Greetings one and all. I know I am a little late this week, but I guess better late than never. Being gone most of the week really threw things off for me. Posting text study posts really help me to get focused in writing the sermon God wants me to preach. This week I had to make some adjustments. So instead on pondering on what I might preach, today I will be pondering on what I am 99% sure I will preach on (you just never know what God will do between now and Sunday. See Monday randomness for more on that). So anyway…barring a "1% incident" here is what I am pondering…
The Gospel text for this Sunday (Reformation Sunday) comes from John 8:31-36. Allow me to include that text for you:
"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, "I tell you the truth, 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."
The word "free" really stands out for me. Last year I talked about truth, but this year the word "freedom" stands out. Questions that come to mind are: (1) What is freedom? and (2) What does freedom mean for you? I think freedom means different things for different people. It all depends on who you are, when you lived, where you live and the circumstances surrounding your life. I think freedom sounds different with a 19th century slave as opposed to a 21st century middle aged parent. Freedom for a low income family living in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis looks different than for a high school senior. Freedom carries with it a variety of definitions.
For people living in the early 16th century, freedom was something far different than we can imagine today. When Martin Luther came along, people were in bondage to human traditions made by a Church that ruled with an iron fist. No grace, no mercy…unless of course you were of the upper class, royalty or clergy. The common man knew nothing of THE Truth…until Luther came along.
Now for the first time people were hearing a Truth that simply blew them away: Put your trust in God’s love; we are made righteous through Christ; you are saved by grace through faith; Forgiveness is yours, no matter who you are or what you have done, when you confess. The grace of God through Jesus Christ is all encompassing and all accepting. Wow! That is indeed Good News. The Truth…it set people free, much to the chagrin of the Church at the time.
What does this mean today? I think there are a number of things to think about: (1) As Christians today we too often take freedom for granted. We don’t really ponder WHAT Jesus did and therefor we don’t praise and thank God as we should. (2) Too many people don’t know about this freedom. The greatest gift of all time, a Truth like no other. If we know this Truth, how can we keep it to ourselves. (3) As Christians we often take freedom too far. "I don’t have to go to church. God will forgive me". We live by the mantra of "Cheap grace" not realizing how costly this grace really was – the very life of Jesus Christ. (4) Or…we know about this freedom, but choose to embrace bondage. After the Civil War the slaves were set free, but many of them choose to stay put. They would rather stay "slaves" than to embrace the freedom they were given. They didn’t know what to do with that freedom. I wonder if, as Christians, we like our bondage to sin because sin is more fun and freedom is "scary".
There is a lot to think about when it comes to freedom. But one thing we need to do as Christians is to keep proclaiming this freedom AND keep listening and learning about this freedom. We may have good memories, but they are often very, very short. Through Jesus Christ we have been given the greatest gift of all. Embrace your freedom and praise God always and forever. Amen!