Year A 5th Lent WEDNESDAY, 1 April 2020
Virtual Morning Worship from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Truth will set us Free”
Collect: Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 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’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
People use that phrase all the time. Many, if not most, these days are unaware that this phrase comes from Jesus. In these days of relative truth (my truth and your truth as opposed to “The Truth”) it may be hard for us to imagine that the Truth will set us free.
One of the deeply disturbing things from recent years has been the arguments over what is basic truth. It is hard to find common ground when we cannot agree on what is the ground.
Jesus found himself in a similar position. The religious authorities of his day were offended, not that he had a truth that was counter to theirs, but that he alluded to the idea that they were not free. It was like they were saying, “Why be born again when we were born right the first time?”
They found their freedom in their birth and lineage, being descendants of Abraham. Jesus was looking at a greater bondage, one to sin which brings death. He urges them to find the truth, his truth, which was not about lineage, but obedience.
In the Old Testament reading, Hananiah, Misha'el, and Azariah obeyed God. That is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego if you use their false Babylonian names. Drives our Jewish brothers and sisters crazy when we do that. Hananiah, Misha'el, and Azariah mean respectively, "God is gracious," "Who is like God?", and "God has helped." They stayed true to God, and the disciplines that they had learned in their youth. It was not without a price. They were thrown in a fiery furnace. And in their midst appeared one like unto a God. They were delivered unharmed.
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
By staying to the truth, they were delivered. They knew the risk, and that God might not let them go. That did not matter. Staying true to the truth they had found was what was most important.
In these days, we have a lot of worries and anxieties. But most of us know the truth. We know what we have been taught, and what we should do. We know that there will be a tomorrow, and on Easter or much later there will be a resurrection. We will emerge from tombs of self-exile, and walk amongst the land of the living again. Or we will not. Either way we reside in the truth that we have found. And in that truth we find our true freedom. We may not know what tomorrow may bring. But we reside in the truth that forever will bring.
Morning Prayer puts the Collect later, so you have not heard today’s yet. It is so appropriate for these times.
Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We need not fear. We need plan. We need prepare. We need care for our sisters and brothers, especially the most vulnerable by staying apart. But we need not fear. And that truth can set us free. Amen.