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Saturday, October 24, 2009

John 8:31-36 REFORMATION SERMON 2009

So the Israelites were free. Moses through the mighty power of God had led them out of Egypt and everything was cool. The sweet taste of freedom. We imagine that the air was sweeter and the food was sweeter - that’s what freedom does, doesn’t? Makes everything sweeter, even the sunrise so beautiful you can taste it.

But it didn’t take long for the food to run out and the water to run out.
And the people’s taste buds began to suffer from some sort of flavor amnesia.
In Egypt, they would say, we ate our fill of sweet food and now we are hungry.
Egypt wasn’t so bad some said.
Looking better all of the time others added.
And some began to consider the idea of going back to Egypt.
Back to slavery. Give up the sweet taste of freedom because their fear had confused their taste buds and everything began to taste bitter, like some strange vegetable that your mother always tried to get you to eat when you were a kid.
Except this isn’t about okra or collard greens – this is about freedom or slavery – without any middle ground left to stand on.

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?" Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

You and I have been given that gift of freedom. In Holy Baptism we declare that we die to sin and rise to newness of life. That we who were once a people with no hope have become a people of promise. God’s people. A people freed from the power of sin and death.

Now sin, of course, is still around. And you and I are sinners, that is true. We still fall into sin and we always will this side of heaven. The Holy Spirit helps us – opens up to us God’s intention, God’s will. But knowing the truth and doing the truth are not the same thing. The Apostle Paul talks about this struggle – he says in Romans: “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” He says in his mind he wants to do the will of God, but in his humanness he does the very opposite.

There’s this interesting story in the Scriptures – this woman has been caught in adultery and the law demands that she be stoned and here is Jesus, his opinion asked for.
What should we do with her they all want to know, stones in each hand, ready for some righteousness punishment and mob justice. Wanting Jesus to give them the go ahead to murder her in the name of God. But Jesus looks them over – “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” And they know, they know that none of them are without sin, and they all drop their stones and walk away. Stunned, disappointed, perhaps, maybe even a little sheepish, being reminded of their sin and all. But walk away they did.

Sin is a part of our human condition – sometimes we choose our way instead of God’s way. Or we think our way is God’s way, because that makes things easier, doesn’t it?

But by God’s grace, the power of sin and death has been broken, because through Christ’s death and resurrection we can obtain forgiveness.
Sin once meant death. The End. Nothingness. Silence. Dust.
But now, you and I, as people of God have a different future and because we have a different future our present has been infused with new possibilities. Grace has been poured out for us. Sin and death no longer has dominion over us.

Christ has with his own obedient life and atoning death, bought our freedom.
The Son has made us free, so we are free indeed? Right?

So if we are free, why do we in our freedom choose slavery again and again?
We do this every time we fail to embody Christ in our words and actions.
In failing to be Christ for our neighbor, we trade our freedom for slavery.
Do we gossip? Complain about others just to complain? Talk about others behind their back? Always interpret their actions with suspicion, doubt, or grave concern? Do we judge rather than graciously befriend and support?

We trade our freedom for slavery with each and every ungracious unkindness.
Jesus says: "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

At Easter you can smell the men cooking bacon and sausage. It begins early and with a light breeze I bet you can smell their cooking a mile away. A homeless person wandered in to our Easter breakfast years ago. No ticket of course and couldn’t pay. Folks all dressed up in their Easter clothes and this guy sticking out pretty clearly. Like he didn’t belong. Lost and needing directions.

One of the cooks comes up to me and asks me if it was OK to give him something to eat and he hopes it was because he already had given him a plate. And he hopes it was OK to give him a Bible because the man asked for one and he had already given it to him. And would it be alright if he sat with awhile so he would be alone. And I nodded that that sounded like an excellent plan already put into action. He didn’t need me to give him permission – he already knew in his heart – a heart set free by the grace of God to love a neighbor, even if that neighbor happened to be homeless and perhaps a bit scruffy. He didn’t judge the man. He didn’t interpret his motives or question them. He fed the man, gave him a Bible and sat with him throughout his meal. The Son had made him free and he gloriously embraced that freedom!
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
That Easter there was some serious freedom being embodied in this church! Proclaimed in word and deed.
Pastor I fed a hungry man. I gave him a Bible. I’m going to hang out with him for awhile.

In explaining the 8th commandment Martin Luther had this to say: To refresh our memory, the 8th commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
Luther says: What does this mean?--Answer. “We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, think and speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”
Now, I am going to confess that I struggle here - struggle in trying to put the best construction on things that people say and do. It is so easy to see the bad motive, the selfish purpose in what folks are up to in what they say to others about this person or that sometimes even me. Sometimes even I want to go back to Egypt and be a salve again.
But our Lord and Savior purposed us for freedom. Empowered us to be his voice, his hands. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
And friends we are free.
And if we are empowered by God than we have power through the Holy Spirit over our own tongues, our own thoughts, our own actions.
And there is one thing more than we have, you and I.
When we choose slavery over freedom there is grace enough to cover our sin and set us free again. There is always grace enough to set us free.

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