Sermon Recording- Freedom in Christ (John 8.31-36)

Sermon Series jump freedom joy sunrise 1110 x 624

Message: Freedom in Christ
Scriptures: John 8:31-36
This message was offered Sunday, 7/1/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Opening Activity: Turn to your neighbors and show them what excited is by just using your face. Show them peace. Show them freedom. To show freedom we have to use our whole body and our voice. Is anyone free enough and brave enough to show us freedom?

Click Here for the sign for freedom in American Sign Language

Three Types of Freedom

1. Freedom = Freedom From

When we think about the founding of our country, we think about freedom from constraint. Freedom from: Oppression, Coercion, Tyranny, Harassment, Bullying, Prejudice, Abuse

2. Freedom = Freedom To

If we have Freedom From, that leads us to Freedom To. Freedom To: Worship, Vote, Speak, Work, Travel, Learn, Own things (including property/business), Raise a family according to my values, Rest and Relax. Freedom To is about access to opportunity- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Freedom = Freedom For

Freedom for

  • living the kind of life I was made to live
  • being
  • becoming the person I was meant to be
  • my true self to come out
  • living for something bigger than just myself and what I want
  • the common good
  • living into the Kingdom of Heaven

This kind of freedom, Freedom For, is the freedom found in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who can provide this freedom. The Good News is that this freedom is available to all people, no matter if you have the first two freedoms or not.

The story of Pastora Yolanda in Cuba. She does not experience much of the first two freedoms, but she does experience Freedom For. The truth of Jesus has set her free.

The three United Methodist Missionaries being detained in the Phillippines have Freedom For, freedom in Christ. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

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’?” – John 8:31-33, NRSV

Most of the early followers of Jesus Jewish. Jesus himself was Jewish. Jesus is the Savior of the World and the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament promises, prophesies, and covenants which were mostly about what it means to be truly free and what it means to truly live.

The Jewish believers respond, “What do you mean freedom? We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” I’m thinking, What?? Where were you in history class?

  • Slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh
    • God led them to freedom and established them in a promised land. It’s remembered every year at the Passover celebration.
  • Later invaded and conquered, Babylonian Captivity
    • Jerusalem destroyed, the best and brightest taken into exile as slaves and allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem after 70 years
  • As their saying this to Jesus, they’re under Roman occupation and oppression
  • Maybe they meant they weren’t literally slaves bound to a master. Slavery was an everyday reality of the ancient world.

We can think the same thing, “I’m an American. I live in America. I’ve never been a slave to anyone.”

  • We are still suffering from the legacy of slavery in our country and the reality that there are modern-day slaves. Slavery has not been abolished.
  • Slavery is alive and well in Florida. We have many ports. There are kidnapping and human trafficking groups supplying slaves for labor (agricultural especially), personal and domestic care, and sexual exploitation.

Slavery still exists. It exists in the literal sense and in the sense that we experience it in things like fear.

  • Have you ever been held captive to your fear? Held captive to falsehood?
  • Have you ever been in the chains of peer pressure or prejudice or addition?
  • In the bondage of poverty, or disease including mental illness, lack of education, lack of opportunity?
  • Have you ever been treated like property rather than a human being?

Jesus is talking about slavery and Jesus is talking about freedom. It is Big Picture. Jesus speaks in layers. It is literal and it is deep and it is wide. We must be careful in saying, “I’ve never been a slave.”

Jesus said you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. If the truth will make us free, then what will enslave us?

  • Falsehood is slavery
  • Lies, Sin, Spin, Misinformation is slavery

If you have a false understanding of God, have you found freedom in God? If you have a false understanding of freedom have you found freedom?

False idea: Freedom from external constraints and freedom to do whatever I want will give me true freedom.

How many times have we been sold that? Real freedom is nobody being able to tell me what to do. “You’re not the boss of me. You’re not my mom.” (Freedom From)

How many times have we been sold the lie that true freedom is the ability to have anything I want and to do anything I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want, and there will be no consequences? Some have even labeled that success.

Is this freedom? Is this real? Is this true?

