The Pharisees answered Jesus, “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. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
“Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.” John 8:33-47
I had the opportunity to lead a confirmation service in a men's prison when I was Suffragan in Southern Virginia. It was a very moving experience for me. Previously, I had only done services in a women's prison. The prison was maximum security and the prisoner who I confirmed was sentenced to life without parole. As I went to the chapel where we were to gather, a line of prisoners walked by, single file, chained together at the ankles and waist. I could not keep the tears from flowing, knowing that these were someone's brother, father and son. Not that they hadn't committed a crime and been convicted, but my heart broke as to how we see and treat people. The man, who I confirmed told me he didn't mind paying the price for his crime, just that he felt bad his family had to suffer as well. He wanted his heart to be free if his body could not be.
Jesus continues his discussion with religious leaders who question his words and his role. They knew well the rule, regulations and cultural constraints of their world. But they were unable to take in new possibilities, and hear God speaking to them. They were captured by their own ways and behaviors. God invites us to listen and open our hearts, no matter how bound we might feel. God invites us to welcome love and freedom, even while we are chained to troubles, to know we are free indeeed.
Today I ask God to help me listen and welcome God's freedom and possibilities in my life. May we all recognize those things that bind us and seek God's love and freedom for ourselves and our world today.