Sermon on John 8:31-36
The following sermon was preached by Krista Zimmerman, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, October 29, 2009.
So last week was reading week. I've talked to a lot of people who didn't get a lot of reading done during reading week. I'll confess that I had to agree with them. I did not get as much done as I would have liked to. But isn't that always the way. We're always trying to get stuff done. Reading, papers, applications, candidacy stuff, job stuff, family stuff. It doesn't ever seem like we actually get anything done. Sure we can make progress, but it’s never actually done. Like signed, sealed and delivered done. There is always more reading, another paper, another class, another candidacy essay, another interview. It’s hard to feel as though we have actually accomplished something.
And I know that it's going to be like that once we are leaders in the church as well. I remember my internship supervisor asking me if I could deal with the fact that, in urban ministry, you can never solve the deeply rooted, systemic problems that exist in our cities. And really, I think that goes for any type of ministry in any setting. You never really make things right -- your work is never finished. People's lives and problems cannot be fixed with a few counseling sessions or attending church every Sunday. But fixing stuff or completing stuff is not really our job… it's God's job. God is completing something in us by making us free.
Let us pray… God we thank you for the freedom that you alone can give us. We pray for those among us who do not feel free this day -- our brothers and sisters near and far. Trusting in your amazing grace, continue to lead us and guide us along your way. Amen.
On internship I loved doing mailings and thank you cards and making copies. Little, clerical tasks that we did because we didn't have a secretary or volunteers to do it. My supervisor would ask me to do these things apologetically, but I loved doing them! Mostly because they were things that I could do and get them checked off the list. They were started and they had a definite finish. So am I more fit to be a secretary? Probably not.
Our desire to want to get things done, have a clean finish, comes from our desire to control things. We are control freaks. We want to have this done. We want to know where we’re going now. Even if you’re not a planner it is possible to get stressed out about the things we cannot control. Juniors, you may be curious about where you'll be going for CPE, middlers -- internship, and seniors -- first call. We want to know what's going on! There is stress, anxiety, depression even, around the unknown tomorrows of our seminary career and life in general. And now as we are more than half way through the semester, we wonder -- will I get everything done? Will I do a good job on my papers and projects? Will I have enough time for self care and my other responsibilities? We want control. Blame it on our own need for power or on our American culture of consumerism. But as children of the God, we don’t need to be control freaks.
Jesus says in John 8:36: "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." Jesus' love and mercy sets us free from our tendency to be control freaks. Our need for control separates us from God by trying to fit God into a mold instead of being open to God's bountiful mystery and grace. What would it mean if we wouldn't stress out about getting things done, but rather letting God inspire us through what we have to do. Even as I was writing this sermon, I was painfully aware of how much I was trying to control "the final product". So I worried -- what are people going to think? Is it going to be good enough? I think you can probably relate.
I'm not gonna say that it's not important that this sermon is good or not or that school work should go undone. It would be easy to just not care if we get things done or not. But that's not what God offers us in this text for today. God is offering us freedom through Jesus Christ. Freedom from having to painfully worry about how good we are, how smart we are, if we'll get to go where WE WANT TO GO! In the spirit of Reformation we are justified by our faith, not our works. Yeah we know that because we're good seminarians at this fine Lutheran institution. But is it in our hearts? I think we're much too hard on ourselves.
Since Christ has set us free through his life saving work on the cross, we don't have to worry about how good we are. In that way we are free to be ourselves, do what we do without fear of judgment, move on from painful pasts, and look to the future with hope. With trust that God will take care of us. Not in a cushy comfy kind of way. But in a way that declares, we are the free children of God. We will not be enslaved to the things that hold us back from God. We will live in true freedom. Freedom from self- consciousness, worry, unworthiness… fill in the blank.
What are you wanting God to free you from today? Give it to God. Live in the knowledge that though you may not feel like you're getting anything done, that it is God who is working through you. And there's nothing we can do. This message of justification is something we've heard a million times and I think we forget what a radical message it conveys. Especially in a culture where we are told that we are not rich enough, not successful enough, not attractive enough. God frees us from all that. All the superficial junk. Sometimes it might feel like we are wrapped up in our own seminarian lives. But look outside, there is a world out there, we live in that world too. I love that we have these windows here so we are reminded that there is a world beyond these walls and beyond our real problems and worry. I’m not trying to say that our problems are petty. The world that we live in is bound with problems. God is working through each of us in order to make this world a better place. And the issues of this world may seem daunting, but luckily, it is God who is healing our world through us. God frees us from carrying the weight of the world.
Frees us to love those inside these walls and out. And that is what God is calling us to do isn't that right? So that we are free to love each other and be open to the divine mystery that God has for us on our journeys. That we can live, set up camp in the words of Christ. Then we are truly free to show love, peace and justice to those around us… trusting that God will lead us and guide us. I hope and pray that we will be in touch with that transformative freedom today, tomorrow and always. Amen.