Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
John 8:34-38 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”[a]
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
What holds you captive? What captures your attention, your loyalties, your emotional life, and even a sense of your own free will? Are you held captive by fear? Bad habits? Destructive patterns? Addiction? Low self-esteem? Insecurities? The list can be long. Even negative thoughts can hold us captive. The late Marcus Borg, recalling the Exodus story of the people being set free from being enslaved by the pharaoh in Egypt, said, “We all have a Pharaoh inside our heads.”
Salvation is about being set free from all of that—and more—and our salvation is a process like the wilderness experience of the Hebrew people in Exodus.
The New Testament picks up this theme of salvation as being set free in setting out the meaning of the coming, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians (which is sometimes called the “Christian Declaration of Independence”), he focuses on freedom. He begins in Galatians 5 with, “. . .for freedom Christ has set us free; don’t accept again a yoke of slavery. . .” In verses 13-14 he goes on to say “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The words in today’s reading from John are just one of the many statements about freedom: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” All these words speak of a certain kind of freedom that comes from being captivated by the love and grace of God made present in Jesus Christ.
The words of one of our hymns, which is in the form of a prayer, expresses this understanding of freedom:
- Make me a captive, Lord,
and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword,
and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
when by myself I stand;
imprison me within thine arms,
and strong shall be my hand.
- My heart is weak and poor
until it master find;
it has no spring of action sure,
it varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
till thou hast wrought its chain;
enslave it with thy matchless love,
and deathless it shall reign.
- My power is faint and low
till I have learned to serve;
it lacks the needed fire to glow,
it lacks the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
until itself be driven;
its flag can only be unfurled
when thou shalt breathe from heaven.
- My will is not my own
till thou hast made it thine;
if it would reach a monarch’s throne,
it must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
amid the clashing strife,
when on thy bosom it has leant,
and found in thee its life.
(The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 421)
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster