The Songs of Christmas: O Holy Night (Luke 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 2: O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
Scripture References: Luke 1:49-54 (Mary’s Song); Luke 1:68-75 (Zechariah’s Song) 
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/2/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? A person whispers a sentence into a person’s ear, who then whispers it into another person’s ear, and so on and so on until the last person whispers it into the first person’s ear. What usually happens? It’s nothing like what the first said. As things get passed along, they get lost in translation

In our Preschool Chapel, I asked the children what Christmas is about. They responded presents, Santa, lights, reindeer, cookies… It makes sense.  This is the dominant story in our society. Radio is full of Santa Baby and Holly Jolly Christmas. TV is full of Frosty and Rudolf. This same story of sentimentality, gift giving, and you better be good, goes on for months. We start hearing it around Halloween.

zombies in manger cartoon

Our understanding of Christmas gets lost in translation. In the midst of so many other Christmas stories, how do we continue to know and share the Christian point of view of Christmas?

We read the scriptures and sing the story, but it can even happen to beloved Christmas Carols.

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

How O Holy Night Came to Be

  • In Roquemaure France at the end of 1843, the organ in the church of St. John the Baptist the Evangelist was renovated
  • To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau, to write a Christmas poem which would be set to music by the renowned composer, Adolphe Adam
    • Placide Cappeau was a local poet, lawyer, and wine merchant. He was a free thinker with no interest in Christianity or any other religion

Cappeau accepted the commission anyway. To prepare he read the gospels, especially the Christmas story (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1).

Did Cappeau find something secular and commercial, no
Did Cappeau find something saccharine sweet, no
Did Cappeau find something soft and sentimental, no

  • Verse 1 O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
  • Verse 2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
  • Verse 3 Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

The sweet, soft and sentimental came with John Sullivan Dwight’s translation of Cappeau’s poem into English.

Cappeau read the Gospels, and this is what he found:

  • Mary the mother of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, magnifying and rejoicing in God her Savior
    • for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, (Luke 1:49-54)
  • Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming
    • Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

Cappeau found the Christmas story powerful and prophetic and that’s what he wrote.

o holy night verse 1o holy night verse 2o holy night verse 3

Though he never placed his trust in Jesus, Cappeau had a chance to because he heard the real story. He saw the truth of Christmas-

  • God coming in the flesh to deliver us, rescue us, and redeem us
  • God dying and rising again to break the chains of sin, shame, prejudice, and isolation
    • Especially powerful given O Holy Night was written in the age where many were fighting to end slavery
    • Especially powerful since the song was banned for a time because Cappeau was a nonbeliever and the composer, Adolph Adam was Jewish

Don’t let Christmas get lost in translation.
Take time to read the scriptures, sing songs of faith, set up a nativity. Claim and share this story – the story of God’s truth, grace, and hope. This is why we sing and celebrate the coming of Christ. This is why we bow before him in reverence and faith

***********
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

************
O Holy Night reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (Isaiah 42; Jeremiah 23; Psalm 72; Luke 4)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 1: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed by James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Scripture References: Isaiah 42:16; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 72:1-7; Luke 4:16-19
Theme: Showers of Blessing

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed by James Montgomery
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, Great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, To set the captive free;
To take away transgression, and rule in equity.

He comes with succor speedy to those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying, are precious in his sight.

He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in his path to birth.
Before him on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

To him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end.
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever; that name to us is love.

Prayer:
Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Salvation flows from your coming
Living water to our desert
to our frail clay
to our dust

Creation flows from you
New life springing up
Hope and wholeness
Budding and blooming in our wasteland

Let all the earth drink of you
The fullness of your unfailing love
Flood us and fill us
That we may carry this great grace as it carries us

Additional Resources:

Isaiah 42:16
I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.

Jeremiah 23:5-6
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Psalm 72:1-7
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound until the moon is no more.

Luke 4:16-19
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Excerpt from History of Hymns: “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” by C. Michael Hawn
Montgomery began writing poetry at age 10, inspired by the hymn of the Moravians, the same group that inspired John Wesley. Despite flunking out of school at age 14, Montgomery found a job in 1792 at a radical weekly newspaper, the Sheffield Register. He assumed the leadership of the paper not long after when the previous editor fled the country fearing persecution for his politics.

At this point, Montgomery changed the name of the paper to the Iris and served for 31 years as editor, during which he was a tireless supporter of social justice. He was jailed twice for his radical views, using the time in prison to write poetry.

