Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be really free?
As a teenage schoolgirl, I often found school life dull and restricting. I would gaze out of the windows, longing to be out and about.
But at least we had long holiday breaks when I got to do things I enjoyed more.
But when I started work, it was 9to5 for 50 weeks a year. We would often go camping during our two-week summer break. Which was lovely but seemed only a morsel of what the good life could be.
My career developed (in the computer industry) and progressed through the 1980s to become the central focus of my life. I worked hard at it and would spend long hours in the office and drive all over the country visiting customers.
I presented myself as the ultimate independent and successful career woman.
I thought I was living the dream, big pay cheques, flash cars, homeowner, well respected and, most importantly, free to make my own business and personal decisions.
What more could I ask for?
Then when I was 40, my father sadly passed away. I took a week’s compassionate leave from work and wondered what I was doing with my life.
Because the finality of his death had completely stopped me in my tracks.
When I returned to work, I intended to resign and find a different way of living.
But before I could do this, I was unexpectedly made redundant (nothing personal but an occupational hazard in my line of work).
Fortunately, I was given a generous payoff, allowing me to have a year off work and take stock. The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways.
I took custody of my father’s old dog, Sam, and we walked in the local park daily.
It was spring, and as I watched the blossoms unfolding and green shoots appearing from nowhere, I felt a kind of freedom I had never experienced before.
I began to realise that, although I needed to make a living, the way I lived was shallow.
Again, I thought there surely had to be more to life.
So I gradually took a new direction, which allowed me to develop other paths.
Those paths allowed me more freedom to discover my purpose in life.
This long journey has ultimately led me to write here – that the real freedom we all search for; the longings, hopes, and restless desires, whatever name we give it, can only be achieved through the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Old Testament Freedom Fighters
The Old Testament teaches us much about freedom, the Israelites were probably the original freedom fighters.
There are multiple parallels between the life and mission of Moses and Jesus.
God sent Moses to his enslaved people in Egypt to set them free, but after they escaped, they then spent 40 years lost in the desert. During this time, they established the annual Passover Sacrifice of a Lamb.
This was to acknowledge their release from slavery in Egypt and ask forgiveness for things they had done wrong.
God revealed his presence to Moses in the desert and dwelt alongside the Israelites in a tabernacle; a portable dwelling place.
After a long and arduous journey, they finally arrived at the promised land and built a temple for God’s Tabernacle. In the temple was a sacred area called the Holy of Holies, where they placed it.
Only the High Priest could enter that area once a year to be in the presence of God. The priest would then make the established Passover Sacrifice of a lamb.
The Israelite’s quest for freedom foreshadowed what would come in Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.
Because there was a giant curtain that kept the Holy of Holies separate from the rest of the temple. When Jesus died on the cross, that curtain literally split from top to bottom.
This signified that, through Jesus, God’s presence was no longer to be confined in one place.
Because he died for the world’s sins once and for all when he allowed himself to be sacrificed as our Passover Lamb on the cross.
As God sent Moses to lead the Israelites to physical freedom, so too he sent Jesus to lead us, the people of today, to spiritual freedom.
His resurrection from the dead defeated the powers of darkness and led the way for a new life and genuine freedom for all who believe in him.
Today, Jesus Christ is the High Priest. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence resides now, not in a tabernacle behind a curtain, but in the hearts of all who love Jesus.
Each one of us, who believes in Jesus, is now a portable dwelling place for the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is God’s power in action.
We are now the living stones of the new temple – his Church.
Christ our Passover Lamb.
What does this mean for us today?
I started by sharing my younger self’s quests for freedom, but as an adult Christian, I have come to realise that no one can take our freedom away without our consent.
Because the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised has set us free. Not only that, but it has also empowered us as well.
People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Terry Waite demonstrated this defiantly when imprisoned for many years for their faith.
The Holy Spirit is an indwelling support system, like a spiritual Sat Nav.
But God’s spirit offers so much more; it teaches, guides and comforts us (as Moses did the Israelites).
It also provides us with spiritual gifts to use in God’s service.
But, we give our power away when we do things we know we should not do. When we put our personal desires before the Holy Spirit’s direction, we surrender a part of our freedom.
There are many ways to go down this wrong path today, and it is easy to be deceived. To get the right balance, we need to be both disciplined and free at the same time.
Because genuine freedom is being free for God and for one another.
It is in discovering the gifts the Holy Spirit has empowered us with and using them in his service.
It’s not necessarily easy; like the Israelites, we can experience tremendous struggles. But unlike them, we have the advocate that Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit, to guide and support us.
This unique gift from God is not just for us though, to be hidden behind the curtains of our lives.
It is for us to take out into the world and pass on to others by letting the light of Christ shine through our words and actions.
As we do this, we demonstrate the power of God’s love in action.
My prayer today is that each of us allows the Holy Spirit to lead us and develop the special gifts we have been endowed with.
But also, to share with others how the power of God’s spirit in action can truly set people free and transform their lives.
I have heard this also explained as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread – and this is how we discover the real freedom that both Jesus and St Paul often spoke of – and which most of us long for.
In the name of Christ, Amen