Tuesday 4 April 2023

Whither Freedom?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

—Luke 4:18-19

The word “freedom” gets bandied about a lot these days. Whether used as an adjective to describe the convoys of those who would protest public health mandates, or as a name for the shedding of external constraints claimed by liberalism’s autonomous individual, we seldom pause to ask ourselves what freedom might be for.

Certainly, freedom normally includes freedom from something, especially something oppressive. I am reminded of the wonderful lines from The Waterboys song, “Fisherman’s Blues”:

I wish I was a fisherman
tumblin’ on the seas
far away from dry land
and it’s bitter memories.
Castin’ out my sweet line
with abandonment and love.
No ceiling bearin’ down on me
save the starry sky above.

These beautiful, evocative lines are then followed by the hopeful words:

And I know I will be loosened
from the bonds that hold me fast
and the chains all around me
will fall away at last.

In Luke 4, we hear Jesus proclaim something similar—release to the captives and freedom for the oppressed. Yet the very word “release” also hints that, not only are the oppressed freed from something, they are also freed unto something. Jesus’s proclamation of freedom also announces good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and the commencement of the year of the Lord’s favour!

Jesus invokes these opening lines of Isaiah 61 immediately after his time of trial in the wilderness, where he resisted the devil’s temptation to save himself and establish his authority by grasping for dominating power. After he rolls up the scroll at the synagogue that day, he informs those in attendance: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (vs. 21). Jesus opens the path of liberation and reveals that it does not lie in the direction most of us think it does. Is this not a wonderful mystery, and a ground for resilient hope?

This Eastertide, when our hearts and minds turn in a special way toward our Messiah’s liberating act of suffering love, we do well to consider what this redemptive act liberates us unto. How will we live into the year of the Lord’s favour? How might we participate in the joyful work of securing abundant life for everyone?

Some words of a prayer named after Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was himself murdered 43 years ago for speaking truth to oppressive power in El Salvador, encourage our desire and guide our efforts to live into the freedom that our Messiah’s redeeming act opens to us:

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and to do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

I like to think of ICS’s educational mission in just this way. God has blessed our community with a delimited but important task, and God enables us to do it well. What a blessing it is to engage in an educational ministry that shapes hearts and minds to be prophet’s of our Maker and Redeemer’s liberating future!

Friends, thank you for supporting our efforts to help people realize and seize their God-given freedom to live into the abundant life Jesus Messiah makes available to us. Know that your prayers and gifts enable an educational mission that seeks to liberate people unto the rich redemptive possibilities of God’s Kingdom a-coming!


Ronald A. Kuipers