Jesus Comes to Set Us Free
Independence Weekend Sermon
by Rev. Doug Burr
I was glad to accept Pastor Mark Jardine’s invitation to preach on Sunday, July 5th, even though no one’s going to be in church! The pandemic necessitates services continue online only. On this Independence Day weekend my message will address the good news Jesus brings: “Jesus Comes to Set Us Free.” The primary text in John 8:31- 47 includes Jesus’ immortal words that adorn a number of secular universities – as the motto of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore – “the truth shall set you free.” Jesus however is not speaking directly about freedom of speech or religion . . . or freedom of the press or assembly. He speaks rather to the freedom upon which those America liberties rest – freedom to do God’s will . . . especially when, as it must at times, God’s will runs contrary to our will.
Our nation’s founders were largely influenced by the French philosopher, Montesquieu, in their design of our government. Montesquieu identified three forms of governance:
(1) DESPOTS – whose rule he said requires instilling fear in its subjects to gain compliance. When despotic rulers are no longer feared, they are no longer followed and they soon no longer govern.
(2) MONARCHY - the rule of kings and queens requires subjects who esteem them as royalty. Honor, not fear, compels compliance in a monarchy which is one reason monarchs claim ‘divine rights’ in ruling. When subjects no longer honor their monarchs, they no longer respect their right to rule and remove them.
(3) DEMOCRACY – as in our Republic . . . is the rule of the people by their freely chosen representatives. What is necessary to sustain a democracy? Montesquieu wrote: “rather than fear or honor being necessary for a democracy to survive” what is needed in the citizenry – “is virtue which alone makes a democracy work.” Samuel Adams, revered patriot, concurred: “We may look to our armies for defense, but virtue is our best security. It is not possible that any state should long remain free where virtue is not supremely honored.” President John Adams agreed: “Such a government as ours can be supported only by pure religion and austere morals. Public virtue cannot exist without private virtue. The passion for good must rise above personal gain or the dream is dead.”
Virtue, the passion for good and the power to do what’s right, requires the ability (freedom) to set aside our will to do God’s will whenever they conflict. But that’s the very freedom we find hardest to come by and which in today’s Scripture Jesus announces that he brings: “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed!” (John 8:36).
Sunday we’ll explore 3 questions: 1. What does it mean to Jesus to be free? 2.Why do we need to be set free by Jesus? 3. How does Jesus set us free?
Hope you can join us and celebrate the freedom being an American affords us and get in on the freedom Jesus offers us. Since Jesus is with us, we can expect he’ll be about setting us free - to expect anything less would miss the promise of gathering in his Name. Be sure to sign in online and say, ‘Hi’, and share any comments or questions! Go easy with the criticisms . . . I’m just a volunteer! I’m retired! And my young grandkids still think I can do no wrong!!!
Rev. Doug Burr spent 40 years in the ordained ministry of the United Methodist Church and retired in 2007 while serving on staff at Chapel Hill. He remains active primarily in teaching, consulting in stewardship and Faith Promise Giving, and preaching when asked. With his wife of 50 years, Daphne, he enjoys time with his two grown sons and daughters-in-law and 3 wonderful grandchildren, Carson (14) in Edmond and Ethan (9) and Anyssa (7) in Houston.