***********
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

************
Noel reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: Blessed Be the God of Israel (Luke 1.67-79)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
November 29: Blessed be the God of Israel by Michael Perry (1942-1996)
CCLI Song # 2627452
Scripture References: Luke 1:67-79
Theme: Prophet of Promise

Blessed be the God of Israel by Michael Perry
Blessed be the God of Israel who comes to set us free
Who visits and redeems us and grants us liberty
The prophets spoke of mercy, of freedom, and release
God shall fulfill the promise to bring our people peace

Now from the house of David a child of grace is given
A Savior comes among us to raise us up to heaven
Before Him goes His herald, forerunner in the way
The prophet of salvation, the harbinger of Day

On prisoners of darkness, the sun begins to rise
The dawning of forgiveness upon the sinner’s eyes
To guide the feet of pilgrims along the paths of peace
Oh bless our God and Savior with songs that never cease

Prayer:
Fill us Holy Spirit,
as you have your faithful through the ages
Fill us with vision to see the goodness and glory to come
Fill us with truth to speak and the courage to do so
Fill us with resolve to follow the emancipated way of our Jesus:
and to help others do the same. Amen.

Additional Resources:

This hymn text is a metrical paraphrase of the “Benedictus” or the “Song of Zechariah” from Luke 1:68-79.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Excerpt from History of Hymns: “Blessed Be the God of Israel” by Andrew Butler
Zechariah had been made dumb during his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist. When he hears of his son’s birth, his tongue is loosed for his song of praise to the Lord God of Israel….

A variety of terms refer to John the Baptist in stanza two including “herald,” “forerunner,” “prophet of salvation” and “harbinger.” Perry condenses the metaphor in the canticle referring to Christ as the “day-spring from on high” and John as the messenger as the “harbinger of Day.”

The last line of the hymn—“with songs that never cease!”—would seem to be a hyperbole at first glance, but the text is a literal understanding of eschatology. Our songs will never cease in heaven.

***********
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <><

************
Blessed be the God of Israel reflection © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Psalm 34, Haggai 2, Galatians 5)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
November 27: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Scripture References: Psalm 34:4; Galatians 5:1; Haggai 2:7
Theme: Longing for Deliverance

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley 
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Prayer:
Jesus, we long for you
Watching, waiting, expecting

Jesus, we long for you
You, the hope of all the earth
You, the desire of every nation
You, the key to every prison

You do not merely release the captives
You shatter the bonds of fear and sin

Come Mighty Savior!
We long for your deliverance
Take our strongholds and give us freedom
Take our numbers and give us names
Take our sentences and give us life

Additional Resources:

Psalm 34:4 (NKJV) I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Haggai 2:7(NKJV)  “And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.

From Wikipedia
In 1744, Charles Wesley considered Haggai 2:7 and looked at the situation of orphans in the areas around him. He also looked at the class divide in Great Britain. Through this train of thought, he wrote “Come, Thou long expected Jesus” based upon Haggai 2:7 and a published prayer at the time which had the words:

“Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen.”

***********
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <><

************
Come Thou Long Expect Jesus reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Rise and Run, based on Isaiah 52 and Hebrews 12

running feetGrowing in Resilience
Day 13, Read Isaiah 52
Reflection: Rise and Run, based on Isaiah 52:1-2, 7, 11-12 and Hebrews 12:1-3

I was struck by the similarities between Isaiah 52 and Hebrews 12:1-3. Running, rising, moving forward, freedom from sin and captivity, putting off the old/sinful and putting on the new/good, persevering, enduring, God going before and making the way, joy, sacrifice, strength, purpose, intentionality, salvation…

Isaiah 1-2, 7, 11-12
Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean shall enter you no more. Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter Zion! … How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”… Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Hebrews 12:1-3 NRSV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

You are surrounded
With great and good companions

With witnesses who ran the race before you
Now cheering you on
Inspiring you with their courageous faith

With witnesses running beside you
Churning up the dust of this well-traveled-path
Encouraging you with the steady beat of their beautiful feet

Rise and run
Lay aside every weight
Every shackle
Every excuse
Every inner critic shouting against inspiration

Lay aside the sin that clings so closely
Every self-serving motivation
Every self-medicating choice
Every weak thing you’ve trusted more than God

Lay them aside
Shake off the dust
Rise and run

Run beloved, run
Run with perseverance the race
Daring
Enduring
Awake
Free

Run
Looking not to the dust, but to Jesus
The Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith
Look not to the right or to the left
Look to Jesus
Focus
Follow

Jesus is The Way, opening the path
The Truth, clearing the clutter
The Light, blazing the trail

He runs
He endures
For the sake of the joy
Of setting the joy before you
and in you

Run
Run remembering
Joy is your strength
Good News is your song
Rise and endure
For this race comes with a cross
A course of blood and tears
Mocking and piercing

Take it up
Disregard its shame (that ancient enemy)
Let it fall by the wayside
Tired scraps on the breath of new life

Take it up and run
Depart! Go!
Sit down in the next life
Not this one

Rise and run
Following and looking and remembering him who endured
So that you may not grow weary
Or lose heart
For your strongest, most beautiful step is yet to come

***********
Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Rise and Run © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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.

*****************
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.

A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

wilderness walk

Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your wilderness wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

********
A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.