OK, I’m afraid of closed in places. I think it’s called “claustrophobia.” The first time I remember discovering this uneasy feeling was when I was a boy and we were playing hide and seek. I found this perfect hiding place in a small cupboard in the kitchen. And it must have been a good spot because no one could find me. But after a few minutes in that closed in place, I started feeling panicky! Soon I abandoned my great hiding place by jumping out of the cupboard in a cold sweat. I don’t like confining places! It’s funny, because nowadays, due to my discomfort with closed places and my previous police training, I look for all the exits when I go to a new place! Sad, isn’t it!
But we humans have an innate desire to be free. We want to not be confined to this or that place, or restriction, or even relationships. We want to make sured we know where all the “exits” are in our lives. This desire for freedom often gets warped in our lives due to our spiritual blindness and broken human will. We see this desire for freedom morph into an inability to commit, or to embrace timeless wisdom meant to help us. We wrestle against “authority” in an attempt to escape the confines of that authority. We want to be free! And that isn’t a bad thing, but without the healing of repentance, where our freedom is gained THROUGH slavery to Christ, we will constantly be our own worst enemy!
Look at today’s Gospel Lesson on this AfterFeast of the Theophany of Christ in John 10:39-42:
At that time, the Jews tried to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there He remained. And many came to Him; and they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
Our Lord’s Coming and His Baptism inaugurates a “new” reality for the world. And this new reality is a threat to the “old” ways, the “old” religions, and the “old” power structure. So that very structure seeks to stifle and “arrest” this threat to it’s power. Makes sense. Extinction is hard on dinosaurs! But there is no turning back! God has become flesh! There is no “unringing” this bell! This event has set in motion the final act in God’s plan to truly liberate we humans and give us the one escape we must enter if we are to ever be truly free!
But make no mistake, this freedom is scary because it really does undo all our ideas about what freedom really is. The people in the Lord’s day recognized this in Christ and testified that “everything that John said about this man was true.” He really is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. He really is mightier that John and we really are unworthy to even untie His shoes. He really is the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and makes we humans a fit habitation for God. He really does have His “winnowing fork in his hands” and He really is dividing the wheat from the chaff (see Matthew 3:12). The appearance of Christ means the end of humanity’s “kindergarten” age and a challenge to grow beyond the “religions” of the past into the “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) that Christ inaugurates to give us the ultimate freedom to finally become what we were made to be! It’s the ultimate freedom. It’s the ultimate escape!
Let’s face it, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, we have to admit that real freedom scares us! To be truly free automatically means to be completely responsible, and we live in an age where avoiding responsibility seems to be more important than anything else.
Today, has your definition of freedom been transformed by the faith? Does your relationship with God, your “slavery” to Him, set you free from the “old” desires to “be your own boss” and to
“have it your way?” Are you discovering that that old way of living only deepens your slavery to your own selfish ways? It’s time to join the Lord in escaping “from their hands;” the “hands” of doubt, fear, ignorance, and greed, and into the true freedom of being liberated from all those false identities to the true identity of a child of God. It’s time to refresh your baptismal vows and to constantly allow the freedom of Christ to make you who you really are. It’s time to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord of Mercy and Freedom, grant me the courage to see the Freedom You offer me through dependence on You means I will live truly free from the slavery of fear and death. And I know, O Lord, that this freedom will be misunderstood by a slave bound world. Some will even hate me for my freedom in You. Fill me with Your love, O Lord, so that I will lead others and never hate even when I’m hated. Amen.