O Clavis David: The God Who Frees

When we look at the writings of the prophets, we can run into danger if we over-spiritualize their words — and thereby let ourselves off the hook from their radical call for justice — or if we over-literalize them — and thereby limit the scope of their words to politics. (For as Jesus said, after giving hungry people bread, we do not live on bread alone.)

This wide breadth of the Gospel, encompassing both our practical and psychological needs, is helpful to remember as we look at today’s ‘O Antiphon’ :

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Our God is a God of freedom. Freedom is what God does. All the time.

This has important practical and political implications for us, especially in a world of mass incarceration and economic enslavement, and in which the long, deathly shadow of Western colonialism is still in many places dark and pervasive.

And yet the question put to us by former Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey is still relevant: We must ask ourselves not only what we must be freed from but also what we must be [freed for](post: freedom for). And this is often a trickier question. And once we ask it, it tends to reveal a whole other set of things we need to freed from: Not the external shackles of systems and empires this time, but the internal shackles of pride, attachments, and the ego.

We see this pattern in the story of the Exodus: God moved powerfully to free the people from slavery in Egypt; God then gives them the Law in order to free them from slavery to their selves. Both kinds of freedom are close to God’s heart; both are necessary for us to be truly free.

As we wind down this season of waiting and watching, it’s a helpful time to look at where our rough spots are: What unhealthy relationships are stressing us out? What attachments are causing us unwarranted pain? Do we know the difference between our needs and our wants? In short: What doors do we need opened for us? What doors do we need shut for ever?

God longs for us to be truly free.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Amen.

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