In 1876 a sixteen-year-old boy in the Osby Parish in Sweden was offered his freedom. When Swan was thirteen, his parents had been forced by poverty to sell their son at a parish auction. Swan was thus deprived of family support, had no formal education and was, for all practical purposes, a slave. Life in an utterly destitute family became even worse in his new situation.
This was the setting when Nels Klen, from America, arrived to visit Swedish relatives and came across this strong and handsome young man working in a shop. Nels had been told by his brother-in-law, John Bengston, that if he came across a young man able to work in his Montana wheat farm, he would pay for his passage to America. After three years he would be given his freedom. So Nels made the offer to young Swan.
Young Swan had to make a choice. Could he trust Nels and Nels' brother-in-law? How would he fare in a new and strange land? All he had was a promise. But the promise was freedom, something he had only seen from afar.
Swan chose freedom. Nels accompanied him across the ocean to America and John more than kept his promise. Young Swan became a pastor and father of nine children. They all obtained at least a college education. Swan is my grandfather. His freedom is a part of my legacy.
Our text is part of a farewell sermon Moses gave to the children and grandchildren of slaves. A new land lay on the other side of the Jordan River. He gave them a choice and a promise. "Choose life," urged Moses. "This is the land the Lord your God has promised you when he set you free." Their freedom is a part of our legacy.
Your Son has set us free, O Father. Enable us to choose life in His name. Amen!
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NRSV)
15 "See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.
16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.
17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them,
18 I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live,
20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."