No, it’s false. It’s incomplete. It’s twisting freedom into something freedom was never meant to be. It is actually backward. Freedom in Christ (Freedom For) empowers us to help with all the other freeing that needs to happen in our world and in our lives (Freedom From and Freedom To). Freedom in Christ first.

If we think freedom is about self-interest and self-determination above all else it’s not freedom. How many times have we seen this lie blow up a life, or blow up a family, or blow up a business? We’re seeing it blow up our nation.

A false understanding of freedom isn’t freedom, it’s slavery.  Let’s see what Jesus says.

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. – John 8:31-36, NRSV

 True Freedom = Freedom For, Freedom in Christ

How are we freed?

  1. Acknowledging we are slaves to sin and death and a whole bunch of other things and that we cannot save ourselves
  2. There is a Savior! We are freed by saying, “I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus offers salvation to me. Jesus is my liberator. Jesus is my Deliverer. Jesus is my Lord. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Even though I may not know what I’m doing, even though I’m not perfect at it, Jesus help me. Save me.” I’m in need of saving. There is a Savior. I place my trust in the Savior.
  3. Then we are more and more free as we continue in the words and ways of Jesus
    • We learn and live the truth
    • We follow Jesus in sharing this Good News so others may be freed. Freed from sin and oppression and injustice. We join Jesus in working for the common good.

This is freedom. It is offered to each and every one of us. It is offered to you. You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free and the One to know is Jesus.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: The Hidden Net (Psalm 31.1-5)

 

frodo captured by spider

Frodo captured by the spider, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

 

Psalm 31:1-5 NRSV
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

There is a net that is hidden
It lies in the shadows
Blends into the background
Covert
Camouflaged
It waits patiently

It is just for me
It knows my weakness
Grabbing my attention
Snaring me in misinformation
Entangling me in self-sufficiency
Wrapping me like a fly in a web
Sticky and shrouded in doubt and despair

Deliver me, my Refuge
Hear my cry, my Rock
My Righteous Redeemer

Through the power of your Son and Spirit
Liberate me from this entombing trap
Free me to your will and way

I seek You
You alone
Into Your hand, I commit my spirit

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When I first read this Psalm, I imagined a fishing net hidden in murky water. The feelings of entrapment and terror took me to the scene from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when Frodo loses his way in the shadowy cave and is captured by the spider’s deadly web.

In the midst of his greatest need, Frodo is both swaddled like a baby (birth) and wrapped like a mummy (death). Sam, his faithful companion, later delivers him, for he was not himself and could not save himself. How like the deliverance of our faithful God, who companions us and champions us. Consider Lazarus bound for death but called forth from the tomb by Jesus, the victorious resurrection of Jesus himself, and the promise of new life for all who believe. (Romans 6:3-4) – Lisa <><

Prayer: The Hidden Net © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information to publish this work in any form.

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 17, Free

freedom run 2013The thought behind the photo:
My friend Nicole Sallee has a passion to bring awareness and healing to the victims of human trafficking. Her ultimate goal is to build a safe house in central Florida. I am humbled and inspired by her dedication, vision and trust in God to bring it to pass. When I think of freedom, I think of her and the many ways she’s following God’s call to give victims a voice and a future with hope.

Click here to register for The Community Freedom Project’s next event, The Freedom Run. The 5K is a trail race consisting of two laps around the Community UMC DeBary new campus property and the 10K run will be an out and back course along Ft. Florida Road. Both events will be chip timed. The 5K trail run will be part of the Spring Final Mile Grand Prix Series.

Not a runner? Walkers are welcome! Volunteers are also needed the day of the race. Contact the church office to register to volunteer cumc@cumcdebary.org

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 61:1-4 NRSV
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

The December 17, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 146:5-10, NRSV
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

In a speech at the conclusion of a march from Selma to Montgomery, in Alabama, on March 25, 1965, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior concluded his speech with the following:

I know you are asking today: “How long will it take?” Somebody’s asking: “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed Wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking: “When will wounded Justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking: “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will Justice be crucified, and Truth bear it?”

“Not long” was King’s response, again and again.

In this season of Advent, we are still asking the same question: How long?

