These are my thoughts for this week. They are based on the Scriptures for Sunday, July 2, 2017, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A) – Genesis 22: 1 – 14, Romans 6: 12 – 23, and Matthew 10: 40 – 42.
What are the sounds of freedom? What sounds or words do you associate with freedom? Granted, there are many choices one could pick but the first sound that I thought of was Richie Havens singing “Freedom” at the Woodstock Festival back in 1969.
The story is that Richie Havens was the opening act for the festival and only scheduled to sing a few songs. But, for whatever reason, the next couple of acts had not arrived and the organizers asked Richie to keep playing. So, he played and he played. And after playing virtually all his material, he began to improvise on the song, “Freedom.”
The ability to improvise is not as easy as it might seem. If one is not versed in the fundamentals of one’s trade, it is literally impossible to improvise. So, when I hear this song, I am reminded that freedom is more than a word and that we must work on the fundamentals upon which freedom is based.
And there is another song which reminds me of the fundamentals of freedom, “Find the Cost of Freedom” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash. As the words of the song state, the cost of freedom is buried in the ground. Unfortunately, there are those who see the way to freedom through war and are quick to go to war when other means can achieve freedom as well.
I am reminded of the closing lines of Patrick Henry’s speech on March 23, 1775. We all are aware of this speech for the closing line, perhaps echoing Joshua’s proclamation from Joshua 24: 15, “As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”
“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
But it is the line that precedes this is just as important when considering the words and sounds of freedom,
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the prices of chains and slavery?”
Those who heard that speech that day were probably well aware that Patrick Henry’s wife, Sarah, was mentally ill and there were those who felt that the best solution was to have her committed to the public hospital in Williamsburg.
If Patrick Henry had agreed to this treatment, his wife would have been locked in a windowless cell and chained to the wall with leg irons. Rather than accept this, he chose to keep her home, in a well-lit and well-ventilated two-room apartment with 24-hour attention. It should be noted that when Sarah died, she was died a Christian burial or religious funeral service because it was felt her mental illness was caused by possession by the devil.
The cost of freedom goes beyond the sacrifice of a few and to finding a way to maintain freedom. Sadly, in today’s world, there are those who wish for others to die for their country while ignoring the wounded and maimed. And when the wounded and maimed come home, they are quickly forgotten and monies that could be spent on building freedom are spent on additional weapons of war.
The next words of freedom come from Jesus. In John 8: 32, we read that we are to seek the truth and the truth will set us free. It is interesting to note that some of those who heard those words felt that they were already free because they adhered to the laws, rules, and regulations of the time.
But those laws, rules, and regulations gave freedom to those who wrote the laws, rules, and regulations; for the rest of the population, all they did was to enslave and entrap the population. When people began to seek the truth for themselves, instead of relying on others, then freedom became a possibility.
And that leads to the last words of freedom. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, he spoke of people working together to seek the common goals of all humanity.
The words and sounds of freedom are many and various. They echo through the ages and presage the future. And while individuals speak the words of freedom, they require the work of all the people, working for all the people and not just a select few. One cannot be free if someone else is not free.
So as you celebrate freedom, remember what you are asked to do.