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Table of Contents
Focus Text: Hebrews 2:14-18
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Scriptural Commentary on Hebrews 2:14-18
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36) Freedom is a something that we all aspire to obtain. The path we construct in our individual lives is usually tied to freedom, financial freedom, labor freedom, spiritual freedom, physical freedom. We seek to free ourselves from any possible force or object that makes our decisions and actions in the world dependent on the agency of other. For the Christians whom Hebrews was written for, this was also a dilemma. They were being persecuted for their acceptance of Christ as the Messiah and were considering turning back, surrendering in the face of the forces that threatened their survival. However, this passage presents a hope. In four verses, the author re-tells the story of salvation. Jesus becoming incarnate, taking our form to free the world from the power of sin and death. The ultimate sacrifice.
Through a short reminder of God’s action through Jesus a promise of freedom is given to the Hebrews. A freedom that goes beyond earthly conception of what it means to be free. There is no need to fear death, or any of the powers of this world because the Lord set us free. When we before were being held in slavery (v. 15), Christ became like us and was tested in the same manner we are. And for this reason, “because he himself was tested by what he suffered” (v. 18), he is the one who walks with us in the trials of this world. As we fight for our earthly freedom, for a freedom that is equal for all, and as we are tested, God walks with us. That is the promise. That we are not alone.
In the world that we are living in, where every day seems to bring news of another tragedy, another injustice, another unexplainable event, we are strengthened by the promise of a companion. We can rest in the faith that the Johannine gospel expresses: that whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36). And that faith is what enables us to press on. To, in the same manner that God did not abandon his creation, we do not abandon the hope that one day justice will roll on like a river (Amos 5:24), and that all will be free, free indeed.
–Yolanda Santiago-Correa, Duke Divinity School Intern
Worship Aids about Freedom
God of steadfast love,
you sent your Son to be the light of the world,
saving people everywhere from sin and death.
As Anna gave thanks for the freedom he would bring,
and Simeon saw in him the dawn of redemption,
complete your purpose once made known in him.
Make us the vessels of his light,
that all the world may glory in the splendor of your peace. Amen.
(from Revised Common Lectionary, Vanderbilt Divinity School https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=326)
Call to Worship
In the midst of celebration, we are also in sorrow.
Lord, hear our cries.
For all those who have given their lives so that we may have our freedom,
Lord, hear our cries.
For all those who struggle and strive against great difficulties,
Lord, hear our cries.
We praise God who has blessed us with freedom and peace.
Let our lives be a blessing to others as we serve God in this world. Amen.
Freedom is coming!
We can hear it in the voices of the oppressed.
Hope is coming!
We can see it in the eyes of all those who despair.
God is here!
We count on God’s presence with us, to guide, heal and uplift our spirits. Amen.
(from Ministry Matters, http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/2897/worship-connection-july-1-2012)
Suggested Hymns about Freedom
Go Down Moses
Negro Spiritual, 1862
For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free
Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs 679
Singing the New Testament 174
Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor 31
O God of Freedom, Hear Us Pray
Choice Hymns: For Social and Private Devotion 179
Hymns for Christian Devotion, Universalist 799
Hymns for the Church of Christ 491
Let My People Seek Their Freedom
United Methodist Hymnal 586
Common Praise (1998) 471
Quotes about Freedom
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity.
We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideal, and those who died in their defense.
I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free … so other people would be also free.
I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear!
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations
Vignette about Freedom
Gathering Meditation: Who Knows the Way to Freedom?
(Based on Numbers 21:4-9)
Who knows the way to freedom?
When we accept prolonged mistreatment. When someone else directs us so often we forget how to think for ourselves. Sometimes we don’t recognize the clear path to freedom.
When a person like Moses leads us out of bondage, sometimes we turn on Moses. Sometimes we balk when freedom demands sacrifice. Sometimes we forget how much we complained about the pain bondage heaped on us for years.
When a person like Moses guides us toward freedom, sometimes we get mad at Moses when we don’t get blessed soon enough. Sometimes we forget that we cried to God for 400 years for less freedom than we actually have now.
Sometimes we want a forty-year problem resolved in thirty minutes — as if life were a TV show. Sometimes we need to admit that freedom is hard, but bondage is worse.
Sometimes we need to stop complaining and start praying . . .
. . . if we want to find the way to freedom.
(Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org)
Contacts & Resources for Freedom
“We work to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.” Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people – no matter who they are or where they are.
“The Freedom Park will offer a place for school children, visitors, residents, citizens, and policymakers to learn about the contributions of African Americans toward a better society we all share and to reflect upon the importance of full freedom for every citizen and the sanctity of justice and equality.” The North Carolina Freedom Park is a work in progress, currently in the fundraising and approval stage, projected to be finished by 2020.
“The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects our right to open government. Our mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings.”
Founders of Freedom Sunday; the International Justice Mission is dedicated to the fight against slavery, human trafficking, sexual violence, police brutality, land theft and the abuse of citizens’ rights.
“Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) is a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice. Simply put, parental school choice means allowing parents to send their children to their school of choice – traditional or nontraditional – regardless of address or income.”
Facts and Reflection about Freedom
(Facts from Amnesty International, https://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/)
- 23 = number of countries that executed people in 2016 (including the U.S.)
- 20 = number of people executed in the US alone in 2016
- 19 = US states that have abolished the death penalty
- 59 = number of persons detained at Guantanamo be the end of January 2017
- 13,000 = persons who were deported under the NSEERS program, without being convicted of any crimes, before it was dismantled
Deadly Force and Police Accountability
- 963 = people who were killed by police in 2016, according to the Washington Post
- It is 5 times more like for an unarmed black man to be shot as compared to an unarmed white man.
- 0 = Number of states in the US with laws on the books that meet international standard for police use of lethal force.
Refugee and Migrant Rights
- 3 million = Total number of refugees in the world
- More than 50% = proportion of refugees worldwide who are children.
Human Rights Defenders
- 156 human rights defenders died in detention or were killed in 2015
- 19 = US States that have introduced bills to restrict the right to protest.
- 61 = countries that have imprisoned people in 2016 for exercising their human rights.
- 30,000 = people who are killed with guns each year in the US
- 80% = proportion of all gun deaths in the world that take place in the US
- 0 = number of gun control laws passed by the US Congress in the last three years.
Gender, Sexuality, and Identity
- 76 = number of countries that criminalize sexual activity between adults of the same
Individuals at Risk
- 55 = number of countries that arrested people for peaceful expression on social media/online in 2016