Monday, June 29, 2015

After Six Years of Yesterdays

After Six Years of Yesterdays
Peter T. Atkinson

I promised you all my tomorrows,
And now after six years of yesterdays,
I love you as much today as ever.
Thank you for who you are to me,
And who you are to our girls, and
As we grow into the future, becoming
The you and I we will be, let us
Mark the years, counting one by one,
For if they all fly by like these six have,
We will be looking back on more
Than we can imagine, quicker than
We can conceive, as our lives chase
Our dreams, or is it the other way
Around? The lines somehow seem
Blurred in the uncontrollable, wild,
And constant motions of love, like
Ocean waves, crashing over unseen
Holes underfoot. We walk, side by
Side, and hand in hand, we lean,
We stumble, we fall, but always
Are we together, you and I walking,
Step by step, along the path as we
Are being led through life by Love. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Seven Years

Seven Years
A Wedding Homily delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
for Joseph Ayers and Ariele Wildt
June 27, 2015
at Wild T Bison Farm, Haynesville, Virginia
Genesis 1:31 - 2:3

Let us pray:
Almighty God,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
            For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.
And in your loving name we pray. . . Amen

31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. [1]

So much can happen in six years, so much so that the Hebrews marked out seven as a holy number, a special number, a number that to them and their culture meant in itself completeness. The six years of work would be marked by the completeness of the seven. They looked around them and they saw in their world a real significance to the work of six, and the rest they'd take on seven, captured most perfectly and completely in the days of the week, the days of creation, and the natural cycles that revolve around these patterns of six, and so they'd rest on the seventh day, they held it as a perpetual observance, to remember and to reflect, a needed break and testament that would sustain them in the faith as the next week would come.
 So today, where we gather together to celebrate the joining together of two young people, who can see looking back on the last 6 years of their lives, graduating from college, finding work, making friends, finding each other, and in somehow finding each other, they have found love, and so today, we celebrate, and we take a day of rest, here in this amazing location, where we are surrounded by the glorious partnership of God's creation, paired indelibly with man's diligent and faithful, hard work, here we take a breath, and say thank you, and testify to the power of love in the creation, redemption, and sustenance of the world. It's hard to miss the wonders, surrounded by the beauty and the power of creation, on a day such as this that we have devoted to love. But like the Sabbath Rest, the seven represents, a wedding is not an end, but a beginning, for the unfolding of creation is ongoing and everlasting, and the power of love keeps working forever.
I decided that I wanted to talk about the work of 6 and the rest of 7, today as a metaphor and symbol because first of all, today marks my own 6th wedding anniversary. On this day, six years ago, June 27, 2009 I married my wife, and my life was forever changed, and it was truly special that on this day 6 years later, as I begin my 7th year of marriage, I get the chance and the honor to preside over the joining together of Ariele and Joseph. And I also think it was a cool providential coincidence, that when I first met Ariele I had just finished up 6 years of life beyond high school. I was in my third of teaching, was 25 years old, and was tasked with trying to teach Ariele and her classmates something, all I knew, about writing, thinking, living, and being a student. I can tell you that I had learned much in those first 6 years out of high school, but it wasn't enough to really feel wise enough to teach anything, but I decided to just wing it and never let them know my doubts. It seemed to work, and, in fact, a year or so ago, Ariele sent me an amazing note thanking me for being tough, taking no excuses, and leaving lasting marks on her as she entered her own classroom to teach, so in someways winging it must be where it's at.
So today, 6 years into my marriage, and beginning my 7th, again I am in a place to give some wisdom, provide something tangible to say about what marriage is all about, and I feel just about as prepared to do so as I felt prepared to teach back then. So I'll just wing it again, and see how it all turns out. I will say that marriage is difficult, I've learned that, as rewarding as it is, as amazing as it is to be committed to someone, supported by someone, while supporting them, as amazing as it is to see your wife's and your own character traits, find this weird, magical, perfect match in your children, as amazing it is to know that someone is fully committed to being with you for the rest of your life, there are days and moments when our doubts, insecurities, and the other flaws that make us human come pouring out and they rush to the surface, and they cause turmoil, and they cause pain, and they're petty, and silly, but all so hurtful, because as huge as eternity is, often moments loom so much larger, and we panic while the clock is ticking slowly, and hold on to our grudges, and lose our faith, and perspective, and it's hard.
Love is sacrifice and sacrifice is hard because you are giving up yourself. Love is faith and faith hard because you are giving up your control. Love is hope, and hope is hard because you get caught in these moments of doubt. Love is patient and patience is hard because those moments of doubt envelop us often seemingly entirely. So why go through with it? The easy answer is that you are each incomplete without it.
One of the other things I've learned in my 6 years of marriage, and this is what sustains me entirely, is that love is ordained by God. When God made each of you, he made you for the other, and the winding paths of the world, that have led you both to this moment, are filled with countless unexplainable events, serendipitous and providential, that only a fool would explain as coincidence. It is much too perfect, much too precious, and much too otherwise  unlikely to have ever come to be by accident. No it works like creation, and it develops and it is out of our control, and it is good. . . days like this attest, and live as a witness to love's abiding presence. So as you go forward, remember this day in the moments where those doubts and worries envelope you, and do what you can to take time, repetitive, cyclical, and intentional time to remember the love we and everyone here gathered witness to on this day, and treasure it, these little things can and will sustain us and shine its light into those darkest moments of doubt. God knows our needs so well, that for those Hebrews, this Sabbath reminder of creation was so important, that it was made a commandment by God, a time to rest, remember and reflect. God again knows exactly what we need.

