Sunday, July 26, 2020

When the spirit of freedom stops the clock

Sermon for the seventh Sunday after Trinity

On our travels with St Paul, St Silas and St Luke, we meet three spirits. The first prevents them from spreading the Gospel in Asia. The second proclaims the Most High God. The third sends these saints to prison.

Only one of these spirits is not the Holy Ghost.


It's interesting that the spirit proclaiming the name of God is not the Holy Ghost but a spirit of divination. It is the Holy Ghost Who stops the saints from going into Asia and, by driving out this spirit of divination, has the saints thrown into prison.

It looks like the Holy Ghost is not a spirit of freedom.


At critical times in History, people have lifted their heads and said that there was something in the air. Major revolutions have followed with great turmoil and then sighs of relief. The crowd hails the new spirit of freedom; poems are written; statues are carved; pictures are painted. Until the next revolution, of course. Then a new spirit takes over; poems are censored; statues torn down; paintings are defaced.

And round and round we go.

And we Christians worship a Spirit Who constrains us, stops us from doing what we want,  and will even drive out spirits which mention His Name. Is our God not concerned with our freedom?


The girl is possessed by this spirit of divination. It might be speaking the truth but there is no way this poor girl is free. Human beings are not meant to be possessed. She is not free to be herself.

Too often we think that freedom means that we can do what we like. We think that freedom means that there is nothing holding us back from getting our desires. We think freedom means answering to no-one, eating what we want, sleeping with whom we want, and so on.

This is not what God wants. We cannot be free like this because God created us to be what He wants to be. And we don't want to be what He wants us to be.


We are like a clock - one of those old fashioned proper clockwork clocks with cogs and gears and hands and weights.

In that clock, there is a special device called the escapement. It regulates the clock and is responsible for the "tick-tock" sound. It consists of a wheel that is attached to the weights and a balance which is attached to the pendulum. The balance regulates the wheel: without it, the wheel would spin freely and the clock would be useless.

Without the wheel, the clock would be stuck.

And we are like the clock.


God has created us for His purpose, but we have damaged ourselves. Some of us struggle against God's law and are like a clock which throws out its balance. Our lives spin fast and free, but we cease to be what we are meant to be. We lose our very selves in our own pursuit of happiness.

Some of us become infected by evil spirits so that we become like the clock whose escapement wheel cannot turn. We are stuck, rigid, at the pleasure of the Devil. 

We need both the balance and the wheel in order to function for God and so find true freedom.


The balance of the Holy Ghost means that St Paul can't travel into Asia but must suffer imprisonment. As a result of his restrictions, a girl is saved from an evil spirit and a gaoler and his family are brought to Christ. The temporary loss of physical freedom is the tick which results in the tock of the spiritual freedom of others. 

In accepting regulation by the Holy Ghost we operate better as servants of God and find the freedom to do what we are meant to do, just as the clock is meant to tell the time.


Too often, what we think is freedom is anything but. False freedom leads to enslavement by our own short-sighted view of reality which leads us to reject God. True freedom accepts limitations so that we become what we are meant to be.

 And God alone tells us what we are meant to be. We are meant to be happy in Him.

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