This week we celebrate Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. On June 19th 1865 the last remaining slaves were freed after the end of the Civil War. It’s a day in which we remember the suffering of enslaved Black people in this country, celebrate their emancipation, and also see afresh how far freedom has yet to go here. Police and vigilante brutality, the Prison-Industrial Complex, income and wealth inequality, maternal health outcomes for Black women - just a few of the markers by which we know that Shalom has not yet arrived in full. So we keep working.
Those slaves, and those unjustly imprisoned today were and are in overt bondage. But the powers that cause those bondages are subtler. And the ways those same forces have a stranglehold on society are subtler, and affect us all. We aren’t free until we’re all free.
This week’s Gospel selection is that of the Gerasene Demoniac, whom Jesus frees from a legion of demons who elect to go into a pack of pigs rather than into the void. As a result, the community loses a profitable asset and food source and are upset. Instead of celebrating the freedom of their brother, they are grumbling about the loss of their bottom line. Jesus offers them a new paradigm, a new value system in which Shalom might thrive, but they’re too affronted to see it. So they ask Jesus to go away; they don’t want his brand of freedom.
It strikes me how similar we are in U.S. society: unwilling to give up profit, comfort, security, predictability, etc. in order to reach a new level of liberation and Shalom for all. Willing to let a brother wither away in the tombs. Go away Jesus, we’d rather keep our addiction to fossil fuels, our cheap labor, and our corporate profits, than make sure the marginalized are cared for and the poor are fed and the prisoners are freed. We are the Gerasenes who send Jesus packing. Kyrie Eleison.
So that’s where I’m coming from with this litany. Thinking about the forces that subtly bind us, keeping us from God’s peace.
God, we realize we are bound in so many ways,
By powers and forces we can’t always see or touch,
But which pressure and confuse us anyway.
This world is full of prisons of humanity’s own making.
Christ, in his love, comes along willing to free us,
But we aren’t always willing to be freed. ..