Take courage and hope in the promise that God “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever” is the same God who will deliver all of those things that were promised in the verses above.

How can each one of us be a part of the liberation God is already doing?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Prayer of Release: Let It Go

It's Time to Let Go by Andrew Mitchell Photography

It’s Time to Let Go by Andrew Mitchell Photography

I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption.
It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided.
It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds—
much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe.
Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go.
But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!),
and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).
– Richard Rohr

Concealment makes the soul a swamp.
Confession is how you drain it.
– Charles M. Blow

Philippians 3:12-14 NIV
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Luke 20:38 NRSV
God is God not of the dead, but of the living.

God of the Living by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
God is God of the present moment,
not the past.

Your sins were in the past;
but God is in the present moment.

God does not stay in the past,
remembering your sins:

God is in the present moment,
loving you.

Forgiveness is letting go of the past
and coming into the present.

Repent of your sin—let go of the past—
and come into the present,

where you are a child of God,
a child of resurrection.

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Prayer of Release
Jesus, you hold us
That we might let go of
All that is false and destructive
All that we think will save us but will not
All the guilt and shame we needlessly carry
All the regret that suffocates our future

You open the door to all that is hidden and hurtful
We release it all to you
We trust your strength to catch us

silent prayers of confession

The burden is gone
Blown away in your grace
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The new is born

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Prayer of Release: Let it Go © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Freedom from Worldly Concerns

romans 8 38Romans 8:6, 14 (NRSV)
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

There are three evil forces that stand in opposition to the three Persons of the triune God. Satan stands against Jesus as Lord, the flesh wars against the Holy Spirit as Enabler, and the world system opposes God as Creator.
– Frank Viola, Rethinking Water Baptism

As disciples of Jesus, being in relationship with Him must be our focus. When we allow others’ perceptions of us (or even our perceptions of their perceptions!) to control how we live, we are enslaved. We become entrenched in the ways of this world and do not live as citizens of heaven, which is another kind of kingdom altogether. Though there is a sense in which this kingdom of God is still future (Zech. 14:9; Acts 1:6–7), there is also a sense in which it is here now (Matt. 6:10; 12:28). As citizens of this kingdom, we are called to live in a way that reflects the reality of the kingdom of God. When we become overly concerned about our appearance, our spiritual reputation, our coolness, and our acceptance, we are living as citizens of this world rather than as ambassadors. – Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Neither expelling nor excluding (conservative temptation), nor perfect explaining (liberal temptation) is our task. True participation in God liberates us each from our control towers and for the compelling and overarching vision of the Reign of God— where there are no liberals or conservatives. Here, the paradoxes— life and death, success and failure, loyalty to what is and risk for what needs to be— do not fight with one another, but lie in an endless embrace. We must penetrate behind them both— into the Mystery that bears them both. This is contemplation in action.
Richard Rohr, Contemplation in Action

When will we acknowledge that none of our freedoms are absolute? My freedom of speech is balanced with my respect for people who disagree with me. My freedom to worship is bounded by the freedom of others to worship God as they are led or to ignore God entirely. My freedom to own guns (a freedom I’ve never exercised) is held in balance with our national vision of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
– Jim Harnish

Be my armor, God of love,
my skin, my world, my home.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, selection from The Armor of God

Do not care much who is with you and who is against you; but make it your greatest care that God is with you in everything you do.
-Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of Christ would like to offer Thomas à Becket as an example that Christians today might emulate when trying to discern their vocational path. … Becket decided, finally, that the only honor worth defending was the honor of God. He freed himself from the burden of trying to please everyone, including himself, and choose to follow a calling that the world—and especially the king—could only regard as madness. Trying to please oneself as well as one’s family and friends can be an overwhelming burden. In contrast, Jesus said his yoke is easy (Matt. 11:30). While it might seem to be the most demanding, depressing, demoralizing, and debilitating thing in the world to try to defend the honor of God—to live as if the good name of God depended on your behavior—in fact, when we take on this “yoke of Christ,” we find just the opposite. Thomas à Becket made clear the true nature of things when he said that defending the honor of God was the most freeing thing he had ever experienced.
– Gregory S. Clapper, Living Your Heart’s Desire: God’s Call and Your Vocation

