On FWEdom

Tonight we hear in First Corinthians that in Christ, “each has been given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common Good.” To one is given the knowledge, to one is given sweet licks on the guitar, to one is given joyful noises, to one is given the ability to bake bread, to the one is given the gift of soups, to one the fine painting skills of tiny ceramic eggs, to another the ability to make beauty from their giant mess of paints on the same ceramic eggs. On and on, all of our gifts are given and activated by the same one God. All of these manifestations of the spirit are given to us, not for our own health or our own independence. Not for one-upsmanship, nor the ability to say “my egg is better than your egg, her egg is better than his” but First Corinthians tells us these gifts are given to us for the common good!

What does this mean? It means we were all created with community in mind. Each of us is given something worth sharing. And each one of us are gathered here by the same God into one community. Community however is not an easy place to be. As one Lutheran Pastor put it when she writes to new members of her congregation, she says “Welcome to our community, we will disappoint you!” Often, we think of community as something that holds us back. Our community is what we must get out of the way so that we can get back to the really good stuff. We want freedom.

When we think of the word “Freedom” we often think about individuality. Freedom in our world, has come to mean the ability to stand up on your own. Freedom has come to be synonymous with independence.  To be free, our culture says, is to be able to strike it out on your own, to be unconstrained by other people’s wants and needs, to have no responsibilities, no homework, no tedious chores to do, no diapers to change, no nagging brother or sister to tie you down. Freedom is a snow day when we don’t have to go to school! Freedom is sitting in our pajamas by ourselves, eating ice cream and watching a whole season of Vampire Diaries in one sitting. Freedom, we think, is that large open paradise time where we get to make our own decisions, unwind, and just let everything go loose. So freedom for us, actually looks like this: slouching, and passing out. As if the rest of the world were too heavy to bear.

But is THIS (slouching) what freedom should really look like? Or should it look more like This (victory arms wide open and smiling)?

Last Saturday a large group of kids and their families gathered in our social hall to learn about the meaning of their first communion as part of this community. During that first communion class, Pastor Bill taught us that there is a special way we spell the word sin here at Trinity. Many of you could probably say it with me: how do we spell sin at Trinity? “sIn” Sin puts the emphasis on I. The word sin means a focus on yourself above all other things. It curves you in on your bellybutton, and makes you aware of only yourself. Well, maybe what we can learn from Corinthians today, is a new way we could spell “freedom” at trinity. You see, we just never got the hang of a saying that hard “r” sound. And so, like many four-year olds I know, we have to spell it “fWEdom” that is, F-WE-dom. Just as sIn has a capital I in the middle, when we spell the word fWEdom, there should be a capital WE at the middle. And this is not just the vicar being cute, but our word fWEedom actually has the same linguistic origins as our word for “friend.” Freedom used to always mean friends were involved! You see it is that capital WE at the center of freedom, that makes us go like this: with arms open and a smile on our faces. Because what is this posture, but when you are getting ready for a hug? If sIn makes us focus inward on I, than the opposite, freedom must always be a focus on WE.

True FWEedom, is something by definition that I cannot do on my own. That is why we need Christ. Because Christ gives us a freedom that has a WE at the center. Even this can be hard for us to hear. We WANT to be able to do things on our own. We want to be independent. But is this not also the plot of every book and every movie? A plucky hero wants to strike it out on her own, and to get there she goes through various plot twists, explosions, and as she battles with villains in her way she finds the value of friendship is what truly helped her win in the end. Every Captain Jack Sparrow Can’t sail into Tortuga all by his onsies, his true freedom is found with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann; every Katniss Everdeen discovers freedom in Peeta, and a little sister, with a surly cat; even Indiana Jones needs Short Round to get him out of a pinch. True fWEedom, at the heart of all of our stories is in the people that WE take with us out into the desert for forty years. All our stories about freedom, discover that it doesn’t happen on our own, but there is always a friendship, a we, at Freedom’s very core.

And so, when Christ dies on the cross and fWEes us from sIn, it is a freedom to community. Christ changes our posture from here (down in on ourselves) to here: out and facing the world.  In Luther’s Small Catechism we learn in his explanation of the third article of the Creed, that one of the primary functions of the Holy Spirit is to gather us. He says “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead, the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, and enlightens the whole Christian Church.” What I cannot  believe on my own, God makes possible by gathering us together. That’s why when we say in the creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the very next words that we breathe are the holy catholic church and the communion of saints! God takes us lonely sInners all, and makes us a WE! How does this happen? In Christ, Our sins are forgiven, we no longer have to worry about ourselves! And so tonight, God has in this place, truly made us, different all, to be in community, to be free. God knits us all together in fellowship and laughter, and God pulls us in through Christ into God’s everlasting love and mercy.  Through Christ we can let go of ourselves, and we get the surprising gift of one another, for Christ alone has the power to change our posture from here (bowed in on our belly buttons) to here (open and embracing others.)

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