Flying from this spot in the ocean, so far from any other sizeable landmass, means that we have to be prepared for the journey. Bringing things on that journey is getting more and more difficult. Peanut butter and cans of beans are just a few of the items I learned are not allowed to pass through security checkpoints. I know, I know, who brings a can of beans on the plane? Me. Or at least I tried. C’mon, nourishment is important, and the kinds of foods captives can purchase aboard airships are not nutritious, by and large.
I brought other nourishment with me, too. As many of you know, I spent the last two weeks on study leave. So that we all have a common understanding of this term, it’s not vacation. Study leave is a time for ministers to…well…study, but also to do the kind of work that daily, hourly attention to meetings and matters of ministry, does not allow. Among the goals of my study leave was to read some of the things members of our community have suggested I read. And that was part of my nourishment for this trip.
The freedom to explore new thoughts, to hear new voices, and to see our world anew is a gift. My studies helped me see these lands in a new way through the vibrant, singular life of the great Kaahumanu and a biography detailing her brilliance, humor, and her place in the political and spiritual life of these lands. I visited a retooled, reborn world of almost unthinkable resilience in Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. I thumbed through the nightmare imaginings of Philip K. Dick in The Man in the High Castle, that consider what our world would be like if World War II had gone differently.
I read a few other books, too. But inseparable from so much of what I was reading, over and over, came the same question: what is freedom? Is freedom the call and the answer of tearing down ways of living that were harmful, like Kaahumanu. Is freedom the power and the savvy to depart unhealthy and dangerous realities like the hero women of Seveneves? Is freedom an individual, personal journey to break the shackles of dominance and search for truth like Julia in The Man in the High Castle?
Ours is a faith founded in freedom. We cherish the freedom of conscience, the freedom of speech, and we hope ever for the freedom of all people everywhere. Yet in many ways, in our habits, relationships, or jobs, we are not entirely free. We all strike bargains between freedom and safety, security, and comfort. It’s very human. But as I lugged these volumes reimagining our world through security checkpoints, across oceans, the worries of a world at odds between safety and freedom came into focus and it was clearer than ever that if I fail take action for the freedom of others, then what I read about, what I think about, indeed, what I pray about it, might not matter much more than a hill, let alone a can, of beans.
It is good to be back with you. Many blessings of freedom to you all.
Rev. T. J.