I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: John 8:34-38
34 Jesus answered, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 A slave isn’t a permanent member of the household, but a son is. 36 Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s children, yet you want to kill me because you don’t welcome my teaching. 38 I’m telling you what I’ve seen when I am with the Father, but you are doing what you’ve heard from your father.”
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, “Make Me a Captive, Lord,” 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 its master finds;
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 moment of your day with me, with God, and with these words of scripture and reflection.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster