Message Supplement for 16 October 2022: “Overcome Captivity”

The scripture passage for today’s message is Jeremiah 31:27-34.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah pondered momentous changes: “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31: 31).

There are wondrous ramifications for modern people of faith based on Jeremiah’s ancient words.  The ongoing promise is that you can overcome captivity via spiritual freedom.

Jeremiah lived in the sixth-century before Jesus, at a time when many Jewish people had become refugees held captive in the conquerors’ land of Babylon.  This Babylonian captivity aroused agonizing reflection about what it meant to be Jewish.  The comforting thought both then and now is that God listens to the cries of the oppressed and offers spiritual release. Jeremiah’s voice still cries, reaching across the centuries to all who are captive in body, mind or spirit.

All is not normal or convenient during times of upheaval.  But the good news is that God presides even in dire straits.  Jeremiah shared God’s direction in that there was a new way for a new day.  For instance, no longer would God’s people be constrained by needless rules.  The Jewish Law had become dysfunctional and abused by a religious bureaucracy pursuing power and privilege more than love and liberty.  Jeremiah’s message was therefore an invitation for spiritual freedom.

Sadly, the history of religion reveals how administrative and bureaucratic forces undermine spiritual health and happiness.  Through institutionalization, God’s message is often corrupted by toxic theologians and priests trying to control what you believe.  This deplorable situation is what Jeremiah and many other libertarian reformers have condemned throughout history.  The forces of darkness still threaten to enslave you, so be alert and aware.

We must admit that in a non-religious context such as secular society, rules and laws avoid anarchy.  Orderliness and structure promote thriving commerce, the preservation of peoples’ rights, etc.  Rules and the laws upon which they are based are necessary as civilization’s foundation.

Regarding spirituality, rules often cause more harm than good.  Each person has a spirit that seeks unfettered connection with God.  Unfortunately, middlemen and onerous traditions and teachings can undermine peoples’ pursuit of spiritual health.  Also, Jesus’ liberating gospel is often rejected or undermined by a religious establishment more intent on serving its own interests than in advancing yours.

No religious authority, no matter how old or hallowed, has the right or permission to make your faith or connection to God contingent upon meeting their demands or imitating their beliefs.  And as you are transformed from captivity to freedom, so also is your church.  Just as in Jeremiah’s day, you must take an active role in all aspects of spiritual liberation.

Resist any attempt to subcontract your spiritual health to anyone or anything outside God.  There are roving monsters who hunger and thirst for your soul, attempting to first seduce you and then to consume you through their pious-sounding nonsense.  Ironically, the Christian church has often propagated such harm.  Church and religious instruction should promote what is best for you but this is not always the case.

You and I are inheritors of a new covenant, one far more progressive than even that suggested by Jeremiah.  We can thrive under this New Testament covenant, the one emphasized by Yeshua bar Joseph—aka Jesus the son of Joseph and otherwise known as Jesus [the] Christ.  Jesus based his gospel on love, not upon an endless plying of rules, restrictions or rituals.

In your daily life you may encounter persons whose opposition to positive, progressive change is so entrenched that they’d rather sacrifice their souls than to embrace spiritual health.  Such folks often feel compelled to control and manage the church as if it were a museum exhibit of ancient artifacts.  To address this problem, Jeremiah’s and Jesus’ message shatter shackles of the heart and mind.

The new covenant of redemptive love is what God desires for you.  Therefore, resist the call to cling slavishly to attitudes and behavior that drain your spirit.  Open yourself to the power of a living, dynamic God who transforms from the inside/out.

Like those people in Jeremiah’s day, you can also choose to listen to what God wants and be willing to respond, even if you feel captive in a foreign land.  In partnering with God to revitalize yourself you will also destroy the chains of bondage and slavery.

God’s Spirit will help set you free and claim the promises that will take you to a better life.  You are the beautiful child of God, the progeny born of a new covenant that transcends earthly or spiritual captivity.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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