I've been thinking a lot about freedom and liberation. Sunday is, after all, the Fourth of July. Plus we recently celebrated Juneteenth (June 19th and the ending of slavery in the United States).
I've also been thinking about freedom and liberation in the context of the first Passover (Exodus 12). You remember the story: God's final plague on the Egyptians kills all first born sons. God instructs the Israelites to kill a lamb and mark their doors with its blood, so that God can "pass over" these homes and spare their first born sons. After this plague strikes, Pharaoh finally allows the Israelites to leave in freedom.
To this day, practicing Jews celebrate the passover and their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The introduction to Diane and Dave Levy's Haggadah (the Passover order of worship) reads: "Celebrating Passover means more than that first emancipation that the Israelites won from Pharaoh when they left Egypt. Pharaoh in this story, repeated year after year for centuries, becomes every tyrant, every cruel and heartless ruler who ever enslaved men, women and children in their country. The exodus symbolizes any time in history when common people won their freedom, and gained their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Jewish people do not simply celebrate this festival as something out of the past, but as a reminder that God is a liberator and that God wants all people to be free from oppression, injustice, destitution and despair.
It is no coincidence that the Last Supper is connected to the Passover tradition from Judaism. After all, the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection is also a story of liberation. Although this story is often interpreted in an individualistic way: Jesus died to free me from my sins, Jesus' life and death were never about individual salvation. Just as the purpose of the passover and exodus was the liberation of the Israelite people, so Jesus' life, his teachings and ultimately his death are about liberating God's children -- all of them.
Where in our nation and world are people in need of liberation? I think of those who live in communities rife with violence, those living under crippling poverty or the long shadow of this pandemic. I think of refugees fleeing their homes, and those of minority ethnic or religious groups under government persecution. I think of people living with addiction. I think of the prejudices and biases from which I, myself need liberating.
This Fourth of July weekend, what liberties and freedoms do you enjoy? Where in your life do you need liberation? And who in our communities and world still needs freedom to be who they are, to live in safety, and to enjoy the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?