Dear Friends in Christ:
If you have not been reading issues of the “Living Lutheran” put out by our presiding body, you’re missing out on some very interesting stories about our life together as the church. In the latest issue of this periodical, our presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has an article entitled “Freed to Serve” that seems relevant given our current situation with the coronavirus and “hunkering down” in our dwelling places.
She begins by quoting from Martin Luther’s On the Freedom of a Christian: “A Christian is lord of all, completely free of everything. A Christian is servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.” To continuing quoting Bishop Eaton:
Here is where Luther makes Christian freedom a paradox. No longer crushed by the weight of self-justification, but gloriously free by being bound to the righteousness of Christ, we are free to serve the neighbor. Out of joy and gratitude we want to serve the neighbor. In fact, we are bound to serve the neighbor. In love our freedom makes us ‘a servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.’
Luther’s understanding of Christian freedom is a rejection of and a corrective to the current cultural message of taking care of one’s self or one’s tribe first, even at the expense of others. We erect boundaries, though Christ’s love is boundless.
There is much in the world that could cause us to disconnect from each other, to lay in enough supplies—literally and figuratively—so we can’t be touched by anything. Again a paradox—in constructing our own security we make ourselves prisoners. It is only in the freedom of Christ that is lived in service to the neighbor that we are free.
Where does that put us as we deal with the current crisis before us? How do we let the “stone roll away” from the tombs of our individualism, selfishness and “hoarding” so that Christ can be set free once again in our lives? These questions are what we need to ponder during Holy Week, Christ final journey to the cross. Maybe Luther, along with the commentary from our presiding Bishop, will help us to recapture the true essence of being a Christian again: By loving God and loving our neighbor ourselves. Being set free by God so that we can become servants to our neighbors, not just during a time of crisis but every day we are given the opportunity to look to the needs of others.
Easter is near. Let us prepare to receive Christ in our hearts and lives again.