"I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus..." Philemon 10
Not a reference to Mel Gibson and his battle-cry in the Hollywood epic 'Braveheart' but the church's proclamation to all in captivity every day. Today we are taking special notice because 20 September 2020 has been designated 'Freedom Sunday'. Here in Strath & Sleat we are looking forward to hearing a message from Andy Bevan, who runs the Scottish Office for the 'International Justice Mission', a global movement of Christians tackling slavery by mobilising indigenous justice systems.
It is delightfully ironic that the apostle Paul should appeal to the master of the slave Onesimus, precisely because Onesimus had proved to be such a blessing to Paul in his own captivity (on account of his Gospel ministry). Our ultimate need is freedom from slavery to sin but this does not negate the outrage of all manifestations of forced captivity, whether for sexual, industrial or domestic purposes.
It is doubly tragic when victims of sexual slavery are released and then rejected by their home communities. In these situations it is more important than ever that the Church offers a sanctuary of unconditional love, free from judgment. In fact we all need that because we are all sinners and our hope is based on the mercy of God and not our own worthiness (which is completely inadequate). So may this occasion unite us all in our need, in our appreciation of the freedom we enjoy in Christ and, particularly, may it spur us into action on behalf of those who are trapped in slavery of whatever kind - air sgàth Chrìosd, ann an cumhachd an Spioraid agus airson glòir Dhè ar n-Athair.