Freedom from Bondage

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a true story about celebrity biographer Lee Israel. After enjoying success writing biographies of people like Katherine Hepburn and Estée Lauder, Israel discovers that her audience’s tastes have changed. They no longer want to read about such figures, but Israel seems incapable of shifting to new subject matter. Unable to pay her rent and other bills and becoming more of an alcoholic, Israel begins forging letters from deceased celebrities and selling them to collectors. After selling more than 400 letters, Israel is arrested.

In the movie scene where Israel is being sentenced by the court, she admits she wrote in other people’s voices because she feared writing in her own and thus opening herself up to criticism. Israel is sentenced to house arrest and five years probation. During this time, she writes her own autobiography detailing her career as a literary forger. The New York Times Book Review called it “exquisitely written” and “fabulous.”

This story is tragic for me. Clearly, Israel was a talented writer and found satisfaction in the writing process. But she got so caught up in writing in other people’s voices that she lost her own. It isn’t until she’s left with no other choice that she finally writes her own story in her own voice. And the critics praise her for it. Freed from the bondage of her ego, fear, and addiction, Israel is able to be authentic. I wonder what her life would have been like had she been able to do that sooner.

The people of Zebulun and Naphtali are bound, both literally and figuratively. But Isaiah promises that one day they will be freed from bondage. And then they will live into their calling and find great joy.

Dear Lord, help me to recognize what binds me and keeps me from living into my calling. Free me so that I reflect you more clearly. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 4:12-23

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Lectionary Week
January 20–26, 2020
Scripture Overview

Sometimes we struggle with the challenges we face. If God is good and God is for us, then why do we experience pain and loss? Isaiah feels the sting of darkness and despair, and the psalmist has experienced days of distress. Yet both encourage themselves with the promise that God has not forgotten them. The light will come, as will the shouts of joy. The New Testament readings warn against following human leaders to the extent that we take our eyes off Christ. The Corinthian church has divided into factions that identify primarily with Paul or Peter, not Christ! The Gospel reading shows that Peter, like all other human leaders, is merely a disciple himself. Jesus is the one we should seek to follow.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 9:1-4. How has God’s love freed you to find your calling?
Read Psalm 27:1, 4-9. When have you called out to God? How has God helped you turn your cries to praise?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. How have you experienced division within the body of Christ? How might a focus on Christ rather than particular faith leaders or denominations help you to repair division and work through differences?
Read Matthew 4:12-23. How have significant changes in your life (like a loved one’s death or a career change) allowed your ministry to grow?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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