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ge 1:31-2:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Loving Brother Celebrates His Sister's Victory

A Loving Brother Celebrates His Sister's Victory!
Peter T. Atkinson, H-SC '00

Grab your pearls and holla, holla loudly!
Don your rose and bear it proudly
Declare it far, spread it wide
Sweet Briar college has survived!

It seem it was just like yesterday,
They tried to shut my sister away,
Saying she's over, done with, and through,
That they tried, but had nothing more they could do.

Grab your pearls and holla, holla loudly!
Don your rose and bear it proudly
Pull your pink and green ribbon tight
The vixen girls have won the fight.

And then since we were given no warning
We spent one night crying, grieving, and mourning,
But just as the dawning sun came shedding its light
She emerged from the ashes rising to fight.

Grab your pearls and holla, holla loudly!
Don your rose and bear it proudly
Testify now to the power of prayer
My sister school, ain't going nowhere!

The road was long, the battle raged uncertain,
Trying, struggling, racing, against time's closing curtain.
The more we asked, questioned, and pleaded,
The more we found our way impeded
                                The more we needed
                                The leadership weeded
                                Our anger was heated,
                                For we felt cheated
                                Our sisters mistreated
                                Her efforts gone unheeded
                                Their echo still repeated
                                The school must be deleted
                                Then one more time with faith depleted
                                Standing, worried, all but defeated
                                She never wavered and humbly proceeded
                                It was only then her victory was completed
                                She faced the darkness and she succeeded.
So grab your pearls and holla, holla loudly!
Don your rose and bear it proudly
Never, no never, no never again doubt
We now know what Vixen's are all about!

And after celebrating this battle won,
We must remember that we are not done,
For now she's saved, and standing tall,
But the real work is setting up for next fall,
Because a school is more than a name and a board,
Or a court decision and a political accord.
The time is now to build years to come,
But what a blessing to know there will be some!

Grab your pearls and holla, holla loudly!
Don your rose and bear it proudly
Standing together, arm in arm as friends,
The road goes on forever, and Sweet Briar never ends!

So now we can say Sweet Briar is saved,
Obstacles removed, and a way forward is paved,
Thanks to so many who rallied to her call
And would not allow her mission to fall.

Grab your pearls and holla, holla loudly!
Don your rose and bear it proudly
Sing one more time, hell sing on forever,

Sunday, June 14, 2015


A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
June 14, 2015
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
John 9: 1-12

Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives      
For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.

9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” [1]

