One of the memorable questions from last spring's synod assemblies was: "Bishop Hanson, in one word, what is your hope for every ELCA member?" Since then I have asked others that question, and the responses have varied: faith, salvation, hope, love.
My response was "freedom." My hope is that every ELCA member knows that in Christ we are both bound to be free from the power of sin, death and the devil, and free to be bound to God in faith and to our neighbor in service.
"Freed in Christ to Serve" is the theme for the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, but it is more than just a theme. It expresses the heart of our faith.
My mother, who taught me the faith and who as a teacher of English and Latin recognized grammatical nuance, would appreciate the significance of freed (rather than free). Freed in Christ makes clear that our present status of freedom is God's work and it is already accomplished, as Martin Luther explained in the Small Catechism: "[Christ] has purchased and freed me from all sins."
This freedom won by Christ is a fact of history. This freedom was not won on a battlefield, ordered by a court, argued as an axiom of political philosophy, achieved through self-actualization, granted by God as a reward for righteous living or right teaching.
Freedom in Christ happened both once and for all on the cross, and once "for you" in the baptismal dying and rising with Christ. Being freed in Christ is God's gift of grace received through faith so there is no doubt about it. "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
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