Freedom: The Half-Won Blessing

"Bring out the festal bread and sing songs of freedom.
Shout with the slaves who fled, and sing songs of freedom.
Chains still there are to break; their days are not finished.
Metal or subtle-made, they’re still not diminished.”

- Hymn #220, Singing the Living Tradition
At Community Unitarian Church, our April theme is “Freedom,” which aligns with the Passover celebration. We celebrate the freedom we have – while also reflecting on the “chains still there are to break.”

Passover this year begins at sundown on Mon Apr 14. The celebration of freedom continues eight days, until the evening of Tue Apr 22. The first two days are full-fledged holidays commemorating the 10th plague, when the mystery beyond naming killed all the first-born of Egypt, but passed over the Israelites: hence, “Passover.” At this, Pharaoh released the Israelites from bondage. They immediately fled. Pharaoh changed his mind and went chasing after them. A week later came the episode of the parting of the Red Sea, commemorated the last two days of Passover, which are also full-fledged holidays. The middle four days are semi-festive.

Celebrate, then, and reflect on the blessing of freedom. In parts of the world, full-scale slavery is still going on. None of the members of CUC are enslaved in that full-scale way, and none ever have been. Even so, I would guess that there has been a metaphorical land of Egypt in your past in which you were bound and from which you now are free. Bring out the festal bread, and sing songs of freedom.

Yet freedom is the half-won blessing. Modern pharaohs live unchallenged. Chains still bind us – whether “metal or subtle-made.” Resentments, small or large, constrain us. A further Exodus awaits us still. And further truth, bright as a burning bush, cries to become known. We (we who are not under an unrelenting grind of oppression, not consumed wholly with mere survival) stand midway between full-scale slavery and full-scale liberation. The unfinished work of freedom lies before us. So bring out the festal bread and sing songs of freedom.

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