A few months ago there was a notable news item about herds of deer on the border of what used to be West Germany and Czechoslovakia. That border marked the line between the Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO alliance of the West. Not long after WW2 a fence was built by the Communists to stop â€˜migrationâ€™ to the West. The â€˜fenceâ€™ was actually three fences of high and vicious barbed wire, fully electrified. Armed guards constantly patrolled its entire length. Apparently more than 500 people died along that border as they sought freedom from that oppressive regime.
They were not the only casualties. For century upon century herds of deer had freely roamed the forests of Europe in that area. Once the death-dealing fence was in place the deer quickly learned to avoid it. Deer on the Czech side moved through the eastern forests up to the fence, along it on well worn tracks, and away again. On the German side the herds of deer learned to do the exact same thing. East was east, and west was west, and neâ€™er the herds did meet.
Now hereâ€™s the thing… The herds still donâ€™t meet. It is now 25 years since the wall came down and the fence was removed. In the years since then observers were astonished to see that the deer adhered (!) to the tracks they had learned. Since scientists began micro-chipping the herds only two, both male, are known to have â€˜crossed the lineâ€™, and one of those returned the same day and never â€˜re-offendedâ€™. The herds are stuck in their learned patterns of behaviour in spite of the fact that not a single deer alive today was alive when the electric fence was doing its dirty work. As one report had it, â€˜The wall is still in their heads!â€™ No other animals are limited in the same way. (Thanks to Pastor Fred Veerhuis for this article and his insights).
We belong to a church which prides itself on its convictions about Gospel freedom. We love Galatians 5:1. â€˜For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand fast then, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.â€™ (RSV) Most certainly the Gospel bestows the gift of freedom through forgiveness, for Christâ€™s sake, by grace, through faith. With it comes that delightful and cherished confidence that there is now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Being placed â€˜in Christ Jesusâ€™ puts the children of the heavenly Father beyond any accusation that could ever be raised according to law. Nothing, repeat nothingâ€¦ nothing in all creation, nothingâ€¦ can ever separate us from the love of God the Father revealed in Jesus Messiah our Lord. Nothing!
And in that revelation, we are free to be the person we want to be, because Christ has set us free.
Nelson Mandela after apartheid was abolished said that the only thing that now remained keeping his people in bondage was the fear of freedom.
For us, born free in our country that may sound a little strange. But what if we think of those things that we are slaves to, regardless of our need not to be.
Excess wealth, status, keeping up with â€œJonesâ€™â€ and all manner of things that shape our way of life that donâ€™t necessarily enhance it, but restrict it.
If only I didnâ€™t have to worry aboutâ€¦â€¦..imagine the freedom.
The Freedom that two rich, intelligent and wealthy stock brokers strived for.
Not a desire of freedom from their riches or work pressures, but the freedom that they desired so great but could not do either together or alone and so developed Alcoholics Anonymous in which the basic premise is that without help from a higher God, they cannot sustain the battle against alcohol.
We are free in Christ, yet in some ways, still trapped in ourselves.
If Christ was not Christ He might answer for us to have a look at ourselves and get our act together.
Thankfully Christ is Christ and instead of passing opinions of matters He does not understand, does understand and sees that things are not easy for even those that know the truth of the freedom they have in Him.
Michael Jordan, maybe the greatest basketball player in history after hearing people comment on his brilliance remarked that I wonder if they would think the same if they saw the amount of times I miss during my practicing over and over again for hours every day.
In our Jordan moments when we hit the target Christ sees His good and faithful servants at work. The same when He sees His good and faithful servants bowed down lying with an empty bottle on the street asking for forgiveness and begging for an end to the horror.
When Christ walked this earth He did miracles, raising people from the dead, healing lepers and so forth. Absolute miracles that if we were the recipient of one would never give short thrift to.
But for me, the miracle is that, again and again, are the spoken Gospel words that is Jesus Christ who comes to us amongst society and indeed our own opinions of ourselves, that whether at the both at the â€œtop of our gameâ€ or at the bottom, comes to us with the exact same words â€œthat nothing, nothing of this world nor in powers seen or unseen that we know little , not our failures to be that person we want and know we should be, not our failure in ourselves and nor our failure in serving Him as we should-nothing because of Christ can ever separate those who know who He is and what He came for can ever be separated from the love of God.
Those who know Christ and what He came for are saved.
â€œbecause, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, â€œEveryone who believes in him will not be put to shame.â€ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For â€œeveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.â€
For there is no distinction between Jew or Greek-For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
No distinctions: Be it those in the concrete mountains of wall street or those wallowing in rags under a bridge in Dubbo/Gilgandra and should either have been freed of their invisible jail cells or not-everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
In our lives here, our freedom within can feel both the journey and the destination. But in Christ-His journey to death on the cross was our arrival at our destiny of life in His resurrection because though we can be free today, the greater miracle is that Jesus the Christ got behind the real wall of the law, undermined it by his life of suffering glory, dismantled the accuserâ€™s strongholds by delivering forgiveness through his own death, drove a stake through the dominating heart of the spirit of death by his resurrection, and proceeded to lead the redeemed through those shattered walls into the kingdom of his Father.
We are free today as we are, as we will be when our bodies are renewed on the last day.
And in that, we go with the peace that is not of us, but with the peace of Christ for we know, that should we lie in green pastures beside still waters, or walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we know He is with us, following us in goodness and mercy wherever our journey leads us-that nothing shall ever separate us from His promise that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. His house, and our house. Amen.