Reformation Sunday + October 27, 2013
When I told the Wednesday Faith Night Bible Study group this week that my working title for this Reformation sermon was “Who’s Your Daddy?” their reaction was similar to yours. Admittedly it’s an unusual, maybe edgy title, but it reflects a central question in John’s Gospel today.
The people of the promise who believed in Jesus had just heard him say that by living out the word he’d taught them, they would truly be his disciples. Disciples who would experience the truth and the truth would set them free. Well they didn’t get it, claiming that as sons and daughters of Abraham they’d never been slaves to anyone. I wonder if Jesus laughed-out-loud because he, like most Sunday school children, know that the people had been enslaved, and more than once…
- Remember Egypt, how the Passover and Exodus stories were all about God freeing them from slavery?
- Remember when they were slaves to wandering around a dessert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land?
- Or when years later they were defeated, taken away, enslaved from all they knew and had been promised during the Babylonian exile?
Descendants of Abraham never enslaved—I imagine Jesus smiling and maybe shaking his head as he asked them: “Who’s Your Daddy?”
Who’s Your Daddy according to that all-knowing web resource Wikipedia, is a slang expression that most often takes the form of a rhetorical question. It is commonly used as a slam, an insult, and a boastful claim of dominance over the intended listener. Perhaps the phrase itself comes from the 1968 song “Time of the Season,” by The Zombies (yes pastor used a zombie reference during Halloween week) that features the lyrics:
What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?
And as we struggle to keep our eyes open after watching the World Series game last night (especially if you’re a Red Sox fan), you may recall the phrase from the 2004 American League Championship Series when it was used as a taunt chanted by New York Yankees fans at Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez. Now Most of you know that I’m not a Yankees fan, but Pedro brought this on himself after losing a game against the Yankees when he told reporters:
They beat me. They’re that good right now. They’re that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.
I don’t care if you are the world’s biggest Yankees fan, or George Steinbrenner Jr., the Yankees are not your daddy. Nor is Abraham your daddy. Distant ancestor, biblical hero and father figure yes, but not even daddy to the Jewish people Jesus was engaging in our Gospel story this morning. So “Who’s Your Daddy?” We are children of God, that’s who our daddy is!
Word. Jesus, God with us in the flesh came to remind us of that. Jesus tells us that as children of God, we are no longer subject to the world’s boastful claim of sin and dominance over us.
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We are free from the sin that enslaves us, and we are adopted and part of a new family, God’s. New freedom and new family means that those to whom Jesus was speaking in our Gospel story and to followers of the way across two-thousand years, that they and we, have new rules, new expectations, and new family systems to experience and explore as part of being in God’s family.
- Our adoption by God means that we have a new life.
- God loves us so much that God not only chooses to forgive all of our past sinful ways, God chooses to forget them as well.
- The stormy nature and winds of God’s wrath are calmed, and God’s divine amnesia reforms us, and this undeserved action frees us and makes us new each day.
Freedom, now I’m not talking about our American ideal of apple pie, baseball, and pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. God does not just help those who help themselves, that’s the gospel of American consumerism and politics. That’s the world’s boastful claim of sin and dominance over us.
Instead, God does something much better. God gives us the Word, the Truth, Jesus the Christ…
- who frees us from ourselves,
- who frees us from our self-reliance,
- who frees us from our sin.
This freedom frees us for God and love of ourselves and our neighbor all of us part of God’s family. On this day we recall the reformation, we remember Martin Luther who taught sin as self-centeredness. We who are all doing self-centered things, become slaves to ourselves, our own wants and our desires. Too often people understand freedom as doing whatever they want to do. But that definition of freedom actually defines slavery to one’s self.
Slavery, we’ve never been slaves we think, we scream, we cry… especially when the world and our control over it is overwhelmed by our trying to set ourselves free. Even though it’s impossible, we try anyway and when we fail, we lose control, and try to dull the pain with drink, drugs, food, sex, or working ourselves to death striving for perfection. Thankfully God persistently meets us, loves us, and frees us from our control-freak nature. Thankfully God acts, because we deceive our ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Our fellow children of God who developed and walk 12 step programs really get this. If you are, or aren’t familiar with the first steps, walk with me now and notice how engaging what enslaves is the start of the walk of freedom:
- Step 1 – I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and that my life has become unmanageable.
- Step 2 – I come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.
- Step 3 – I make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God.
So good people of faith, what are your greatest fears about giving control over your life to God? What things, people or circumstances have you tried to control in the past, and how’s that working out for you? Don’t you think that God will be able to handle your life better than you have?
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Being set free means having ones desires and centeredness turned away from ones-self toward God and others. So what does that freedom look like for you? What does it look like for all of us gathered by God in this place now? As we pray, discern and live into the freedom that God blesses us with, I think author Frederick Buechner frames the path of freedom well. He says:
The best moments we, any of us have as human beings are those moments when for a little while it is possible to escape the squirrel cage of being me into the landscape of being us.
We are called to live as disciples knowing and sharing truth, always reforming ourselves and our faith community through the Word, centering our lives through the landscape of us:
- on God who created and promises freedom,
- on Jesus who embodies freedom, and
- on the Holy Spirit who blows the winds of freedom into all the stagnant places of our lives.
We see that the freedom the world sells, promising that we can always be in control, get what we want when we want it, and fix ourselves, is not the truth. The truth is that freedom from ourselves comes from the Word. The Word that meets us where we are and calls us to be more than we are, responding with repentance and reform. Free to re-center our lives in the Word, remembering the truth of who’s your daddy.