I am busy preparing to preach this Sunday on Jeremiah 31:31-34. The text speaks of a people living in bondage, slavery, oppression, exiles in a foreign land. The prophet had warned the people that their lack of fidelity and commitment to the law, God and each other would be their undoing. Jeremiah was right and his people soon found themselves without hope. The prophet comes to a deep understanding of who God is, that God will be revealed not in laws but in the depth of the human heart. To give some definition to this directive the prophet weaves once again the central story of God’s people into this new story, this new covenant. As Moses led his people from bondage and slavery to freedom and emancipation so this new covenant will lead us to our true selves, we will live out our commitment to God by living out our commitment to each other.
This is a powerful story and one that resonates with the human story throughout time and in every place on our globe. The story of liberation moves people, inspires new life and plants the seed of hope for generations to come. When Barack Obama was running for President in 2008 as the candidate of hope he included in every speech references to peoples dreaming of hope, moving to freedom, believing that history “bends to justice”.
I grew up in a time when the old rules and assumptions were being questioned as never before. What was understood as “normal” was in reality a particular social construct, power was vested in a European culture, men were in charge, God and the church appeared in the form of British colonial civilization. Other ways of understanding the world, ways that would lift other people out of the margins and into the centre of human activity were resisted. Eventually the baby boomers rose to power and with them came a new way of doing business, more and different people were invited to the table, a new era of inclusion was upon us.
As a white straight middle-class male this could of come as a kind of shock and threat to me, after all I represented all the power of the former of the culture we were slowly evolving away from. But I embraced it and found and find the diversity to be highly stimulating, pushing me to think anew about my life and the life of others. Being the father of a Chinese girl and seeing the opportunities afforded her in this new era has been a great blessing to me.
But in the midst of this liberation to freedom and new life there have been challenges. One of them is a pattern many of us have seen and participated in for some time. That pattern is grievance. As we were becoming a more inclusive culture we could see people being denied the opportunity to be all that they could be. If someone was being held down on the basis of race, gender, orientation or economic status we could address it with justice, be in solidarity with her/him and work for justice.
But more recently this call to liberation has been confused with entitlement. Facing a setback all of us can now access some grievance where can say, “You held me down because I am…” Witness Donald Trump who today is championing the cause of aggrieved white men. Can anyone really say our society is biased against white men? Of course not! But too often when we look in the mirror we don’t see ourselves warts and all, we don’t realize there is work to be done. Rather we avoid this reflection by blaming everything that goes wrong in our lives on others who are holding us down. Living that kind of illusion keeps up enslaved to whatever it is that is undermining our desire to be all that we can be.
The cause of liberation continues. There is so much work to do done. But creating for ourselves a world of constant grievance will not lead to that liberation. The truth and justice will set us free. Let’s pray for discernment as we support one another in love.