Chapter 9 starts like so many earlier chapters have, with a miraculous healing from Jesus, and like the others this one causes quite a stir amongst the Jewish leadership, and like the others it occurred on the Sabbath. One thing that is different in this story is that there is a ritual associated with the healing. Jesus spits on the ground, and makes enough spit, to stir up a little mud, he picks up the newly made mud, saliva mixed with dirt, and rubs it, spreading it over the man's eyes, and then sends him to the pool of Siloam, which the Gospel writer points out to us that the pool's name, Siloam means, sent. . . so Jesus sends the blind man with his eyes covered with saliva and mud to the sending place pool, and he regains his sight. This sending to the pool allows for Jesus not to be around when the healing is discovered, much like earlier with the man who was paralyzed and healed. The people that become angered by the situation hear about it second hand. . . from the newly healed person. . . so from him we get to see the healed man's proclamation of Jesus as a healer, as a prophet, as the son of God, and of course then see the reaction of all of Jesus' most harsh critics.
What stands out in this passage, and what has been the most interesting to me is the deeply theological question that the disciples ask Jesus about this blind man. They want to know why he is the way he is. They want to understand why God would make this man blind. Why God would curse him with blindness, why a God who they know to be just would punish someone with blindness without sin being the cause, and since they can't imagine that a "good" God, a Just God, a compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding with steadfast love God could do such a thing for no reason, it must be that someone sinned. Was it him, or was it his parents? An interesting question for sure, especially when you take the idea that the man was blind since birth. . . if it was him who would have sinned to earn his blindness, then that would suggest some pretty radical ideas about sin and punishment. One would be that we can sin in the womb, before birth, that we can be earning punishment before even the beginning of our own discernment. Imagine an idea like that and what it would mean. The other possibility would suggest a kinda time machine punishment factor, that God could punish us now for sins that he knows we will commit later. Imagine that for a second. It works in Back to the Future and other science fiction time machine dramas, but it doesn't really seem like Justice, because wouldn't the punishment then become a contributing factor to the behavior later. Someone shaped by and through the bitterness of hardship to sin. . . it's circular, and maybe entrapment. It's like a Oedipus situation, fated, and miserable, again it doesn't sound like God to me.
The flipside of it though is parents. .  . could it have been the sins of his parents that cause his blindness. . . If we look at the Sins of the Parents being reattributed on children in future generations, it is not a concept that is foreign to the Biblical tradition. Erick read for us in Numbers. .  .
18     ‘The Lord is slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love,
forgiving iniquity and transgression,
but by no means clearing the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
to the third and the fourth generation.’
19 Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.”
20 Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked; 21 nevertheless—as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord 22 none of the people who have seen my glory and the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors[2]

There is that steadfast love and forgiveness, but also the sins and guilt of the parents being carried out against the children to the third and fourth generation. . . but you also have forgiveness. . . the glory of the Lord. . . and people not being able to see the land. . . interesting when juxtaposed with this morning's passage. . . So even though this is a challenging theological concept, too, it has some basis within the Biblical Tradition. . . but strangely, Jesus doesn't give an answer that either of those posited questions as accurate, but instead his answer, "neither."
Neither, it is not about sin, but so that God's works would be revealed through him. Now this is an ancient question. Why do bad things happen? If God is Good, and God created this world, why is the world not good? Is it because of something that we did? Is it because of something that our parents did? It must be because getting what we deserve is justice, justice right, and justice is good, eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, now we kinda can understand mercy when it comes to subverting justice, like when the hand of justice decides that a second chance is valid, and gives it, like the kind of mercy that makes Jonah so bitter when God spares Nineveh, or the second chance of getting to the promise land after messing up in the desert, being led astray, all the grumbling, lacking of faith, but God's steadfast love and mercy comes to play, and we understand that it happens that way sometimes, we get the mercy side. Justice is one thing, we desire it, but we do sometimes get mercy and we can accept it, and understand it, but we can't though comprehend when bad things happen to good people. . . someone always needs to be blamed for it to be right. We are always looking for those answers. How can a just God work that way? Someone must be to blame. This is the basis of the question  the disciples ask.
And it's nothing new. Job, one of the oldest books in the Bible works through this question. . . and also offers points of view like the disciples question. Job, your world has fallen apart. . . death, sickness, loss of property, drought, starvation. . . its like the old joke, I think it's Flip Wilson, about coming home from being away. . . and he comes home asks what happen, and the guy answers, well not much but your dog died. . .
Yeah he ate the bad horse meat. . . .
yeah cuz the barn burnt down.
Fire started in your house
Candles from the funeral
Your mother in law,
Your wife ran off. .   .
It's like bad things happen and they pile on. . . it was that way for Job. And everyone showed up and told him why exactly he was suffering. . . they told him it must have been his fault, something that he did, something that had shown his faithlessness, and therefore he deserved it, but it's not true. . . God has more going on. . .  it's a mystery. . . . God is Good, God is just, but we don't understand. . . can we be humble enough to admit that? These days?
There is a great poem about the plight of man, Alexander Pope wrote it, called the "Essay on Man" it has famous lines in it, and I quote it often, but my favorite part is the end of the first section. . . it goes like this. . .
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right. 

