Star Trek is one of my all-time favorite television shows.
I’ve watched all of them – Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise. If it’s been on TV, I’ve watched it. I’ve seen all the movies, too. But the one that remains the epitome is still the Original Series – what us Trekkers call “TOS.” Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all of them, but there’s something about Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura that just captures the essence of what the series is about. And one of the things I loved was how the crew of the Enterprise always seems to be able to overcome the impossible. I can’t tell you how many times Scotty the Chief Engineer would tell Captain Kirk, “That’s all she’s got, Captain. I can’t give ya any more.” And somehow, Scotty is able to give them just a little bit more. One time, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Captain Kirk calls him on it. Kirk asks how long it’ll be before repairs are finished on the Enterprise and Scotty tells him, “It’ll take at least eight weeks sir, but you don’t have eight weeks so I’ll do it for you in two.” And Kirk replies, “Mr. Scott, do you always multiply your repair estimates by a factor of four?” And Scotty says, “Of course, sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”
I think that’s pretty smart.
Scotty gives himself a “buffer zone” to do his work. By that I mean he adds in a fudge factor, an allocation of time for the unknown. And that way, he’s always prepared for the unexpected. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Disney does this when they post wait times for rides. They always overestimate the wait. Even if there isn’t anyone in line, they post at least a five-minute time on the clock. That way, if you get through the line early, you’ll be happy and if you don’t, you’ll still think you got through the line early and be happy. They give themselves a buffer zone to be prepared for the unexpected. I’ve learned the hard way that I need to do that with my GPS. Whoever programmed those things likes to give you the best possible time of arrival. They’re optimists. So when they say you’ll arrive at 2:15, that means if there’s no traffic, if no one slows down in front of you, if there’s no fog, AND you make virtually every street light, THEN you’ll arrive at 2:15. But how often does that happen? I’ve arrived late one time too many times to trust that estimate, so now when Cassie asks me what time I’ll be home, I usually add a 15 to 30 minute buffer zone just in case. That way nobody is disappointed and in fact happy if I get there a little early.
In general, I think that’s a good rule of thumb.
We should, as a general practice, give ourselves a “buffer zone” in life. And not just when you’re estimating how long it’ll take you to get somewhere, but for other circumstances, too. So often we structure our lives too rigidly. We become so rigid in our schedules, our viewpoints, our expectations, that we can’t handle it when things come up that upset the balance we’ve created. We get mad or angry or disappointed in the unexpected. BUT! BUT!!! It’s in the unexpected that the most amazing opportunities can occur. It’s in the unexpected that the most amazing opportunities can occur. And if we aren’t ready for it, we’ll miss those opportunities. Jesus alludes to this in the passage we are going to share together this morning. If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phones, please go to the Gospel of John, chapter 8, beginning with verse 31. John 8:31. In this passage, Jesus has been speaking to the crowds and this particular scene takes place right after Jesus’ encounter with the woman who committed adultery. If you remember, the crowd wanted to stone this woman and instead of telling them “no” or speaking against them, Jesus simply said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And they walked away. So not long after this, Jesus is again talking to a group of Jewish people. He is able to convince some of them that he truly is the Son of God, but even after convincing them, he still has more to teach them and this is where we pick up in our reading. Here now is the Word of God.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
The truth will set you free.
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. We often equate freedom with independence, but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Knowing the truth won’t make you more independent. In fact in some ways it’ll make you more DEPENDENT as we realize how much we need Christ in our lives. But it will also give you a sense of inner peace and that’s the freedom that Jesus is referring to – freedom from worry and anxiety because you will have faith and trust in Jesus. It is in Jesus that we gain our freedom and it is in Jesus that we learn the truth. And having that freedom is what allows us to move forward in life – to grow and learn and fulfill the meaning of our lives. Jesus is the truth that will set you free. As it says in John 14:6 when Jesus tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me (verse 7), you will know my father as well.” But like the group Jesus is talking to, we don’t even know that we need this freedom. We walk around with all of this potential but we are so blind we can’t see that we are not as free as we think we are.
It’s interesting how this group of Jewish people talks to Jesus.
