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The Freedom of Exodus

posted May 19, 2016

Written by The Rev. Mike Wernick

Whew! Holy Week is behind us. And winter is behind us too. And as the weather warms, we become freed from the tyranny of Michigan winters. Freed from the boundaries of our heated homes. Green stalks reaching upwards are freed from the confines of the dark, cold earth. And animals are freed from their dens and burrows, and perhaps their hibernation. Springtime is a kind of freedom from the death of winter.

Springtime is a kind of freedom from the death of winter.

And I refer to the Freedom of Exodus because it was one of our Easter Vigil readings. In the Book of Common Prayer, it’s one of the required readings when there are only two readings; and in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (which we also use here at Two Churches) it’s one of the four readings which are not omitted when one chooses from among the twelve options.

I refer to it because the Freedom to which the Exodus describes is crucial. It is critical. But it’s not just something that happened to “them” way back “then.” It’s something that’s been happening since then, to their descendants (in fact, to all people).

When Jewish people celebrate the Passover (which many just did), they don’t talk about what happened “to them.” They talk about what happened “to us.” They include themselves in the slavery and in the deliverance. It is an anamnesis. It is a shared experience which connects people across time and space. And the freedom which the Exodus describes is something that’s happening to us now. Every day. In every moment. And it will happen to our children and our grandchildren and our descendants.

The freedom which the Exodus describes is something that’s happening to us now. Every day. In every moment. And it will happen to our children and our grandchildren and our descendants.

Freedom. But it’s probably not freedom from slavery––though the sin of slavery (and human trafficking) still exists in America and around the world. The Freedom of Exodus is about gaining freedom from those impulses, notions, ideas, beliefs, behaviors, or the addictions, which continue to enslave us. Which continue to shackle our thinking. Which continue to whip our spirits. Which continue to imprison our potential. And the Freedom of Exodus is about gaining freedom from all the things we do to enslave others.

After working through many of my own family of origin issues, I’ve come to believe that we can’t have bright, shining, glorious Gospel lives without also addressing our family of origin issues and the multi-generational dysfunction that may accompany them. This multi-generational dis–ease may find expression in something like alcoholism. But it can just as easily find expression in a kind of emotional parochialism. The notion or belief that “how we do it here is RIGHT!”

One of the topics I often discuss in pre-marital counseling is the difference between what’s normal and what’s normative. It may be normal for one of the two to open Christmas presents always and only on Christmas Eve. And it may be normal for the other one to open Christmas presents always and only on Christmas morning. It’s normal to them because that’s what they knew––that’s what they experienced in their family of origin. But it’s not normative. It doesn’t determine what the other person ought to do. How the other person ought to / should behave. One person isn’t right and the other person isn’t wrong. They simply need to determine what now works best for them.

There are many pathways that water may take as it courses down the mountain to seek union with the Sea; and there are many pathways humanity has taken as it has sought union with God. And in (what I believe was) a moment of great clarity, the Jewish people gave Word to Truth in the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” One God and not many gods. One God, but now with many ways of perceiving, understanding, worshipping, and seeking union with that unfathomable Mystery.

Ultimately, the Freedom of Exodus is about gaining boundlessness. About gaining enlightenment. About gaining the Mind of Christ.

Ultimately, the Freedom of Exodus is about gaining boundlessness. About gaining enlightenment. About gaining the Mind of Christ. Not something that we intellectualize, but something we own and experience as the ground of our Being. The church fathers said that God became human so that we might become more divine. And I come back over and over again to the idea that in his divinity, Jesus was also the embodiment of love in action. From how he was. From his “I am-ness.” And that love in action comes unwaveringly out of a consciousness that is united, unified, and unanimous with all of the manifest and the unmanifest creation.

In the current social and cultural context, our emotional parochialism can become a religious parochialism which enslaves, shackles and whip us into such a subservient “eyes-down” myopic perspective that we believe our religion is right and other religions are wrong; and we lose sight of the boundless promised land that God has prepared for all of us. We inflict violence on each other in the name of our pathway, because we believe it to be the only orthodoxy. And we erect brick and mortar walls. Or theological walls. To protect those within (and their sense of what’s normative) and to keep others out.

But the human heart is not simply a muscle which pumps blood. It is also an organ of perception. It is the seat of emotion and intuition. I dare say it is where the Mind of Christ resides––a way of being and style of functioning that is available to us in every time and every place. But it is a million-mile journey from the tyranny of our dualistic minds to the freedom of our unitive hearts, where there are no walls, but only God’s self-emptying love that yearns to flow through us and to our neighbors, making all things new. But that is our anamnesis. That is our inheritance. Holy God, make it so.