December 31, 1862, was the eve before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Our Freed African-American ancestors gathered and prayed that our enslaved brothers and sisters would be freed physically, mentally and emotionally. Our ancestors gathered in homes, churches, safe spaces to pray that all would enter into the new year free.
As we pray for the new year, what is it that we need to be released from so that we can be free?
Let us transport ourselves back to December 31, 1862.
There is no internet, no twitter, Instagram, no telephone.
We are waiting to hear the news of something that we have desired for so long, freedom.
This freedom will allow us to work when we want, eat when we want, breathe, think, sleep when we want.
On December 31st, 1862, our ancestors, enslaved Africans in America, awaited the words from the Emancipation Proclamation that would declare that they were free.
And on this New Year’s Eve of 2017, some of us may not be awaiting freedom from systems of oppression, but maybe some of us are awaiting freedom from addictions that are destroying us and our relationships.
We are awaiting freedom from expectations that are keeping us from fulling our God-sized dreams.
We are awaiting freedom from unhealthy relationships that are destroying us, instead of giving us life.
As our ancestors awaited for freedom on December 31st, many of us this evening are anticipating the freedom that the new year will bring.
But the gift for each of us this evening, as a community of faith, is that at this moment, and every moment of our lives, we do not have to long for our freedom.
Instead, our freedom is right here, and all we have to do in this present moment is embrace it.
In Galatians 4:4-7, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Church in Galatia about the freedom they have in God. Paul assures the church in Galatia that there is nothing they have to do, buy or give to receive the freedom offered to them in Jesus Christ, but it is God, and God only, whose son born of a woman came into this world without any conditions to free all humanity.
In the scripture before Galatians chapter 4, Paul encourages the church that, “It makes no difference whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a freeman, a man or a woman, because in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, you are all one.”
Paul is declaring to the church that all have been liberated by Christ.
This is a powerful transformative message, but if this is the truth, why isn’t the Church in Galatia convinced?
What is getting in the way of their freedom?
What is getting in the way of our freedom today?
Now I can’t speak for everyone, but for the Church in Galatia, it was People.
People who were Teachers and Ministers who arrived in Galatia after Paul, and started to teach the church in Galatia that what Paul said was wrong and that their freedom in God required them to abandon their identity and adopt a Jewish Identity and practices.
How many of us have experienced this type of opposition? When you are forced to abandon who you are or what you believe for someone else’s gain?
American Slavery forced Africans to abandon who they were, to become objects of America’s capitalistic economy, even after the emancipation proclamation was passed, many states tried to convince freed slaves that they were still enslaved.
Who or what in your life is trying to keep you enslaved? Who or What is trying to Keep you from recognizing your freedom? Is it your job? Your relationships? You?
Paul writes to the church in Galatia, declaring “Christ came as God’s Son to Free you so that you longer live as a slave because you are a child of God.” Beloved none of us, are enslaved, in Christ Jesus we are free, so why are we walking around here like we are in bondage?
To live free is to fully embrace all that God has created you to be.
But what does this freedom look like?
How do we live free, when systems of oppression exist? When there are more people enslaved today than during the transatlantic slave trade? When there are people in this world who try and convince us that we are not free, how do we live free?
In the song “Glory” performed by John Legend and Common, Common proclaims, “Justice for all ain’t specific enough… One Son died his spirit is revisiting us, True living is living in us, The resistance is us.”
Commentators write that Common’s lyric “one son died” refers to the young black men like, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and many others, who were murdered by the epidemic of police brutality in America, but as Common declares, their spirits have not perished but they live free in us, and through their spirit we are called to Fight for justice, for reform and bring Change as the late Erica Garner did for her brother, may she rest in peace.
In another interpretation, my own interpretation, I also hear common’s lyrics reminding us of the death of God’s son, Jesus Christ, who died for all of us so that we may have abundant life, and through the holy spirit, it is Christ presence that lives on in each of us, calling us to live lives that bring hope, love, joy, and peace to a hurting world.
Living Free in this life does not abolish the systems of oppression instead it declares that as God’s creation we are not defined nor limited by these systems, instead, through the power of the holy spirit, we live as God calls us to live, not as slaves but as children of God.
So as we move forward into 2018, as children of God, may we embrace our inheritance, may we choose play over worry, rest over exhaustion, love over hate and may we live as God calls us to live