Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

THE FREEDOM OF THE HOUSEHOLD
John 8:31-36
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
(Reformation Day– October 31)
analysis by Mike Hoy


31Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They 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’?” 34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.


DIAGNOSIS: The Slavery of Traditionalism

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: “We Are Descendants of Abraham…”
Tracing one’s ancestry through Abraham is still the presumption of the Jews who, it is said, “believed” in Jesus (v. 31). But these converts speak to Jesus here more out of their faith in their Jewish tradition and heritage than in their faith in Jesus. Christians throughout history–and even today–have often made the same mistake, making more of their cherished denomination, or invoking the particular “traditions” within their church using the deadly seven-last-words-of-the-church, “we never did it that way before.”

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Slaves to Sin
Are we descendants of Abraham, then, or aren’t we? Perhaps. But when legalistic traditionalism is the operating framework for tracing our heritage, we are not descendants in the line of Sarah–only in the line of Hagar (in the Pauline sense of Galatians 4:21-31). When the “Law” or our rights are cherished to the exclusion of any open-heartedness, then we are not free. We are bound as “slaves to sin”. Such slavery keeps us in subjection to our narrow world-views, and keeps our hearts so cold that we cannot understand or even perceive what it would really be like to be free, all the while deceiving ourselves that we are.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: No Permanent Place
The ultimate tragedy is that God has no room for legalists in his kingdom. They are cast out, deprived of any meaningful or lasting credentials or heritage, deprived of any permanent place in God’s company of faithful followers.

PROGNOSIS: The Promising Tradition

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Truly Free
“But if the Son makes you free, then you will be free indeed!” These closing remarks from the lips of Jesus bring a closure to our problem of being cut-off from God’s good graces. Getting into the house comes from having Someone who lives there and who invites us in. Jesus, knowing the way to the Father’s heart and home, makes that offer–to be sure at great cost to himself, but an offer that still brings us home and close to the Father.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: “The Son Has a Place There Forever”
As those who have been welcomed in, we do not simply hold on to the past rags of our slavery to sin. No, we are welcomed in as the very children of God, offspring of the same heavenly Father through our Lord and Brother Jesus. The freedom that Jesus brings breaks the chains of our slavery, and makes us, instead, those who get to cherish in our hearts that we are baptized! We are the Father’s own children! We are truly those in the faithful line of the promising tradition of Abraham. The descendants of Abraham are the descendants of faith in the Promised Seed, Jesus the Christ.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Continuing (Abiding) in Jesus’ Word
Someday we will be fully welcomed home. But for now, we get to live as those who construct their world-views with the big picture of the promising tradition. The family of God is bigger than our little ecclesiastical barriers. Abiding in the larger household of Jesus’ promising Word, we become part and parcel of the ecumenical church in the world. This world is our place to abide and to proclaim as the Father’s own place, even as it was and is Jesus’ stomping grounds. As children of the heavenly Father, it is our own play-land in child-like freedom.

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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