My students think I talk fast – or they did, until some of them heard Charles G. Adams preach. Adams, pastor of Hartford Baptist Church in Detroit, read most of his alluringly alliterated sermon, but read it so rapidly and so impressively that the congregation sat with mouths agape, even those who weren’t shouting in response.
Taking accurate notes on Adams sermon – from Paul’s comments on freedom in the book of Galatians – was a futile exercise. Nevertheless, I want to take a stab at reflecting a couple of his several dozen points.
Many people seem to feel that Christ is not sufficient, he said, “that we need some extra insurance just in case God’s love has lost its power.” So, Adams said, they changed the “hard period of God’s grace to the nervous semi-colon of rigid absolutism.”
But, Adams said, “God’s grace is sufficient, period. … Jesus has set us free, period. … God’s mercy endures forever, period.”
“We like to take God’s word and turn it into a “semi-colon, but …,” Adams said. “And then comes all the rules, regulations, qualifications, stipulations, conditions (and a half-dozen other words) created by our own insecure rejection of amazing grace.”
As a result, Adams said, “The living word gets straight-jacketed into someone’s particular interpretation of the written word.”
But that won’t work, Adams insisted. “You cannot control Jesus, … keep him down, … control his spirit. … He will not stay dead …He will not remain laid out in the tomb. … He walks on every sea and rides on every star for freedom. …
“Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do if you’re free in Christ!”
Adams followed with dozens of examples of things people think they can’t do – but he insisted they can do – through the power of Christ. On the heels of that, he ran through a roster of men and women who, alone with the power of God, made a difference in the world because of the “liberty, dignity, integrity and unity” that comes through Christ.
To express praise to Christ for the freedom we can know, Adams closed with a Gatling gun quick recitation of “thank you” in what seemed like at least 20 languages, closing with a furious skyward waving of his arms to interpret his idea of a “thank you” for the deaf.
When Adams collapsed in his chair after his sermon, he wasn’t the only one who was tired – just trying to keep up was enough to exhaust any listener – but well worth the effort.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.