Scotty didn’t get enough credit.
There would be no Captain Kirk or Mister Spock or Bones if not for the man we know as “the miracle worker” – Chief Engineer, Montgomery Scott. One of the few “red shirts” who never died. If you were ever a fan of the original Star Trek, you know Scotty saved the ship over and over again despite the seemingly near impossible tasks he seemed to be given. “I cannot change the laws of physics,” he once said. But then he did. Even though he would protest or say why he couldn’t do it, he always found a way. It remained a mystery how he was able to do the impossible…until he revealed his secret in the movie The Search for Spock. 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…” and Kirk is about to respond when Scotty finishes, “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?” Mystery solved.
Scotty gives himself a “buffer.”
He creates space to allocate for the unknown. And that way, he’s prepared for the unexpected. Because life can throw you curve balls, he found that this strategy worked for him. It gave him a chance to expect the unexpected. I found out that Disney does that in their theme parks. No matter how short the line is on a ride, the sign outside will always say “5-minute wait.” Even if you can walk right on! 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.
Do you give yourself a buffer in life?
Not necessarily a time buffer, but space in your life for the unknown. Our lives are often full of rigidity. We become rigid in our schedules, rigid in our viewpoints, rigid in our expectations, and we can’t handle when things come up that upset that 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. In our reading, Jesus has been speaking to the crowds after his encounter with the woman who committed adultery. The crowd wanted to stone this woman for breaking the commandments, 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. Not long after this, Jesus is again talking to a group of Jewish people. He is able to convince some of them he truly is the Son of God and he shares with them some wisdom they may not have been ready to hear.
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 Jesus is referring to – freedom from worry and anxiety because you have faith and trust in Christ. It is in Jesus that we gain our true freedom and it is in Jesus that we learn the truth. Having that freedom is what allows us to move forward in life – to grow and learn and fulfill our purpose. But like the group Jesus is talking to, many of us don’t even know we need this “freedom.” We walk around with all of this potential but are so rigid in our thinking and our perceptions we can’t see we are not as free as we think we are. We don’t leave room in our hearts and minds for new possibilities or new ways of looking at the world and so we become slaves to our own selves.
It’s interesting how this group of Jewish people talk to Jesus.
Jesus isn’t speaking to Gentiles. He’s speaking to his own people. And even more surprising, John tells us, is this group of people actually thinks he is the Messiah. John tells us in his Gospel, 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?” They don’t focus on Jesus’ main point – which is that in Christ they can have freedom in a way they haven’t experienced before. Instead they nitpick on his words and are offended by his statement. What’s more astounding is that they deny the reality of their own history. 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 Babylonaians or to the Persians? Of all the peoples in the world, it seems as if the Jewish people would remember they have often been slaves of others. Yet in their rigidity, they tell Jesus they have never been slaves of anyone. They didn’t even take a moment to ponder what Jesus was trying to share with them which had nothing to do with physical freedom, but spiritual. Their own pride and rigid view of the world got in the way of seeing the truth. Jesus tries to steer them toward the truth by clarifying his point. He 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. Pride. WHATEVER it is, it has a hold on you. But when you allow for the unexpected, when you give room in your heart for the Holy Spirit, when you give space for the possibility of new ideas and new ways of thinking, you just might find something remarkable. But even these “believers” can’t open their hearts to Christ.
Are you like that at times?
Are there times you feel yourself resistant to new ideas and new ways of thinking, even if your old ways are not producing the results you were hoping for? Christ is asking us to be open to the possibilities, to give room in our hearts to where God might be leading you, to allow for the movement of the Spirit in your life. God wants you to leave a buffer for the Spirit to work within you and around you. Because it’s in those gaps that amazing things can happen. It’s a lesson it’s taken me a while to learn, but that has become easier over time. It wasn’t always easy for me to listen to where God was leading me. I often thought that my plans were his plans and that made me unwilling to open up to where else God might want me to go. That was the case when I found out I wasn’t going to be coming back to Roswell UMC. My District Superintendent, my boss in the Methodist system, told me it was likely I was going to a small rural town outside of Atlanta. It was a town that was racially divided. It was a town that didn’t have a good school system. It was a town where Cassie would have to commute three hours everyday for work on a good day and it was rarely a good day for traffic in Atlanta. And it was a place that didn’t fit any of my gifts and graces. How in the world could this be where God was sending me? We tried everything to forge our own path, to go the route WE wanted to go, but every time we tried, we kept hitting roadblocks. Finally, I gave up. Normally, I’d say that was horrible, but in this case it was the best thing I could have done. I literally went into my closet, laid down on the floor in the pitch blackness of the room, and prayed. And I just said to God, “I can’t believe this is the path you want me to follow, but if it is, I’ll do it. But if it isn’t, if this is not where I’m supposed to be, would you please open a door for me? No matter what door is opened, I’ll walk through it.” That honest prayer, where I finally created room in my life for God to work, helped me to let go and trust in God like I should have all along. It only took an hour to get a response. After that prayer, I went back to my desk and started going through my emails and found one from a friend of mine out in California who just became a DS herself. She asked how things were going and I opened up to her about our situation. About an hour later, I got a phone call that changed the course of my life. I ended up coming back home to California to serve in our conference. And it has just been one God-led moment after another. It hasn’t always been smooth and rarely the way I expected it to turn out, but I have felt so blessed how things have turned out. All because I was finally willing to open myself up to where God was leading me.
Are you open to where God is leading you?
Do you pray regularly? Not for what you want or what you need, but do you ever pray for what God needs from you? Are you open to new ideas and new ways of doing things? Or have you become so rigid in your life that there isn’t room for where God might be leading you next? In any situation where you find difficulty, do what Scotty did and give yourself a buffer. Allow room for the unexpected and the unknown. Give different ideas a chance and you might be wildly surprised at where God is taking you. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.