harshness with which humans have often described him.
We have been called, to tell the world that God loves us, and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We have not been enslaved.
We have been set free from the non-biblical rules that human beings have made for us.
We have been set free from sin.
We have been set free from death.
We have been set free… for a purpose.
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