…where all can deepen their understanding and experience of God’s liberating love
Our patronal namesake is Christ the Redeemer, the One whom all the saints seek to emulate. But why Christ the Redeemer? Why not Christ the Savior or Christ the King or Christ the Light? Those who originally named this community chose to focus on Christ’s role as the One who Redeems. So what does that mean?
The Collect for the First Second Sunday of Advent invites us to repent, to forsake our sins in order “to greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.” These theological terms— “sin,” “repentance,” and “redemption”—can be very daunting and off-putting, especially since they have been used and abused by fire-and-brimstone preachers who insist that we are all worthless sinners in the hands of a deeply offended and angry God who can only bear to look at us if we repent and reject ourselves and our desires completely in order to be saved and redeemed by God’s excessively worthy Son. Many preachers understand this message as the Gospel, but honestly, it does not sound like good news to me. However, I still understand myself as a repentant sinner continually in need of redemption. But what do I mean by that? I mean that I am someone who needs to continually seek my true freedom, my true liberation, my true healing in my belovedness.
I am going to condense a whole library of theology about what is called the economy of salvation and redemption by offering this very simple definition of Redeemer: the Redeemer is the One who frees us to be our true selves because he loves us more than we can imagine. The Greek word for Redeemer is lutrotes from the verb lutroo, which means “to liberate from any bondage or oppression.” The Redeemer is the Liberator. It would not be theologically inaccurate to call us the Episcopal Church of the Liberator. And Christ the Liberator “redeems” us primarily by his death on the cross, which reveals to us how far he is willing to go in order to show us how madly in love he is with us. And he wants us to find our freedom in that belovedness. That is Redemption.
Imagine the One who has known you since you were in the womb, being fearfully and wonderfully made, the One who delights in you and is proud to call you his own, the One who smiles with tears of joy in his eyes every time he thinks of you. Imagine how much he loves you. He wants you to find your freedom in that love. Freedom from all anxiety, anger, depression, fear and greed.
The problem is that we often struggle to find sufficient security and freedom in our belovedness. Often we seek our identity and security in other people, in institutions, in money and wealth, status and prestige and in various addictions. This is what the prophets referred to as idolatry and when we seek our ultimate identity and security and liberation in things outside of God’s love, we are committing idolatry. And we do it all the time. I know I do. And when various addictions and idolatries prevent us from finding our true freedom in our belovedness, we fall into what Christians have historically called “sin.” And this “sin” prevents us from seeing not only our own belovedness but also the belovedness of others and of all creation. And that is why the prophets, including Jesus, call us to “Repent!” The Hebrew word for “repent” is “shuv” which means to “turn around.” If we are seeking our freedom in something apart from God’s love (which I know I do all the time), we are invited to turn around and find our freedom in our belovedness. So again, when I say that I am a repentant sinner continually in need of redemption I mean that I am someone who needs to continually seek my true freedom in God’s love for me.
The Redeemer community exists to help deepen everyone’s understanding and experience of this liberating love of God, this love that ultimately frees us. At Redeemer, we strive to live up to our name by discovering our freedom and helping others to discover their freedom in our belovedness; to find our deepest liberation and redemption in what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls the “liberating” and “life-giving” love of God.