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Message Supplement for Sunday 20 October: “Overcome Captivity”

Today’s message is inspired by Jeremiah 31:27-34, where the Old Testament prophet reflects on 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 through spiritual transformation.

Jeremiah lived in the sixth-century before Jesus, at a time when many Jews 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 freedom.  Jeremiah’s voice still cries, reaching across the centuries and alerting God’s people.  Do you yearn for life-enhancing change?  Here it is, and of all places it has a source in the Old Testament, which reveals a surprisingly enlightened understanding.

All is not normal or convenient during times of upheaval.  God expects fundamental changes even in times of dire straits.

Jeremiah shared God’s desire to his fellow Jews that there can be a new way for a new day.  No longer should debilitating religious rules prevail.  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 a setup for thinking about faith in a new way.

Sadly, the history of religion reveals how administrative and bureaucratic forces undermine many religions’ spiritual core.  Through institutionalization, God’s message is often corrupted by toxic politicians and priests trying to control what you believe and how you live.  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 of the dangers.  Complacency is dangerous!

Don’t get me wrong: rules and laws avoid social anarchy.  An orderly secular society promotes thriving commerce, the preservation of peoples’ rights, etc.  Rules and the laws upon which they are based are necessary as civilization’s foundation.  But when it comes to spirituality, strict religious rules cause more harm than good.  Each person has a spirit that seeks connection with God.  But when there are middlemen blocking your access to the Almighty it can short-circuit your spiritual connection, undermining your life dedicated to God Most High.

You and I are inheritors of a new covenant, one far more progressive than even that suggested by Jeremiah.  You 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 covenant on love, not upon an endless plying of rules, restrictions or rituals.  In rejecting Jesus’ freedom-seeking approach, the religious establishment convinced the Romans to execute Jesus.  A chief lesson is to never underestimate the power of evil or their stooges and official intent on protecting a status quo of elites subjugating you.

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 act as if they own the church and they wrongly feel compelled to protect it, as if it were a museum exhibit of ancient artifacts.  To address this problem, Jeremiah’s message and even more so Jesus’ shatters shackles of the heart and mind.

Like those ancient Jews in Jeremiah’s day, you can choose to listen to what God wants and be willing to respond, even if you feel like a captive in a foreign land.  In partnering with God to revitalize yourself you will also destroy the chains of bondage and slavery.  The new covenant of redemptive love is what God desires for you.  Therefore, resist the call to cling slavishly to attitudes and behavior that suck life from your spirit.  Instead, open yourself to the power of a living, dynamic God who transforms from the inside/out.

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.  No church and 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, so also is your church.  Just as in Jeremiah’s day, you can’t rely on others to transport you to the promised land of religious liberty.

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.  Are you ready to embrace God’s redemptive plan of promise and possibility?  Are you ready to overcome captivity and set yourself free through spiritual transformation?

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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