The Gospel According to John, the 8th Chapter
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 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'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Living into the Freedom
Sometimes seemingly ordinary words can make a great deal of difference. Take for example, the word “Repeat.”
“Repeat.” That one word – arguably – sold more shampoo than any other marketing campaign. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Wala! Twice the shampoo! That little word made a lot of difference.
When reading the Bible, seemingly ordinary words can make a great deal of difference too. In our Gospel, Jesus says to the Jewish people who were believing in him, “Continue in my word.” “Continue?” That sounds like a dull thing to do… Same old. Same old. Where’s the fervor of change – of reformation?
But I wondered… what did Jesus mean when he said, “Continue”? I assumed “continue” meant “repeat” or just keep doing what you are doing. But I wasn’t sure in this case. After all, in the prior verses, the Pharisees had been challenging Jesus’ authority. Was Jesus really just saying, “Just keep on doing what you are doing”? I wondered.
So I looked it up. My Greek is really rusty – but with a bunch of resource books I discovered that the Greek word is meinēte which can be translated “continue” or “remain” or “abide.” I just about jumped out of my chair. Some of you know that meno – or abide - is one of my favorite Greek words EVER. It means Abide. Dwell. LIVE!
Jesus is telling us to LIVE in his WORD. To live is not boring or stagnant. To live is more than “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” To live is not same old same old --- at least it shouldn’t be… not if you are living in Christ.
Jesus invites us to live, live into his word. And he tells you the results, the fruit of living in Jesus’ word: "If you continue – that is abide -- livein my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
Live into God’s Word. Know the Truth. The truth will set you Free.
Set free. We yearn for freedom. People fight for freedom and are even willing to die for freedom. But…Jesus’ first listeners got stuck on what it means to be free. And so do we.
They got stuck on the political understandings of freedom. We – as Christians – sometimes get stuck in a different way.
As we talked about in the children’s sermon, it is not by our merit or deserving but that we are made right by Jesus Christ. You can’t buy grace or achieve grace or earn grace, because Grace is a FREE GIFT from GOD.
So… Confirmation students always ask – and it's a good question, the Corinthians asked this question too-- if salvation is all God’s doing (yes) – and it’s free (yes)– and God covers all our transgressions with forgiveness, Grace and love (yes, yes and yes) – does it really matter what I do?
Yes. In a word: Yes. It matters.
But before getting into WHY what you do and what you say matters… I want to go back to talk about freedom – and how we get stuck. We often think of “freedom” as the ability to do whatever we want when we want. But listen again to what Jesus said.
Jesus said, “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” You are free! But, to ask Luther’s question, “what does this mean? What are you free from? Jesus freed you FROM all of the things that can come between you and God. Martin Luther described it in his small catechism as “sin, death and the devil.” Jesus has forgiven and freed you and me from our sin – sin is a shortcut to describe all of the ways that we fall short, and do wrong but also all the ways in which we try to justify ourselves and negate the importance and power of God. Jesus has freed us from the power of death by his death and resurrection, in short, death no longer has the last word. Finally, Jesus freed you from the power of all the evil in this world and the next – that’s what Luther means by “the devil” – although there is still evil in this world—we are not somehow protected or immune Jesus freed us FROM the forces and powers that would hold you hostage.
But that’s not all. Jesus also freed us FOR something – and that is to live as Jesus’ disciples. That means doing what Jesus says and does: love and worship God and love and serve the neighbor. You are Freed for Living – for Abiding in Christ as Christ Jesus abides, lives in YOU.
As I was preparing this week for this service, I kept thinking – oh, I need a good example. I need to put a face on this, a baptized child of God, someone who is an ordinary saint and sinner, who has heard and studied God’s word and is seeking to live their life in Christ. And then I realized that I did not have one – but had THREE examples – right here in the front row: David, Daniel, Brooke – and many more sitting all around them.
In Confirmation over these past three – plus – years, we have talked about the Freedom that we receive from Jesus because of God’s gifts of Grace and Faith. We have also talked about how this is not a graduation. I’ll admit that I was a bit insistent about this point – but you know that you are not done. You have talked about your plans – your covenant for continuing to grow in faith and in service. You know that Jesus did not give you the gift of faith to put it on a shelf to collect dust. That goes for the Bible too that you will take home with you, this Bible that you have used for study. You have underlined and highlighted it. But you aren’t done with that either. Be sure to highlight these words today: Jesus said, "If you continue – and make a note on the side that this means abide and live – in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
And now a word for our sponsors – Godparents, parents, congregation. You are not done either. Remember the day that these young people were baptized? I do. This is the blessing of a long pastorate. I remember the promises that you and I made as these children were baptized. I remember on those days – and at each baptism before and after – how we as the body of Christ, the community of faith promised to walk with and support one another in the Christian faith and life. Now these brothers and sister in Christ are “affirming their faith” - but guess what: We are not done. I have heard far too many times the self-justifying lame excuse – and that is what it is – that “I’ve done my job” now its up to them. WHAT? Do you think there’s an expiration date on those promises? To anyone who thinks that they are “done” let me ask you this: Since when have you stopped loving your child – or grandchild - or fellow child of God? Since when have you stopped being a part of the body of Christ? We are called, gathered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit to be the light of Christ in this world – we are not done. Jesus says: Continue – that is Abide, Live in my Word. This doesn’t just apply to confirmation students. Jesus is speaking to YOU too.
This brings us back to the question: If I am freed by Christ’s grace and love what does it matter what I do or say?
What you do with your life matters because of who God has called you to be. You are brothers and sisters to Christ Jesus. God has claimed you. You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
And so, freed by Christ FROM all that would come between you and God – and freed FOR living the life of a follower of Christ – loving and serving God and neighbor, Jesus invites you ALL to “continue” that is “abide” and “LIVE” into his Word so that you may know the truth – and the truth may set YOU free. THIS is GOOD News. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church
Reformation Sunday/ Affirmation of Baptism
October 25th, 2015