Peace and love to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the
After a very long and boring Reformation Day sermon, the
parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the
preacher. Towards the end of the line was a thoughtful person who
always commented truthfully on the sermons. "Pastor, today your
sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!" The pastor was
thrilled. "No-one has ever said anything like that about my
preaching before. Tell me why." "Well," replied the parishioner,
"it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passed all
understanding and reminded me of the Love of God because it
I promise you although it is Reformation Day, and we are a
church that claims the reformer Martin Luther as a forefather, and
I am wearing a Martin Luther hairstyle wig, and he was a man who
preached four hour sermons, today's sermon won't be that long, and
hopefully understandable, and hopefully not boring.
The title of today's sermon is "I tell you the truth," a quote
from Jesus' words from our Gospel lesson today.
I love those words: I tell you the truth, don't you? Isn't it
great when you finally get to the truth of something? Isn't great
when your kids, who try and try to not give you the whole truth
about something they did, finally get to the meat of it, finally
get to the truth of it? Isn't it great when something that is
purposely made confusing, or purposely distorted, or if you are
purposely misled, and finally the truth comes out?
Truth is wonderful. Truth clears the air.
And the next thing I love about 'truth' is whatever it is that
is being said that is the truth. And today, in the Gospel lesson,
Jesus says, "So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free
indeed." Eugene Peterson's translation, THE MESSAGE, translates
the last part as "you will be free through and through."
In this passage Jesus is talking about how we make ourselves
slaves by entering into thoughts and actions that aren't healthy
for us; they are ones that keep us in a rut, keep us from seeing
the truth, keep us from seeing what really is. When we are a slave
to our thoughts and actions, we aren't free. We don't make any
permanent place for ourselves in the realm of truth. We create our
own process of slavery that prevents us from living free.
Jesus says, the Son makes you free through and through. Jesus
wants us to be a family member of his household; he doesn't want
us to be a slave. And he doesn't want us to be a slave in our own
household, our own body, our own life; he wants us to live free.
So, how do we get free of anything that is holding us back? Is
it alcohol? Is it drugs? Is it sex? Is it overeating? Is it anger?
Is it laziness? Is it cheating? Is it lying? Is it pretending? Is
it unkind thoughts? Is it jealousy? Is it tradition? Is it
bitterness? Is it bias? Is it lack of perseverance? Is it lack of
prayer? Is it selfishness? Is it prejudice? Is it confused
priorities? Is it judging others? Is it apathy? Is it addiction?
Is it pettiness? Is it depression? Is it peer pressure? Is it
trying to 'keep up with the Joneses'? Is it trying to fit in with
the cool kids? Is it trying to be part of the 'in' crowd? Is it a
feeling of superiority? Is it being insensitive toward others?
Being insensitive to the needs of others? Is it an attitude of
rudeness? Is it lack of gratitude? Is it willfulness? Is it
self-righteousness? Is it blaming others? Is it stubbornness? Is
it refusing to admit we're wrong? Is it irresponsibility? Is it
control issues? Is it lack of compassion? Is it feelings of
unworthiness? Is it low self esteem? Is it poor self image? Is it
hate for self or others? Is it making excuses? Is it a habit of
putting others down? Is it denial? Is it always having to be
right? Is it never admitting our faults or shortcomings?
Whatever it is, the question is: How does any one of us get
free of what is holding us back? How do we let the Son set us
free? How can we feel free through and through?
And you know what? As complex as life is, as complex as we make
situations out to be, as involved, convoluted, confusing and mixed
up as we make our lives, there really is a very simple answer, and
it's not 'just say no.'
The answer will not make all our challenges go away. The answer
will not suddenly make all our difficulties disappear. When you've
been in a self-imposed prison, and step out into freedom,
everything doesn't become easy. It's like a person being released
from prison after many years. Once free, life is a challenge. Life
lived as a free person has lots of responsibilities. Sometimes
running from that reality is why we become slaves to habits, or
addictions, why we hide from the truth, why we bury ourselves in
actions and thoughts that keep us from facing what we need to
face, why we strike out against someone rather than reach out to
them, why we blame others rather than face our own responsibility,
why we become opinionated rather than open to the facts.
Nevertheless, the answer to: How does any one of us get free of
what is holding us back? How do we let the Son set us free? How
can we feel free through and through is still simple.
Maybe most of you are now at the point of saying, so tell us
already, tell us. Maybe I should be like a psychiatrist who tells
you "I don't have the answer, the answer is within you. You have
the answer to your question." Or maybe I should tell you the
answer is bright as day in the teachings of Jesus. He gives the
answer to us over and over. Maybe I should tell you that you can
find it in Jesus' teachings.
But what you really want is a definite, clear, understandable
answer. And you probably think the answer is something you need to
DO. Like a diet that makes you lose weight, or a training program
that builds stamina and muscle. If you recognize there's something
holding you back, and you indeed want to be free of that, then you
want to know what to DO to be free of it through and through.
And if I give that to you, will you REALLY try it? You have to
be ready, you know. You have to be willing you know. And if you
try it and it doesn't work, will you blame me? Will you think I
didn't tell you the truth? Will you be disappointed in Jesus?
Okay. Here's the answer to how the Son, Jesus, sets you, me
free, through and through.
Oh, one more thing before I tell you…you're probably not going
to like the answer.
The basic answer is not something you can DO, but more like
something you let happen to you. I mean, if I told you to open
your heart and mind, that's not something you can really DO, it's
something you let happen to you. You let the Holy Spirit work in
you. It's actually a matter of NOT doing. That is, you DON'T BLOCK
the work of the Holy Spirit in you.
So, the basic answer to how the Son, Jesus, sets us free
through and through is: believe. If you believe Jesus can set you
free through and through, you are set free through and through.
It's then up to you, letting the power of the Holy Spirit work
through you, how to use that freedom. Every one of us is already
set free; some don't see it because they don't believe it.
Now, for those who might need something more concrete, which
Jesus' teachings are full of because his own intimate 12 disciples
were constantly asking for concrete examples, here are
foundational biblical building blocks to help you see you are set
- Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive
others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
- Love one another as I have loved you.
- Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, bless
those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.
- Do to others as you would have them do to you; that is, ask
yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the
initiative and do it for them.
- Love your neighbor as yourself; that is, love others as well
as you love yourself.
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul and with all your mind; that is, with all your
passion, and prayer and intelligence.