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The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church Windsor NS, AD 2005

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith

Christ hath made us free”


Exodus is the going forth.  The book of Exodus tells the story of the going forth of the Hebrews from the land of Egypt.  The Exodus is the going forth from slavery into the freedom of God’s people.  God is their liberator.  God is the condition of their freedom. 


The freedom has to be learned.  In the wilderness, they learn what it means to be God’s people.  They learn the law.  The people of God are the people of the law.  The law defines them.  God’s word defines God’s will for his people.  It, too, is given by God.  The God who has freed them from oppression in Egypt gives them his will for them in the law.  The Ten Commandments is the law in its completeness.  It recalls the theme of liberation at the outset: “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”(Ex.20.1). 


The freedom from oppression signals something more.  There is a greater freedom - a freedom for God’s people.  They are freed to God.  The law is his will for his people.  It establishes a relationship.  The God who has freed his people from slavery has freed them to himself.  He is with them in the covenant of his will for them. 


The going forth is not easy.  The way of Exodus is hard.  It is a wilderness journey in which all the comforts, the conveniences and the old complacencies are not there.  But the hardness of the way is as nothing compared to the hardness of our hearts along the way.  Exodus chronicles something of the hardness of our hearts which resist the liberating spirit of God’s Word.  Yet the Exodus is God’s doing.  God brings his people out.  Their going forth is his doing.  He sustains them in the way.  He provides for them.  There is the strengthening presence of God.  There is refreshment. 


It is not just that there are the occasional oases in the desert.  No.  The refreshment in the Exodus story is something deeper.  It is the presence of God in his written will for his people.  That is to be the constant measure of their lives, a continual source of refreshment.  The law is a delight.  It teaches us our freedom.  Our freedom is to be found in the will of God for us. 


There is a greater Exodus however.  It is the Exodus of God for his people.  God goes forth to accomplish our greater liberation.  It is not only taught but accomplished.  It remains to be willed and lived.  The greater Exodus is the going forth of the Son into the wilderness of our sin and death to accomplish our liberation to the will of the Father.  The greater Exodus is the Passion of Jesus Christ.  “I have come to do the will of him who sent me” - the Father’s will for us.  It is written in the blood of Christ.  We have to learn what he has accomplished for us. 


Our freedom is to will what he has done for us.  The condition of our freedom is Christ in us.  St.  Paul states the condition of our freedom: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”(Gal.2.20.).  Thus, it is a freedom in us.  “Another lives in me” as Ignatius of Antioch puts it. 


Our works are faith works.  His grace feeds and nourishes us in the way of pilgrimage. 


St.  Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is his great manifesto of Christian liberation.  He reminds us that “Jerusalem which is above is free; which is the mother of us all”.  The Jerusalem of which he speaks is above, yet present.  He is not speaking of a political or a future state - an utopian ideal - but a present spiritual condition or state of grace.  We are the children of promise, the promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus.  The freedom is inward and spiritual.  The children of freedom are the children of Sarah not Hagar. 


The freedom is the release from the oppression of sin.  It is a release to God and it is a release in the soul.  It puts us in the spiritual place of freedom.  That is the “Jerusalem which is above...which is the mother of us all”.  That Jerusalem is present now for us in Mother Church.  She is the place of our life with Christ, here and now, where we live by faith not by works, by what is inwardly and spiritually achieved for us being inwardly and spiritually realised in us. 


That mother would sustain us in the wilderness pilgrimage of faith.  She would sustain us by the grace of Christ.  It is more than a “little touch of Harry in the night” (Shakespeare, Henry V), more than words of encouragement.  It is the reality of Jerusalem in our midst.  It is always more than we need.  “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost...and they filled twelve baskets” – twelve baskets that signify Christ’s sacramental provision for his apostolic Church.  We live graciously from those fragments of the heavenly banquet provided for us by the sacrifice of Christ in the greater wilderness of our sin and death.  At a time when our church is sadly fractured and broken, we need especially to remember the provisions Christ makes for us even in our brokenness, even in the brokenness of our communion.  We live from Jerusalem but only in and through the passion of Christ.  He is our freedom and it is “for freedom” that he “has set us free”.  Our freedom is only in him and he in us. 


“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith

Christ hath made us free”