An a capella music ministry from my alma mater (that alone tells you everything you need to know about my old college) had a song they finished every concert with: Freedom is Coming.
Apparently, an earlier incarnation of the group had been travelling and met with another a capella group at a gas station who taught them this song. As with all stories of this type, the exact group that taught it is lost to history.
What I love most about this song (aside from understandable nostalgia) is how it swings easily between freedom and Jesus. Both are, well, coming.
Freedom is coming, oh yes I know!
Jesus is coming, oh yes I know!
Freedom is coming, oh yes I know!)
Superficially, this makes no sense – it’s a category error. Jesus is a person, freedom an attribute. Conflating the two shouldn’t work. But in a deeper way this makes all the sense in the world. Through Jesus we can be free. With him, we have real freedom.
We are slaves to death: we all die and face the existential terror of meaninglessness. And I can say that as a naïf 20-something, I’m sure it’ll get worse.
Christ triumphed over this slavery to death, first in himself and then for us. He died and got better. Through the resurrection and our inclusion in that we are freed us from slavery to death by joining with himself in baptism and through the church.
Sometimes this doesn’t look like freedom from death. Christians still get sick and die: we don’t have a magical pass on the hard stuff of life. Indeed, we are even told that we are going to have trouble in life – to expect and not be surprised by difficulty.
But we don’t need to feel existential dread and we aren’t slaves to death anymore. We are more free than we were because we know that death does not have the final word in our lives.
So: remember your baptism. That unites you with Christ and gives you a life free from death. Even if, like me, you weren’t actually dunked, you really were buried under the water and rose again. As we all know by now, what is dead may never die – death has lost its power over you.
After your baptism, don’t give up going to church. I can get irritated with the church, for all sorts of valid reasons, but it is still where we see Jesus. Being part of the church means to be part of Jesus. When we are with each other, we are united more fully with Christ and with the one who has conquered death and freed us from its grip. These are metaphors but they are true – one doesn’t rule out the other.
To be honest, whenever I sing or hear “Freedom is Coming” I always get confused. I lose track of whether I’m supposed to be singing “Jesus” or “freedom.” Slipping from one to the other happens naturally. Perhaps that’s OK, since through baptism and in the church we can be part of Jesus, and truly free.