Words of the Law and Words Set Free
READ ISAIAH 4:1-5, 13-17
My God-daughter took the ACT college prep test this past weekend, and her prompt question for the essay was: “Should students have to follow school rules when they are not on school property?” When asked what she wrote she replied, “The first thing I thought of was Huck Finn. So I wrote how if Huck Finn had followed all of society’s rules he would have never helped Jim get free. That sometimes we need to be freed from the constraints of the rules society places upon us, to see whether the rules are actually just. We need to be able to step outside the law to examine and determine if it should be upheld or challenged in the name of justice. So I wrote that I didn’t think students should have to follow school rules when not on school property, but we should have freedom.” I must admit I was proud of her literary knowledge and fine analysis.
In Romans we hear a similar discussion: “The promise…did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith…” “For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace…”
The Grace of God – the unconditional love of God –sets us free to encounter ourselves and others with the same love, understanding and grace. The law – the words written down – creates rules that are a measurement, that judge us and others. When the law is a just rule it protects us and others. When the law is an unjust rule it constricts, binds and kills us and others. When the Word becomes Flesh – when God entered our world of laws, rules, words and judgments – Christ brought us Grace to set us free. Having been set free, we as a community can enter into hard conversations hearing one another’s stories and together challenging the rules that bring death transforming them to words of life. Hearing the full story, hearing the whole life, hearing the context is critical to hearing why some words in some settings bring death and in other settings offer freedom. It is not just that the Words Matter, it is also that listening to each others’ words through the experience of God’s Grace assists us in communicating in life-giving ways. We must offer our words of love, forgiveness and acceptance to each other through the experience of God’s grace, because then the Word of God will not be used to constrict – but it will set us free.
FOR REFLECTION AND ACTION
When have you experienced words used in worship as judgment? When have you experienced the words used in worship as grace that set you free? What “rules” of your worshipping community would you like to open up for conversation, to learn how others experience their application?
By The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer
The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer serves as the Program Director of Women’s Ministries at the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). Rev. Tiemeyer is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has worked previously in the parish setting and in disaster response.