Jesus isn’t speaking to Gentiles. He’s speaking to his own people. And even more surprising is the Bible tells us that this group of people actually believes Jesus is who he says he is. It tells us that he’s speaking to believers. And yet, they argue with him. They cast doubt on him. They challenge him and this is why Jesus says they don’t have room in their hearts for his message. Instead they say to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Could they really have forgotten so quickly when the Hebrew nation was a slave to Pharoah in Egypt or to the Assyrians or to the Babylonians or to the Persians or the Syrians. Of all the people in the world, it seems as if the Jewish people would remember that they have often been slaves of others. Yet in their arrogance and in their assertion of independence, they tell Jesus they have never been slaves of anyone. But instead of pointing out this historical inconsistency (or maybe this failure to remember) to this group, Jesus instead lays down for them some universal truth. And here’s a key point. Any time Jesus is about to lay down some truth, he ALWAYS starts out with the phrase, “Truly I tell you…” or “I tell you the truth…” It’s his way of saying, “Listen UP!” And Jesus indeed starts out with “Very truly I tell you,” not even just “Truly I tell you…” but “VERY truly…” and you know he means business. So Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, EVERYONE who sins is a slave to sin.” EVERYONE who sins is a slave to sin. He’s telling them, you might be “technically” free, you might not be in shackles or collared like an animal. You might not live in a cage or a cell. But you are NOT free. Because as long as there is sin within you, you are a slave to whatever that sin is. Anger. Hate. Jealousy. Rage. Overindulgence. WHATEVER it is, it has a hold on you. But the TRUTH! The TRUTH will set you free. And by this he means himself. That Jesus is the answer. That following Christ is the answer. He even says it at the beginning, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” But even these believers are resistant to Jesus. Even though they believe he is the Son of God, they still can’t hear what he is saying.
Are you like that at times?
Even though you know the truth, you still can’t seem to accept it? Whether it’s being overweight, struggling with addiction, getting out of a bad relationship, or whatever it is, aren’t there times when we know the truth and we still have no room for it in our lives? How frustrating is that! We can’t change our pattern of behavior. That’s what’s happening in this passage. Jesus is telling this group of people the truth and they even believe it, but they still fight against it and they even want to kill him for it because it challenges the structure of their lives. They’ve left no room for the unexpected. They’ve left no room for the possibility that life could be so much better for them if only they would be willing to change. Jesus says to them, “I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.” Is Jesus talking to you and to me? Are we as closed off as these people are and unwilling to make the changes necessary for us to have a better life? We need to make changes in our lives too. We need to learn to rely on God instead of ourselves and part of the way to do that is through intentional prayer and Sabbath. We need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and make room for God. I know there are times when we think if we just keep trudging along eventually it will get better, but it doesn’t. And if we don’t make room for God now, what happens when we really need him? Will we know what to do?
We need to create a life open to God’s will.
Like our cars need gas and our bodies need food, our spirit needs time to refresh and renew as well. Doing this helps us to lead a more stress-free, worry-free life. Learning to trust in God allows us to give our anxieties to him and teaches us to live by his rules and not our own. And to do this we should be engaged regularly in Sabbath and prayer. Dr. Matthew Sleeth talks about this in his book “24/6” where he advocates that we fill our lives with so much we don’t get the rest we need and he’s not just talking about sleep. He’s talking about giving our spirit a chance to rejuvenate as well. What I found interesting is that he says our bodies are going so non-stop that we are producing chemicals that can lead to anxiety, depression and even perhaps diabetes and obesity. About one in nine Americans already suffer from depression and it only looks to get worse. Our culture used to have a built in day of rest, typically Sunday where people literally did no work. But about 30 years ago that changed and in the race to get advantage over the Jones’ we began working non-stop. Americans work more than any other society and instead of getting happier, richer, smarter, or better, we are declining as a nation. We need to heed the warning signs our bodies naturally give us. God builds this into our DNA. We need to stop. God tells us to take Sabbath for a reason. It’s not because God craves attention but because when we are out of sync with God, we become out of sync ourselves. So are you willing to do this? Are you truly willing to take the time you need to rest, truly rest? The work will be there tomorrow, but will your spirit? Give your life the “buffer zone” that it needs. Give yourself the opportunity to engage in the unexpected. Take a break and truly give yourself a chance to become closer to God. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.