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Click here for another terrific post by Steve Garnaas- Holmes entitled Lay Your Burdens Down.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Day 27: Psalms of Trust

Breaking the Chains by David Drymala

Today’s Reading
Psalms 31, 40, 56

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust;
I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?
Psalm 56:4 (NRSV)

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.- Romans 14:7-8 (NRSV)

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
Philippians 1:20-21 (NRSV)

Observation
Psalm 56 is a scriptural jewel I had forgotten about. The reality of danger and trouble is set against a stronger reality of trust in God.
What can flesh do to me? (vs. 3)
What can mere mortals do to me? (vs. 11)
In God I trust. I am not afraid!

The psalmist is no longer afraid of death. How many of us can say the same?
How many of us strive and struggle and spend to avoid death?

Nadia Bolz Weber notes, “When it comes down to it, all our regrets and fears that rob us of the present moment …all of them when it comes down to it are actually about the fear of death. Whether it’s a conservative Christian mother who fears the loss of her wayward daughter and wishes she’d call more, or a desperate housewife in Orange County who is injecting Botox into her poor forehead. All fear is fear of death.”

The Psalmist is beyond the fear of death. This kind of faith brings great freedom, a freedom that goes beyond circumstance because faith has brought a reality beyond the deepest fear of this world, death. No matter the outcome, the psalmist is victorious.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God in the light of life. (vs. 13)

Application
Death is a strong theme throughout the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. (The undead pirates and the curse of the Aztec gold in the first movie, Davy Jones’ undead crew in the second movie, Davy Jones’ surreal locker and the mission to ferry the dead in the third movie, the search for the Fountain of Youth in the fourth movie)

In the second movie, Davy Jones asks those he has taken prisoner a question, the ultimate question, “Do you fear death?” It is evident Jack Sparrow fears death and works very hard to find a path beyond it.

Do we equally struggle and plot and plan in order to somehow cheat death? Or do we take the same path of freedom as the psalmist and Paul and so many other people of faith- Living is Christ and dying is gain.

The freedom and truth of faith is this:
Whether we live or whether we die,
we are the Lord’s and we are safe.

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.
– T. S. Eliot, closing lines from the poem A Song for Simeon

Prayer
Praise the Lord of Freedom!
Freedom from fear
Freedom from sin
Freedom from death
What can flesh do to me? I am the Lord’s!
What can mere mortals do to me? I am the Lord’s!
Nothing can separate me from God, not even death!
I am the Lord’s and I am safe, now and forever
Praise the Lord of Freedom!
Praise the Lord of Life!

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You are invited to join me on a summer adventure through one of the most beloved books in the Bible, Psalms.  To download the Summer in the Psalms reading plan, click here Psalms Reading Plan

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you seek him this summer. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Day 14: Psalms of Music

Psalm 150 by Robyn Sand Anderson

Today’s Reading
Psalms 66, 149, 150

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! – Psalm 150:6

Observation
Psalm 150 is the ultimate psalm of worship and praise. I long for worship with this much freedom and joy. Look at all the examples:

  • Praise God within the church and out in the community (verse 1)
  • Praise God’s deed, God’s power, and for who God is. (verse 2)
  • Praise God with instruments (verses 3, 4, 5)
  • Praise God with song and dance (verse 4)
  • Praise God boldly and joyfully (verse 5)
  • All creatures and creation are called to praise the Lord. (verse 6)

Application
How can I be more joy-filled, creative and free in praising God?

Prayer
Joyous Lord, you delight in all you create. Fill us with your joy and hope. Unshackle every voice and foot and hand. Liberate every instrument and paint brush and potter’s wheel. Awaken and inspire the hearts and souls of your people. Free us to sing and dance and play and create in praise of your glorious ways, from this time on and forevermore. Amen.
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You are invited to join me on a summer adventure through one of the most beloved books in the Bible, Psalms.  To download the Summer in the Psalms reading plan, click here  Psalms Reading Plan

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here http://www.lifejournal.cc/ or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you seek him this summer. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page. http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?page_id=1529