Life in Christ is abundance and blessing, even in this frightening world, and it is freedom: freedom to truly live, and freedom to help others also find life and freedom in Christ.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Sunday of the Reformation
Texts: John 8:31-36, with references to much of John’s Gospel; Jeremiah 31:31-34
Note for online readers: This sermon came on the heels of doing a five week Bible study on John’s view of salvation – life in Christ in God’s reign – and John’s theology, along with Jesus’ words in John, were fresh in my mind as I wrote. But the sermon was written out of John 8:31-36 (with brief note to Jeremiah 31:31-34), the text for the day. There was so much in this brief Gospel reading that resonated in my heart with the rest of John’s Gospel, after being so immersed in it for two months. This wasn’t an exercise in fitting in Scripture quotes, in other words; I simply wrote the sermon I felt God was calling out. But after Sunday’s liturgy, I was curious to see if I could track all the references in the whole of John that ended up in this sermon, so I went through and noted them. (There are a couple instances of repeat references I didn’t include.) In hopes that it might be helpful for those who read the sermon online to look up things for themselves, for further study, I offer them here. If they’re not needed, try to ignore the footnote markers! I think they’re a little distracting to reading and to flow, so you could also simply watch the video and avoid them. – Pr. Joseph Crippen
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”1
Try to grasp what Christ Jesus is offering you: “If you remain in my Word, that means you are, in truth, my disciples, and in that reality, you will also know the truth, and in that knowing, you will be made free.”2
We know these beloved words well. Yet we often seem to just admire them and regularly miss the profound, life-shaping gift Jesus offers in them. Do you ever experience it?
That’s John’s question in writing this Gospel.3 John believes if you did realize just what Jesus was offering you, you’d have an abundant life,4 a life that experiences light in the darkness of this world,5 a life that quenches your deepest inner thirst,6 a life that feeds and satisfies you like nothing else you know.7 A life where you are truly free.8
If such a life sounds wonderful to you, then listen to Jesus’ words today and consider whether you can trust him.
The path to trusting begins with remembering: Jesus is the Word.9 Jesus is the truth.10
“Remaining in my Word” simply means living life connected to the very life of Christ, God’s eternal Word in the world.11 It’s God’s Word written on your heart, as Jeremiah promises.12 It’s being joined to the Vine that fills you with life, as Jesus says later in John.13 “Knowing the Truth” is simply knowing Jesus,14 God-with-us,15 the Word-Made-Flesh,16 and as Jesus repeatedly says in John, that means knowing God,17 through life in the Spirit.18
So Jesus says: stay with me, connected to me,19 and you will know God’s intention for you and the creation – God’s Word – and you will know the very heart of God for you and for the creation – God’s Truth.
That’s how you find light in the darkness, by trusting in Jesus and holding tight.20 That’s how you are quenched to your very core, by trusting in Jesus and being filled.21 That’s how your deepest hungers are met, by trusting Jesus and taking him into your deepest center.22 The Meal of Life we celebrate each week is a real eating and drinking of Christ’s life into you. But this connection with Christ is also available to you always through the Spirit,23 not just at Holy Communion. God’s very Word24 and God’s very Truth25 – Christ Jesus – in your heart. That’s where you find true freedom.26
And Jesus’ promise assumes that this Truth, this Word, are given you because this world is frightening and challenging, to help you live freely in it.
In John, Jesus offers life to a foreign woman, estranged from her community, and fills her with conviction of God’s love and welcome, even in her challenging circumstances.27 Jesus heals a man blind from birth, but more, is God’s presence with him, changing this man’s life.28 Jesus offers himself to Mary and Martha and they know him as God’s living, resurrection life, even in their grief, and even before he raises Lazarus.29 Again and again, knowing and trusting Jesus in John doesn’t always change people’s outer circumstances.30 But they find freedom and joy and hope in God’s new birth31 that trusting Jesus gives them. They live in God’s Word, they know God’s Truth, and they are changed.
Listen to what Jesus promises you and the world:
I am the Light of the World, Jesus says.32 The world is still filled with darkness, but you can see when you hold on to me.
I am the Bread of Life, Jesus says.33 You might still have physical pain and difficulty and needs, but if you hold me within you, I will satisfy you fully.
