A sermon by Pastor Bob
October 30, 2011
Text: John 8:31-36
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
--Today is Reformation Sunday.
--It is not only a day when those who remember wear red.
--It is not only a Church Festival when we remember that historical rupture of the Christian Church when Martin Luther would nail 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church and begin the Protestant Reformation.
--It is a day that marks something that we take utterly for granted.
--We hear this word all the time.
--It has been in the news a lot this past year, as countries in the North Africa and the Middle East have experienced the flush of freedom in what has been called the “Arab Spring.“
--And we hear it in our own Declaration of Independence, which declares that we are a free people.
--We are free to vote, free to worship, free to travel, free to work, free to study, free to play.
--Certainly, if there is one place in the world that understands itself to be free, it is here.
--So I ask you this morning: “Are you free?” --The other day, I was thinking about this while I was watching one of those shows that pastors should probably not admit to watching: Desperate Housewives.
--I like to watch an episode of a different TV series each time I exercise, and lately I’ve been alternating between Monk and Desperate Housewives.
…Anyway, I was watching an old episode in which the husband, Carlos Solis, has just come home from prison and now has turned his life around because of a Catholic nun.
--His wife, Gabrielle, is jealous of the nun (who looks like a nun you would only find on Desperate Housewives).
--The nun and the wife end up battling each other for the husband.
--In the last episode I saw, the nun had lured the husband into helping her with a fundraiser to feed the poor in Africa and even convinced the husband to come to Africa with her.
--The trip required shots, and, in a desperate attempt to keep her husband, the wife lied to the nurse about an allergy he had to one of the shots so that he would become sick and thus unable to go to Africa.
--The husband has an allergic reaction to the shot, and the last scene shows the wife holding her husband patting his forehead with a cloth as he fights a severe fever.
--She tells him in one of those rare truthful moments that she wants him back the way he was.
--Greedy, deceiving, and self-centered.
--Just like her.
--She says that she is afraid that one day he will wake up and not want her any more.
--It is a crazy scene. It is absurd--and yet strangely true to life.
--We are free to be whatever we wish.
--We are free to be greedy.
--We are free to be unfaithful and untrue.
--We are free to put ourselves above all else.
--Yet, in the end, like this lonely, desperate wife, are we truly free?
--In our gospel reading, Jesus is talking to a group of Jews who have come to believe in him.
--They have perhaps heard Jesus speak and understood Jesus’ sincerity.
--Or they may have witnessed one of Jesus’ miracles and find themselves in reverent awe.
--Jesus speaks to them and declares: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
--Now you would think these would be welcome words.
--After all, Jesus is claiming that these fortunate few are his own beloved disciples.
--And that they have access to the real truth of this world.
--You would think they would be excited to hear this, but they hear these words only as challenge.
--“Free!” What does Jesus mean by "free"?
--They are already free.
--They are descendents of Abraham.
--It was true that they had once been enslaved in Egypt, but through Moses God led God’s people to freedom. They were no longer slaves. They were free.
--How dare Jesus challenge their freedom.
--How dare Jesus challenge our own sense of freedom.
--Jesus makes the audacious claim that those few Jewish disciples gathered around him and that we here gathered today are caught up in something that truly enslaves us: Our sin.
--Now if you talk to people today, you will quickly discover that “sin” has both lost credibility in the eyes of modernity, and at the same time become very popular.
--For instance, we cringe when a fellow group of Christians freely calls others “sinners,” especially when they hypocritically seem unable to see the log in their own eye.
--The word “sin” seems so old-fashion, a religious relic.
--Yet the word, “sin” is ironically popular. We have a city only a state away that spends millions of dollars selling itself as “Sin City.”
--Now defining “sin” is a slippery thing, and probably what makes it the hardest thing to really grasp is that it is relational.
--Sin is about broken relationship.
--The 10 Commandments given to Moses at Mt. Sinai are 10 commandments about relationship.
--Our relationship with God, our family, and our neighbors.
--Sin intrudes into these relationships and wreaks havoc.
--We can see this vividly in the example of the desperate housewife, and if we are honest, we can see it in our own past and present relationships.
--What Jesus said two thousand years ago, and what Martin Luther declared five hundred years ago, was that our sense of freedom and our own sin are intimately bound. --Are we free? Yes, at one level, we are free to do whatever we want.
--And at the same time, we are bound to do whatever we want.
--And the only thing that disrupts this is our relationships with others--and, most importantly, our relationship with God.
--This is what Jesus is getting at when he says that “The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.”
--It is in our relationship with God that we find real freedom.
--It is through a God who created us that we are able to love in freedom as God’s children.
--It is through a God who gave us his Son to die on a cross so that we may live in the hope and freedom of a new life now and in the resurrection to come.
--And it is through a God whose Spirit baptizes today and claims us again in Holy Communion that we are given a foretaste of real freedom.
--This morning we will baptize a little baby boy.
--He is very loved.
--He is loved by devoted parents, grandparents and an extended family of relatives, friends and at least three congregations.
--It is a lot of love for one person.
--Yet he will need it.
--He will need it as he explores this world and exercises freedoms that will likely give his parents gray hairs.
--And he will need such love as he explores his own relationship with a God who truly loves him.
--“If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
--We have many definitions of freedom these days.
--May we be blessed on this Reformation Sunday and every day of our lives to know the freedom of being in love with a God who truly loves us.
Pastor Bob is a pastor in San Diego.
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