Treasure Valley Prays

Freedom Blues

Mother holds body of Jesus

“Freedom’s just another word for
nothin’ left to loose
Nothin’ don’t mean nothin’ if it
ain’t free, no, no
And feelin’ good was easy, Lord
When he sang the blues
You know, feelin’ good was good
enough for me
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee!”

The lyrics above are from one of the greatest songs written, this is verse three of “Me and Bobby McGee.” If you know it then you most likely know that it was written by Kris Kristofferson. It has been performed by so many artists, the most famous by Janis Joplin and it was released just a few weeks after she died.

The song and it’s lyrics have always moved me to contemplate some powerful images in the context of my faith. The words speak of freedom and of the blues. Two important concepts for me in my faith journey. Now most people understand that freedom speaks to us in our Faith, but perhaps you might be confused by the concept of the blues. I hope by the time I finish this piece you’ll understand, otherwise I haven’t done my job.

We all have experienced freedom in our life. We make a big deal of it during the holidays, like Memorial Day and the 4th of July. It’s what we believe distinguishes us from other nations, we think it’s true if it is or if it is not. Yet freedom has a context. It’s so much more than crazily showing up in the state Capitol of Michigan armed with long guns and spitting on those who were tasked to protect us, the police. That is not freedom that’s abuse and it has nothing to do with our Christian faith. The context can be seen even in the song. Freedom comes to the singer and Bobby McGee through community. They are together, not alone in their own beliefs. We get through this life in freedom together. We are both a free person and a servant. We have a common cause of freedom found in the Gospel. Yet it also shows that it’s in community that this freedom is found, not all by myself carrying a flag that says, “Don’t tread on Me!” If we don’t understand that we are set free to love one another than the message has fallen on deaf ears.

Now the Blues are something so tied to my understanding of freedom of the gospel. This deeply original music was and are the songs of oppression. Songs born out of slavery and Jim Crow in the south and the just as horrible segregation of the north. They are deep laments of a people denied freedom. A people marginalized and lynched and so many other terrible things lift up their hurt for all the word to hear. They are psalm like for they can call God and us to answer the question, why didn’t you love these people? God does love but can the same be said of us. The Blues give expression for a deep desire for a freedom that has been denied!

The Blues let us know that there is a long way to go yet. They move me to work and speak for the freedom of all. God isn’t finished with this broken creation. Jesus reveals the freedom of a God who loves all and wants us all to be free. “God isn’t finished with us yet!”

Perhaps you don’t feel very free right now. Maybe you want to sing the blues and weep. Go ahead it’s okay. There is much to weep about. As I write these words we are about to pass 100,000 dead from Covid-19. Each person had a family and those who cared for them. So the grief and mourning touch millions and they wonder how to cope with it all.

We are free in the gospel and we serve out of a deep spirit that dwells within us. It’s the spirit of our baptism and it’s what gets us through our long night of grief. The freedom is tempered as we sing the Blues, for both reveal the truth. Both reveal we do not do it perfectly, but we commit ourselves daily to share the freedom and the blues just like “Me and Bobby McGee!

Let us pray...

God of freedom and the blues, help us this day to get through this time of separation and quarantine. Help us to see that there are so many who suffer and need both our prayers and our action, as we lift all who need food and housing. We pray for those who have lost their jobs and not sure what will come next. Protect all who grieve, those who serve in any capacity in our hospitals, fire and police stations give them hope as you give it to all who call on your name. Amen

*Editor’s note: This devotion was written a week ago, May 24, Memorial Day weekend.

Picture of John Hergert

John Hergert

Retired ELCA Pastor

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