Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sermon -- Lenten Vespers - Week 6 (March 25, 2015)

JOHN 8:34-36
The Son Sets You Free.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Americans are big on freedom.  We are accustomed to going where we want to go and doing what we want to do.  We enter stores without passports.  We buy appliances without requisition orders.  We drive through Michigan without checkpoints, and we can enter any state without having to face border patrols.  We are so accustomed to it that we have a hard time conceiving of lives and schedules which are much more restrictive.  
     We also tend to believe that this freedom carries over into the kingdom of God.  We like to believe that our will is completely free to do good or to do evil.  To some extent it’s true.  You have control over whether or not you will become an axe murderer or a drug addict.  God has impressed on you a sense of right and wrong, as well as a sense of shame when you go against what is right and do what is wrong.  Yet, for all of this, there is no one who always does what good. 
     All have sinned, and all are sinners.  We all have hearts and minds that are turned in on ourselves.  We seek our own good above all.  We may not always be good, but we will turn our world over to make sure we always look good.  If it means preserving a good appearance before others, we will lie and call it good.  If it means getting a larger commission, we will defraud our neighbor.  We will argue that it benefits our family, and we will call it good.  We welcome obscenities and filth into our living rooms.  As long as we are entertained by it, we will call it good.  Our standard for what is good becomes what makes us feel good.  And if anyone makes us feel ashamed because we have made ourselves at home with wickedness, we will go on attack and try to shame that person.
     Jesus declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)  This is our persistent practice because it is our persistent condition.  You might think the solution is simply to quit sinning.  Of course, you can try.  And you should try.  But what you will notice is that you can’t stop sinning.  If even your will power cannot stop you from sinning, then your will is not as free as you like to think.  Your will is corrupt.  It is turned in on yourself, and desires ultimately and only to serve yourself.
     Jesus declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)  A slave has no will of his own.  He is bound to do what his master commands him.  It is your sin which owns you.  That is why you do what is sinful.  Sin is your master, and it will always command you to do what is evil and to turn from what is good.  But your sin hides itself behind selfish motives, and you will always like the motives which cater to your own benefit.  Remember: Satan did not tell Adam and Eve to defy God.  That would have been too obvious.  Instead, Satan told Adam and Eve that by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, they and their lives would be vastly improved.  That was their motive.  It sounded reasonable and beneficial.  But this sinful motive led to sinful defiance.  Ever since then, sin has held mankind in forced servitude, and we cannot escape.
     Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)  The Son of God has come from the household of God.  He possesses all the rights and privileges of the estate because he is God the Son.  But more than that, Jesus became man.  As man, Jesus also earned the rights by obedience.  Jesus submitted himself to the commandments that God has decreed and to the temptations that are common to man.
     But the Son has come to set you free from your heartless master, your sin.  By his sufferings and death, Jesus has set you free from all the charges that had stood against you.  You are pardoned for every offense.  By his perfect and willing obedience, Jesus has set you free from every smear and smudge of guilt and shame.  Your sins are covered by his righteous blood.  Truly, truly, I say to you: The Son sets you free.
     But just as it was more than that with Jesus, so it is more than that for you.  You are free not merely from charges, but you liberated from sin itself.  Sin no longer owns you.  Satan can no longer torment you.  The grave can no longer haunt you.  You have been adopted as children of the Most High God.  And he is no tyrannical master; he is your loving and merciful heavenly Father.  He gives you the rights and privileges of the household.  He makes you heirs of the kingdom.
     Truly, truly I say to you: The Son sets you free.  And your freedom means that you recognize that God’s will is always good and right.  Your sinful flesh will still hate it and will still argue that it is inconvenient and painful and does nothing to benefit you.  But you have also learned to hate your own sinful nature, knowing that it only leads you to death and hell.  God’s will is always right and always shows you what is praiseworthy before God and what is good for your neighbor.  And you know that what God wills always leads to life and blessing.
     Truly, truly, I say to you: The Son sets you free.  You are free to serve God with joy and confidence, knowing that God is pleased with your service, no matter how weak or feeble it looks to you.  When your own child draws you a picture, you know that it is not a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo.  Yet you tape it to the refrigerator and cherish it because it is the loving work of your child.  Are you not children of the heavenly Father?  While your work is not to the level of angelic perfection, the Father sees no flaws.  For, you and your service are covered in the blood of Christ.  Therefore, your Father loves you and your service dearly. 
     Truly, truly, I say to you: The Son sets you free.  So you never have to go to bed at night and wonder if you or your works are good enough for God.  You are free to live and to serve without fear.  You are free to live life with joy.  The Son sets you free so that God is your Father, so that his kingdom is your inheritance, and so that everlasting peace and rest are your future.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.