July 4, 2021

Freedom

Passage: Mark 6:7-13

Mark 6:7-13                                                    “Freedom”                                                                              7-4-21

(Pray) May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O’ Lord. Amen

Good morning! Happy Fourth of July! When I was a kid I had a very specific idea of what independence was all about. I thought independence was about freedom, and freedom meant I could do whatever I want.  I could stay up late. I could watch whatever I want on TV. I could eat whatever I want. I thought being a grown up would be great. (pause) I’m a grown up now, and I have discovered a few things. I cannot eat whatever I want. I can watch whatever I want on TV, but it’s not all that great. If I stay up as late as I wanted as a kid I find myself falling asleep at my desk the next day. I am 43 years old and I have four children. My baby girl; the bottom of our four; was born the day after my 40th birthday. Do you know what that means? That means when she’s 20 I’ll be 60. When she’s 30 I will be 70. If I want to have a prayer of being able to play in the pool with her children I am going to have to start thinking about what I eat and how much exercise I get now. This is no lie. I do not like to run for excercise. Do you know what I have started doing this summer? (pause for response) Yup. I’ve started running. (pause) I’m running because it has dawned on me that in order to do the things I want to do in the future I have to make some sacrifices in the here and now.

Today is the fourth of July. Today is the day we celebrate telling England we declare our independence. Our forefathers were willing to sacrifice their lives so that we could have the freedoms we enjoy today. That is the sacrifice of a patriot. That is the sacrifice of an American soldier. If you have served in the armed forces would you please stand and be recognized. (pause for recognition of the veterans) Thank you. You may be seated. If a willingness to fight; and a willingness to die for freedom are the hallmarks of an American soldier, I wonder; what are the distinguishing characteristics of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In this morning’s passage Jesus calls the twelve disciples together. Jesus is about to send them out in groups of two. Jesus equips them with the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and to cast out demons. However, they need to understand how to use that power. Holy Spirit power does not come from learning to do a better push up, or how to file your taxes, or how to shoot a three point shot in basketball. To use the power of the Holy Spirit means being open to and relying on the Holy Spirit. So Jesus tells the disciples, “take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics” (Mark 6:8,9). Basically, what Jesus is telling the disciples is none of y’all can do this on your own. There are days coming when you will not be able to go where you want to go. You will not be able to do what you want to do. This is training day. Trust the Lord for what you will need for this journey. The Gospel According to Matthew echoes this sentiment in chapter 6:25-34. “[D]o not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what will you put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Matt 6:25)? Yes, we need food, and clothes and shelter and money is a tool for acquiring those things, but we don’t need a fancy watch to be an effective preacher. We don’t need the right shirt or the most in style skirt to effectively share the Gospel. What we need are open hearts and a sincere desire to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

It occurs to me that for the things we want most in this world we might have to sacrifice some of the things we want now. In the hopes of being able to play with my baby girl’s children I am going to have to sacrifice some of the things I like today to be able to play with them tomorrow. Our American service men sacrificed their time, the blood, their families and their lives so that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today. The disciples sacrificed their comfort, their bread, their money bag, their money, and their extra shirt to be better able to rely on the Holy Spirit. The disciples made those sacrifices in the hopes they would be better able to share the Gospel with others. Jesus knew they would need help. Jesus empowered them with the help of the Holy Spirit. The disciples just needed to learn how to use it.

Help is exactly what they received. When the disciples went out to the people that they proclaimed repentance (Mark 6:12). I gotta tell ya. I’ve been serving as a pastor for 12 years. Even here in the Bible belt there are times when repentance is a tough sell. And yet, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were successful. The disciples cast out many demons. Human beings do not cast out demons. We have no power over them. They have no reason to listen to us. However, through the Holy Spirit the disciples cast out many demons. The disciples anointed many people with oil who were sick, and they were healed. I’m all for giving modern medicine its well earned respect, but there are somethings beyond medical science that can only be cured or healed by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, they did it all, and they did it in the name of Jesus Christ.

Jesus limited the disciples’ resources at a time when it was already going to be difficult to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. These disciples were not smooth talkers. The disciples were not rich. The disciples did have nice clothes which would have told people they need to be respected. Limiting the disciples’ money; limiting the disciples’ clothes, limiting the disciples’ food actually set the disciples free. They were more free because Jesus had limited the barriers between them and doing the work Jesus has called them to do – spread the good news about the Kingdom of God. Without extra clothes, food, or money the disciples would have to get right out there and interact with people they didn’t know about the Gospel.

Think about it. For a while, during the pandemic, many of us were content to sit in our homes, and binge watch TV shows on Netflix, or Hulu. However, I think things have changed. Let me tell you what I’ve noticed. My wife has been taking our kids to the pool in Denton 3-4 days a week for two to four hours each day. In years past the pool would be so so full. But after a year of Covid, the pull is cram packed just about every day. It would appear being cut off from one another because of Covid has caused a lot of people to run out looking for something to do and for a place to be with other people. The pool in Denton is one of those places. With the disciples’ it was similar. Without their ability to pay their way, and with no food to sustain them the disciples had to go out and meet new people in the area surrounding where Jesus was teaching. Jesus had freed them from the trappings of their comforts to help them to be more effective for the Gospel. I wonder. What trappings or comforts are getting in the way of our ability to reach one more for Jesus? Are there things in our lives we need to be willing to let go of for the Kingdom of God? If so, what are those things in your life? How might setting some of those things aside help you to do a better job of talking to others about the good news of Jesus Christ?

In the name of Jesus Christ,
Amen

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