Graceful Living Week 7

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give. Amen.


(Martin LUTHER ELW pg 87)

Daily Readings

Day 1: John 8:31-36
Day 2: Psalm 1:1-6
Day 3: Leviticus 19:1-8
Day 4: Leviticus 19:9-14
Day 5: Leviticus 19:15-18
Day 6: I Thessalonians 2:1-4
Day 7: I Thessalonians 2:5-8

Weekly Reflection and Questions

John 8:31-36

It is easy to imagine Jesus shaking his head in response to the comments of the Jews.  Like a loving parent left speechless when a child totally misses the point, Jesus might have even given a deep sigh as he tried again to help them make sense of “freedom.”

Already, Jesus has attempted to connect the dots for his listeners.  It’s a simple equation:

Continue in my word   =   know the truth   =   be set free

But to the Jews, the equation does not add up.  They challenge the need to be freed and claim to have never been slaves to anyone.  Apparently, they have forgotten their own ancestors enslaved in Egypt and forced to make bricks.  These ancestors cried out to God for freedom, and God sent Moses to lead them to freedom.  Each year in the Festival of the Passover, the Jews remember their gift of freedom. 

Yet the history of Israel is not only a story of freedom, but it also includes years of occupation by foreign governments including the Assyrians and Babylonians.  During the life of Jesus, it is Rome who occupied the land.  The Jews have limited freedom in their own country, a land promised and given to them by God.  Many had hoped the Messiah would overthrow the Roman government and return freedom to Israel.  But Jesus offers a new perspective.

Jesus is not dealing with enslavement to a government or political structure.  Instead, Jesus focuses on sin and being a slave to sin.  Sin is more than an error or failure.  Jesus paints a bigger picture than that.  Sin is separation from God and includes all that becomes a barrier between people and God.  Sin often blinds us

from seeing our own enslavement to sin.  This is what happened to the Jews in John 8.

The Jews seem to be so enslaved to the correctness of their own heritage; that they miss who Jesus is and his message for them.  Jesus urges them to stay connected and rooted in the Word. 

Bills, fears, expectations, loneliness, deadlines, diets, illness, depression, perfection, insecurities, illusions, responsibilities, to-do-lists, house repairs, meetings!  Help!  When will we be free? 

Quick, rush to the book store to find the latest self-help book to repair your life. On second thought, follow the advice of Jesus and return to the Word to be comforted and challenged.  There we not only encounter the love of the living God in Jesus Christ, but we also have a standard of his sacrificial life-giving love for our own lives.  There we discover that freedom comes with being rooted in the amazing love and grace of God.

Freedom does not mean doing whatever I want, whenever I want and with whomever I want.  That’s an empty road.  That is sin at work, seducing each of us to live only for me, myself  and I.   We dare not underestimate the power of sin to sabotage life, goals, relationships, and devotion to God.  Sin is a powerful force.  None of us can by our own efforts become freed.  Jesus offers this reminder:  Continue in my word = know the truth = be set free.

The challenge of being a disciple is to align life with Jesus while the rages of sin rush through our spiritual system.  It’s like keeping the tires of our car aligned while daily driving on roads filled with potholes.  After a while, we scarcely remember there is another way.  Remaining in the Word reminds us of the proper alignment with Jesus Christ. 

Freedom is a gift from God for those willing to claim it.  But here is the irony.  We cannot claim the gift of freedom until we know we cannot save ourselves.  That knowledge is the very place that we are found, forgiven and freed as a free gift.

1. What is the relationship between being a disciple of Jesus, the Word, and freedom?

2. What enslaves and burdens us?

3. What is God freeing us to do or be?

Reflections and Questions from McCullough-Bade, “Daily Discipleship,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2005.  McCullough-Bade, “Daily Faith Practices,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2011.
Prayer, ELW, pg 87.