In other words, whatever is, is directed by God. . . in our world. . . lumps and all. . . people being blind from birth, not because of sin, but because of some blessing, or some aspect of God's glory that is unknown to us. There is mystery there, there is faith there, and there for us to wrap our minds, which are so clouded by the sadness, and the pain, the seeming injustice, and all of the hardship, to wrap our minds around that, we really need to start with humility, that we just don't know the answer, and can be satisfied without one, that the answer to who is to blame is neither, because who is to say that the struggle is a curse and not a blessing.
I put an old Chinese proverb in the bulletin today about the lost horse. . . it is about the problem that people have with perspective. . . that even though we think we have all the answers, there is much of the world surrounding us that is well beyond our understanding, and we misconstrue the good for the bad all the time. . . Like my anthem, "Unanswered Prayers" we don't always know in the moment, what is good and what is not. Just so in the story it's all connected. . .
This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, "What makes you think it is so terrible?"
A month later, the horse came home--this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, "What makes you think this is good fortune?"
The farmer's son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, "What makes you think it is bad?"
A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. "What makes you think this is good?" said the farmer.

God is an artist, and a poet, and a creator, and his masterpiece that surrounds us is bigger than we are, and though we do not understand. . . it is good, and working itself out with God's own hands towards his glory. . . and Jesus gives us a glimpse of God's glory to us, by giving sight to someone who did not have it before. . . Jesus could not have done that unless the man was blind. . . just like he cannot save us without our sin. . . don't you see, that in both cases it is not about sin, but about God's glory. . . therefore humble yourself enough to not need all the answers, and still live.

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 9:1-12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[2]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Nu 14:22-23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Fathers, Places, and Freedom

Fathers, Places, and Freedom
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
June 7, 2015
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
John 8: 31-38

Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives      
For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.

Now deciding where to set the boundaries of this passage we are studying this morning was difficult. In some ways you want to keep it short so it can be focused, but in other ways you don't want to leave anything out of the context that may be important. This problem , I have found, since we began this study back in January, is particularly an issue in the Gospel of John, where everything is related and connected in terms of the overall rhetorical and theological message of the gospel. Unlike the other gospels that are set up Chronologically, John's is set up in a very different way, connected by idea and argument much more so than tied to events. What also is important, and I want to bring this out this morning, is the literary and linguistic character of the gospel that is often lost in translation. I want to this morning study the second half of chapter 8 in its entirety because here in chapter 8, we see again Jesus pushing the issue on exactly who he is, what his mission is, and how he has been sent by the father. These are the issues at question again, just like they have been at question throughout. Here again they reach the head of anger and violence, for Chapter 8 closes with "So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple." We are dealing with really difficult teaching, Jesus holding the line amidst real harsh criticism, that is getting worse and worse, to say the least. . . if you have your Bibles with you, or there are some pew Bibles around, keep a finger on this page because you might want to look back at the text. . .  and I'll be referencing beyond what I read here, but all of the issues that are raised in the chapter are raised in these first few verses, so I wanted to start here before going forward, so John 8: 31-38

