Proclaim liberty

Background: There are two great ironies behind the “Liberty Bell,” associated with the founding convictions of the United States of America and inscribed with the phrase “Proclaim liberty throughout the land and unto the inhabitants thereof.” The reference, from Leviticus 25:10, is a text that stipulates profound social renewal as part of God’s covenant with the Hebrew people, requiring the forgiveness of debt, reclamation of ancestral lands and the release of slaves every fifty years.

It is ironic, first, because the bell’s tolling to announce the opening of the first Continental Congress in 1774 was preface to the nation-building policies that enshrined slavery as a legal form of commerce. Indeed, throughout human history the lure of commercial gain often trumps humane political aspirations.

A second irony is that the bell, originally referred to as the “Independence Bell,” did not assume its current name until 1837 when it was adopted by the American Anti-Slavery Society as a symbol of the abolitionist movement.

Let praise leap from the lungs, ascend the throat, rattle the teeth and flutter the tongue. The Blessed Haunt of Zion calls out to all flesh. To this Embrace, everything that has breath shall come. The God who lingers in slave quarters assails every Pharaoh’s palace:

Let my people go! Proclaim liberty throughout the land!

Independence from the Reign of Death has been declared! The boundaries of transgression have been breached. The Liberty Bell of Creation echoes across the hills and plains. The God who forges a people of redemption sets the covenant of freedom as the bond of bounty:

Proclaim liberty throughout the land!

The very edges of the earth hear the sound of God’s Rousing. The sun’s rising is a gateway for the Beloved’s Voice, and the evening stars burst into freedom song. The God who waters the earth and sprouts abundant harvest, who clothes the meadow and silences the roaring sea, makes this demand of every citizen of Mercy:

Proclaim liberty throughout the land!

Let no one lift a coin of gold and say, “In God We Trust.” The shekel’s rule and the shackle’s restraint shall feel the wrath of the One who sets prisoners free. In this confidence, sing and shout together, lift every voice and sing:

Proclaim liberty throughout the land!

©Ken Sehested @ Inspired by Psalm 65, for a worship service focused on the U.S. “Independence Day” holiday on 4 July.