Robin McGonigle University Congregational Church
June 14, 2020
“Reigniting! A Sense of Freedom”
I Peter 2:11-17
Anyone among us experiencing some change in your life? Then this sermon is for you! Actually, this whole sermon series is for you! Paul spoke last week about reigniting a sense of wonder in our lives as we walk through inevitable change – whether it is because of Coronavirus, life changes that come with aging, circumstantial changes, or something else that has brought unexpected change to us. We are learning together how to thrive and grow; how to Reignite! and to live creatively and meaningfully through the many changes of life.
Today’s topic is how to retain a sense of freedom during the course of a changing life. Michel de Montaigne said “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” I think during months of quarantine, this truth has become reality for many people. For those who have trouble being alone, it has been unbearable. We have all had to learn different ways to entertain ourselves while being isolated. It has required creativity!
To gain a greater sense of freedom, we need to start with small and simple steps toward exploring new things. Try a cooking class, a wine-tasting class, a foreign language class, learning how to reupholster, updating a few things in a room in the house, starting a new hobby. These positive actions toward a goal or a dream can form a new sense of freedom and self-worth.
Eric and I have some friends who have truly rocked the retirement phase of life. Once their children were raised and before they retired, Kirk realized that he needed a new hobby to take up the time that being a dad of younger children had required. He had always played guitar, but now he took it up with a passion. He started writing songs and performing around town. One of his early songs was “Rock Star Wannabe”. Listen for a moment…
By the time he actually retired, he was leading his church band, singing in restaurants around Wichita, producing CDs, writing lots of great music, and an advanced guitar player.
His wife, Diane, actually retired before Kirk. I tell her she should write the book on how to retire successfully. Diane is an expert quilter. She is also an exerciser, teacher, grandma, brilliant cook, and a great friend. She put all of her hobbies and skills into a relaxed schedule in her retirement. Each day, she has a set time to meet someone for an exercise – some days it is swimming and other days it is walking. Many days, she has a set time to meet someone for a craft – often it is sewing and quilting. She often
watches the grandchildren. But she doesn’t overdo it. I often hear her say, “I don’t want all three kids at once – I would rather have one-on-one time with them… or… I prefer mornings for walking because it is cooler.” She has found freedom in the schedule she sets. That’s because she spends her time according to her own values and wishes.
During the stay-at-home order, many of you have taken time to clear your clutter. There is freedom in that effort! It does us good – emotionally and spiritually – to take care of our space. As we declutter our environment, we begin to have clarity about our life’s priorities. We take stock of what really matters. Cleaning out our “stuff” and handling the things we want to keep is a concrete, active way of honoring our possessions and respecting our choices. As Julia Cameron writes, “When we clear our space, we clear room for new ideas. We make room for insight. We literally clear our minds.” There is a sense of freedom in clearing up our clutter.
Our traditional word for today speaks to the activities of our lives that can distract us from this freedom…
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do
wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. I Peter 2:11-17
In this text, the reader is told that there is a superior and unique set of Christian practices for Christians so that they can live as exemplary citizens. They are to live honorably – more honorably than others around them. They will find freedom in doing what is right. This freedom includes being submissive to the governing authorities. Finally, Christians have two responsibilities: to love their Christian brothers and sisters as well as God and to honor the emperor. In other words, “Love God and honor the King”. In this, they will find freedom.
I was so proud and honored to know Amira Coleman this week. Amira was a leading voice to keep Dr. Golden as WSU’s President after he responded to issues concerning Black Lives Matter and having Ivanka Trump speak at WSU. Amira spoke eloquently about loving her African American brothers and sisters and then she defended the
President of WSU, who is a white man. At this time in our history, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, it is a Christian imperative to love our brothers and sisters of all colors, races, creeds, and gender expressions. Our freedom and their freedom depends on it. This is logical and it is Biblical. Unless and until everyone experiences freedom, none of us has true freedom.
Two other notes about freedom from Julia Cameron’s book. These points are concerning boredom and routine. She notes that boredom actually covers fear. Boredom is a mask that we wear to tell ourselves, “What is the use?” We don’t want to take a risk or try something new and we feel stuck. So, we stay put and claim boredom. When we are bored, we tend to turn to other things to fill our time – negativity, meddling in other people’s lives, micromanaging, or other unconstructive activities to fill the void. Instead, we must make conscious decisions about using our time constructively. We all know this phenomenon in children – a bored child will stir up trouble! But it is harder to recognize in our own lives… When we challenge our boredom, we will find freedom!
Even during coronavirus or retirement or summer vacation, some sort of routine is important. We know scientists say that a consistent time of going to bed and waking up is good for us. When we wake up, we may drink a cup of coffee, read or watch the news, eat breakfast, and begin a morning routine. With a minimal structure in place, we find ourselves feeling serene and secure. After this routine, we can choose other things that serve our spirit until it is time to return to a meal or another time structured event.
The spirituality of routine is evident in monasteries and convents. Bells, prayers, meals, exercise, and even relaxation are scheduled activities throughout the day. Surprisingly, structure can offer a sense of freedom and reward!
These are the elements of personal freedom:
● Exploring new things
● Clearing the clutter
● Spending time doing what is important
● Live honorably
● Love others and God
● Work for and demand freedom for all
● Honor and obey governmental authorities
● Challenge your boredom
● Observe a routine
May we all exercise and build our freedom this week and going forward so that we can Reignite our lives this summer!
“The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary” volume X. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 2015.
Stiver, Amanda. “Vitality…What Is It?” https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/vitality-what-is-it
Cameron, Julia. “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond”. New York, New York: tarcherperigree. 2016.