Personal freedom is the cornerstone of western society. In the modern era, whole countries have been founded on this principle alone. So it raises the question: what is freedom and what is it for? As our culture has got less and less tethered to a coherent vision of reality, freedom has come to mean essentially autonomy or independence: license to do whatever we want or, within postmodern culture, whatever comes to hand.

But the Exodus Story leads us back to a bigger vision of reality that gives our lives purpose. And true to the Biblical script, God does this via the counter-intuitive route of the desert. This iconic story confronts us with the question: “what good can come in these barren places and why would God allow us to go through them, or even more troubling, lead us there intentionally?

The answer goes to the very heart of what freedom is and it concentrates our attention on what lies at our core — our deepest desires, motivations and sense of identity. The Exodus story, which Jesus walked himself generations later, weans us off a vision of freedom as autonomy (essentially to be free from other people and things), and it forms us in the rhythms of trust that lead to the freedom of following the loving Creator who sees our lives from a bigger perspective.

Last Sunday I spoke about my own wilderness wandering in the “beautiful desert” of Vancouver before we came home to St Paul’s. In that time, as many of the old certainties melted away, two questions rose to the forefront of my mind. The first was why God had seemingly called me down a series of paths that now felt like loose and disconnected threads, and also how he could make life add up after what seemed like a significant slipping back down the sand dune of progress. As I look back over that time and the years since, I marvel at the way God miraculously wove all of those threads together in a way that I could never have mapped out for myself, and also the way that he, not only filled in the years, but added in more still.

The Exodus Story is a story of salvation, which means both rescue and restoration. Through it God rescues us from the narrow confines of our own independence, and shows us how to enter into the expansive life that he is calling us into. Most dramatically, the Exodus story is about God setting captives free. So today, we’re looking at two equally dramatic ways that God is doing the same thing in our times through people who have been shaped by the Exodus Story. What would setting captives free in its most essential form look like today? Well, freedom from prison and prostitution seems like a pretty good place to start.

Blessings,
Rev Jonny Grant