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 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. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”z
I decided to title this sermon Fathers, Places, and Truth, because those are the three issues raised here. Jesus starts with  the famous line, "The Truth will Set you Free. . . . " and from this the issues begin. The people ask, set us free from what, we are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. . . . Not even the Romans I would guess? But there we are introduced somewhat to the question of Fatherhood, ancestry, children of Abraham, but Jesus clarifies, and says no I mean free from sin. . . and then goes further and starts to talk about places. . . . Slaves and their places. So these three issues I want to talk about this morning: Fathers, Places, and Freedom vs. Slavery in terms of Sin. Three very strange things to be brought together, but Jesus does bring them all together here in this series of speeches, and the real depth is found when you look at the original language of the gospel because the parallels go much deeper than is seen in English.
Now on the surface, when I read it in English earlier in the week, I was like, wow here they are again, taking Jesus literally, and missing the point, just like back with Nicodemus and the born again, saying how can he go into the womb again. . . Here we have a problem based on fathers. Remember they are having trouble with the slavery idea. . . and then the idea of Abraham as their Father. . . then God as their Father. . . check it out, picking up with verse 39:
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doingaa what Abraham did, 40 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. 41 You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.” 42 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. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. 44 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. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”
48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51 Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”ab 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
So let's deal with the Father's first. . . did you keep a tally of how many father possibilities there are being thrown around by them here? First you have Abraham, then God the Father, then the Devil, who in turn is called a Father of lies. And they also accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan and having a demon. . . so that would include another Father per say, and we haven't even talked about Joseph yet. Now to us on the outset we all know that Jesus is talking about God the Father, when he is talking about the Father, and we wonder why the Jews would have so much confusion, but there in the real time,  you could almost see where their confusion would come from, especially since they are already pushed in their religious beliefs to the edge, and have reason to be on the extra defensive against Jesus. Again he is either a crazy man with a Demon, or is telling the truth and is the Son of God. And this behind this question of Father's is identity and mission. . . in their culture who your father is, what tribe you come from, what ethnic background you have is closely tied to fathers and sons. Your way through the world is very much determined by who your father is and has been, because it is all wrapped up in tradition. So being a Son of Abraham says something, or closer a son of a Samaritan, a son of a Carpenter, the son of David, the Son of man, and Jesus claiming to be the son of God, would very much shape his status, his message, and how he was to be seen by the people. Likewise being a accused as the son of the devil, having a demon, would also put Jesus in a definite and inescapable place.
And that is connected to what I found most interesting in the reading, not in Jesus and the peoples' descriptions of Father's and identity, although that is certainly important and related, but instead his descriptions of place because place is really important, and it is something that could really be missed because it is so basic to us, that we don't even question it, and I didn't really notice it either in my drive-by English initial reading, but when I slowed down and started looking at the original Greek text I found some details that I found really interesting, important, and profound to the argument and points that John the Evangelist is making. In one aspect, who your father is determines your place. . . and that makes sense from a Jewish aspect. Their identity, their religious status, and even their position as righteous is connected to their ancestry and their adherence to the law. Jesus is challenging this position, and this special place.
Let's look back again to the second half of our text, verses 34-38.
34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 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. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”z

So you see all of the place words in there, you have - - "permanent place - in the household" -- the son has a "place there forever" then  later - - "there is no place in you for my word" and then "Father's presence." The first two, permanent place, and place there forever are both the same word, "meno", which means to live and abide, but "household" is "oikos". . ., which is an interesting word, meaning home, our English word economy comes from this. . . , and maybe the most important parallel is that it is the word used in the 23rd Psalm in the Greek translation, for "house of the Lord", so you can see the parallels forming, and "there is no place" is a different word entirely, "choreo" which means to move forward, advance. . ., and that is good because it would be hard to understand the concept of place in what Jesus says, there is no place, "choreo" in my Word, that Logos, word we remember from the first chapter. . .
Now that is all pretty technical stuff, but it comes down to a real specific claim, and actually makes more sense in Greek than it does in English. . . Jesus is saying, it is the truth that sets someone free, makes someone free, free from what, free from sin. . . why would you need to be free from sin. . . because as a slave you have no place in the household, you work in the household, but you are not a part of the household, as a slave to sin, you work and work, but never advance, never get anywhere. . . you have no place in God's house, you cannot dwell in the house of the Lord forever. . . but the truth sets  you free from that, giving you a place, and Jesus is claiming to be that truth, coming directly from the presence of the Lord to let us know, and therefore such truth gives advancement, a place in the Word, advancement from slavery to a real place in the household of God. These connections are somewhat lost in the clunkiness of literal English translation. These are major claims also because not only is oikos from the 23rd Psalm but it is also connected to being within the Lord's protection in general. . . what God does when he creates the world is he divides the waters setting up barriers and creating a space for us to live in. . . this place is in the presence of God. . . . so you see place is really important, place, and space, and household, and presence. . . these are the important things that God the Father brings into existence, and being connected to the Father through the Son is the ticket to them, it is the truth, and as Jesus says the truth shall set you free.
We spent alot of time last week talking about truth, and finding truth. Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the source of all knowledge. Jesus also claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. . . which shall set us free. And Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd, taking care of his sheep within the sheepfold, caring for us in his place. These are the claims that Jesus makes. . . he says it is the truth. . . the simple way to be affected by the truth is simply to believe, else is darkness. So the big question remains, why would such a message cause people to pick up a stone?

z Other ancient authorities read you do what you have heard from your father
[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 8:31-38). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
aa Other ancient authorities read If you are Abraham’s children, then do
ab Other ancient authorities read has Abraham seen you?
[2]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 8:39-59). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
z Other ancient authorities read you do what you have heard from your father