Treasure Valley Prays

The Cost of Freedom

liberty to serve our neighbor

In May of 1970 shots rang out on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio as protesters against the Viet Nam War and National Guard troops clashed. In the aftermath it was found that 4 had died that day. I was 15 at the time living in far away Eastern Washington. A few weeks afterwards came a song that may or may not have been a direct reference to those who died that day or perhaps it was to remember the young men dying in the rice paddies of a faraway land. Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang a song with hauntingly harmonic sounds that still can move me to tears 50+ years later.

“Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground,
Mother Earth will swallow you,
Lay your body down.”

It seems the cost of freedom remains high these days, multiple mass shootings continue, almost always done by young white males, a city in turmoil as another young black man is killed by police, a trial in that very city is going on to determine if another police office murdered a helpless black man. White Supremacy has taken hold of our country once again as seen in the events in this state and our nation. We are filled with fear that somehow we are going to loose our freedom.

Let’s be bluntly honest with one another. Our actions have consequences. Our freedom comes at a cost and so far in this second year of Covid the cost has been the lives of those we love. We, with the help of irresponsible leaders decided that our freedom was greater than our neighbors and the hell with wearing a mask or self distancing. We decided that freedom has no cost. Well the 5 people who I knew personally who died of Covid just might disagree. I suspect the 561,000+ people in this country alone who have would echo that disagreement and sing that song.

Martin Luther, flawed man that he was, wrote a lot about freedom and perhaps his words can speak to what is really true when it comes to the freedom of a Christian. “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.” Wow that sounds like a freedom I can embrace, I don’t have to answer to anyone, but wait, Luther doesn’t stop there he adds these words immediately after, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Oh my, Luther believes as we should that our freedom is always in the contest of the other. It is a freedom found in the care of the neighbor. He makes no distinction between who we should serve. We are servants and that means our freedom is always in a living relationship. Remember Jesus only gave us two commands, love God and love neighbor.

I ask you can you love your neighbor if you refuse to wear a mask or listen to doctors? Can you love your neighbor when you refuse to care about those whose health is being endangered? Is that freedom? No it is not! No one is perfect and we won’t do this perfectly, but we can get it done. I’m an extrovert who hates being closed up. I venture out more than I should, though I am now fully vaccinated and put the mask on when needed.

Our country is not perfect either, the specter of gun violence, White Supremacy on the rise, racism infecting the hard work of being a member of the police, and our refusal to care for the other are signs that the cost of freedom is one we’d rather not pay. But if we won’t pay the ones who will pay are the very ones we are to love. That’s a cost I hope we don’t have to pay. Jesus died in solidarity with us, we all will die, but we don’t have to do it this way. We can turn and embrace a freedom that cares, a freedom that loves the neighbor and grieves for those who had to pay or will pay the price.

Let us pray...

Holy One we come to you this day asking for help, help to love the neighbor, to speak out against the senseless gun violence and racial hatred that continues to infect us, just as Covid has infected us. Empower us to care and to love as Jesus revealed that way to us. Amen.

Picture of John Hergert

John Hergert

Retired ELCA pastor

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