Changing the leper’s spots?

The Cross is freedom

Holy Trinity Church Huddersfield – Sunday 28 April 2019

HT Tower

A difficult service for me. My mood before, during and after the service was not good. I had a minor autistic meltdown the evening before the service, was feeling fragile during the service and had a larger meltdown later that day. For those who understand spoon theory, my cutlery drawer was empty. For everyone else, I am just worn out and need a lot of recovery time. I should be OK by next week.

The walk to and from church was pleasant. The cherry trees, those harbingers of summer, are less profusely blooming than a week ago but there is still a good amount of other blossom around there is a feeling in the air of approaching warm weather. We got to the church just as the service began and found different seats to our usual ones, we have to be in good time to get those. The music was as good and competently played as ever.

One niggle though, in the second hymn, Jesus Paid It All, we had this verse,

Lord now indeed I find,
Thy power and thine alone
Can change the leper’s spot
And melt the heart of stone.

I thought it must be a typo, but no, that is how it was either written or transcribed. The leper’s spot? Really?

Is this not what the prophet said? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 23:13 E SVUK) Leopard please, Leopard.

But comparison of skin diseases and bog cats aside, there was more going on than that. The sermon, based on Romans 8:1-17, was about the freedom we have because of the cross. The empty cross is just a beginning. Freedom should characterise our lives as Christians. Freedom is having the power to act and to think as we like.

There is the paradox of calvary, that the man on the cross is the only one who is free. Christ represents the only true freedom. No one had that freedom, not the high priests, not Pilate, not the thieves crucified with Jesus, no one except the one who was nailed there but went willingly.

When Jesus, early in his ministry, stood up and declared from Isaiah what he was about it was about freedom.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; Isaiah 61:1.

Jesus was all about freedom. Jesus was never a slave but always a servant. We move from slavery to sin to servanthood under God. The words of Paul in the previous chapter to the one that was being preached on was about Paul not being able to do the things he wanted to do and doing the things he did not want to. Sin is like that, we become slaves to it. We becomes we become accustomed to doing it, but as Paul says, Christ Jesus has broken this. The leopard’s spots have been changed.

There is no condemnation. We are like prisoners who want to return to our prison cell, a place which is comfortable. The freedom of God is without limits but there is no promise it will be easy. It is a struggle, all who sin are slaves to sin. But we are are set free.

Imagine you are on trial. The judge offers you two alternatives.

The first is that you are fully acquitted. Set free as someone who is on longer an offender.

The second is to postpone the trial for a few months until a probation officer has followed you around and seen your behaviour. Then you will be sentenced on what he finds.

Which would you go for?

We act as if we are under alternative two, not good enough, but God’s offer through the cross of Jesus is alternative one. We are set free by God’s love. We need to apply the cross to our lives over and over again.

Love is free. When Jesus sets us freeware free indeed. Let us grasp that freedom.

In the meantime I could do with more spoons. Please pray for me.

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