I am the Gate of the sheep34 and I am the Good Shepherd,35 Jesus says. Even with the wolves of fear and doubt threatening and the beasts of hatred and oppression crushing so many of God’s children, I will be with you and all my children, always.
I am the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus says.36 So even if you die, you will live, and better, if you trust in me now, remain in me, you’ll find life in God now that will change you forever.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus says.37 Holding on to me, you’ll find your way in this world, you’ll know the truth that God loves you and all things, and you will have life within you, no matter what happens to you.
And I am the True Vine, Jesus says.38 Stay connected to me, which means you’re connected to God, and the life that I flow in you will produce the same sacrificial love that I have for the creation that will save all things.39 Your love will be a part of saving all things for God, too.40
This is true freedom, freedom indeed, that Jesus offers you.41
Freedom from anxiety and worry: you belong to God and no matter what happens, God will always be with you, in life or in death.42 Freedom from fear of your sinfulness and flaws: you are loved forever by God and your sins are forgiven, forgotten.43 Freedom from the possessions that claim ownership of you: you have the life of Christ in you, and are free to let go of these false gods that can’t truly satisfy you.44 Freedom from blindness to your privilege and power: you are a branch of the Vine of love that gives up all power and privilege, even divine life, for the sake of love of the other,45 and you are free to love in that same way.46
This is the freedom Jesus offers you. Freedom indeed, true freedom to live, no matter what the circumstances of your life might be.47
And living this is true discipleship.
Because knowing this freedom makes you Christ, like Jesus.48 You become a servant:49 a washer of feet,50 a bringer of light to others’ darkness.51 You become someone whose vulnerable, sacrificial love fills up others in their deepest need,52 quenches the thirst of a world longing for justice.53 You become a shepherd who not only works to protect others from the harm of this world but who works to change this world so that all might find green pasture and clean water, hope and life.54
When you are free in Christ, you not only know the abundant life Jesus longs for you to know.55 You become a sign of that resurrection life in the world, so others might be drawn to the love of God in Christ and be free indeed themselves.
“If you remain in me,” Jesus says, “this is what will happen to you, and to the world.” 56
So where else would you want to remain, to be, to live?
In the name of Jesus. Amen
Note: Scripture footnotes are below the video.
 John 8:31-32
 John 8:31-32
 John 20:31
 John 10:10
 John 1:3-4; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9; 12:46
 John 4:13-14; 6:35; 7:37-38
 John 6:27, 33, 35, 50-51
 John 8:36
 John 1:1, 14
 John 14:6
 John 1:1-2
 Jeremiah 31:33
 John 15:4-5
 John 14:6-7; 18:37
 John 1:1, 18
 John 1:14
 John 1:1-3, 18; 5:19-23, 37-38; 7:28-29; 8:18-19; 14:7-9; 15:23
 John 3:5-8, 34
 John 15
 John 1, 8, 9, 11, 12
 John 4
 John 6
 John 3
 John 1
 John 14, 18
 John 8
 John 4
 John 9
 John 11
 Sometimes it does – Cana, a man healed on Sabbath. Sometimes it doesn’t – the woman caught in adultery. Sometimes it takes time for people to trust Jesus for life because of their circumstances – Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea – but they come around. And sometimes there’s faltering in the trust – the disciples on Thursday through Saturday of Holy Week, including Peter and Judas – but they are welcomed back into trust, forgiven, loved (which would have included Judas had he lived, I’m convinced.)
 John 3
 John 8:12; 9:5, 39; 11:9-10; 12:35-36, 46; 16:1
 John 6:35, 48, 51, 53-58
 John 10:7-10
 John 10:11-18
 John 11:25-26
 John 14:6-7
 John 15:1
 John 15:5, 9
 John 15:16-17
 John 8
 John 10:11-18, 27-29
 John 3:16-17
 John 6:27, 49, 58, 63, 66-68
 John 3:14-15; 8:28; 12:31-32; 15:13, 20
 John 13:12-16, 34-35
 John 8
 John 17:18, 21
 John 13:16
 John 13:12-15
 John 12:36
 John 13:34-35; 14:21; 15:12-14
 John 4
 John 21:15-17
 John 10:10
 John 8:31-36