When Moses tells Pharaoh that God wants him to, “Let my people go…” it might better be translated, “Send my people forth.” Simply letting people go suggests that they are free to do whatever they want. But to send people forth suggests an obligation on the part of the freed.
The American Revolution was founded upon the idea that as loyal subjects to the Crown they ought not to be taxed without representation. The emancipation of slaves was based on the idea that people stolen into slavery should have equal rights – regardless of skin colour. The suffragette movement achieved equality of the sexes, in terms of voting rights at least. Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke more often of responsibility rather than freedom in his fight against Apartheid.
The freedom Moses struggled for was freedom to do the will of God. Simply put, it is the freedom to worship. Sometimes our worship (and I hope I don’t mean specifically St. Paul’s worship) can feel oppressive. If it does, I suspect we’re doing it wrong. We need to be careful not to let worship become entertainment. Worship is not a product and parishioners are not consumers.
Worship is our common work. Choirs don’t perform, they lead. Clergy don’t intercede, they lead. Preachers don’t do stand-up, they teach. Parishioners don’t judge, they sing, pray and think. In freedom, all members of the parish worship, celebrate and are sent forth.
Sending forth is a two way action. We are sent forth to the liturgy, to worship together. And we are sent forth from the liturgy to put into action God’s will of love and mercy. After all, doing God’s will is the same as worship. To achieve freedom from oppression and to squander that freedom seems a great loss, but to live according to God’s will is perfect freedom.