When people ask me about my birthday, I have a typical response that goes like this: “My birthday is really easy to remember. It falls on Bunker Hill Day.” The faces that react are usually blank. Even if by chance someone knows about the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolution, no one ever remembers the day.
Bunker Hill Day is perhaps as obscure as Juneteenth. However, Texans should know what it is, because it celebrates a moment that happened in Galveston on June 19th 1865. It commemorates the announcement made on the balcony of the Aston Villa by the Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops, as they came to take possession of the state and enforce President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The announcement was called General Order No. 3, which basically informed the people of Texas that all slaves are free. You can imagine how that was received in Texas, a state that historically doesn't like to be told what to do!
Juneteenth is a 19th century exodus story. It is a story of people who experience in a moment – freedom, liberation, salvation, who experience being released from the very real chains that bound them.
In this regard it reminds us of the Exodus story of Moses, a story that still defines us as followers of Jesus, that should inform our understanding of salvation.
The Exodus story in the Book of Exodus recounts the experience of a people who are liberated from their overseers. Hebrew slaves suffer under the heavy hand of Pharaoh, but who in a moment walk out of a prison-like life in Egypt, through the baptismal waters of the Red Sea, and who begin to walk into a whole new world, being set on a whole new journey, a journey of faith following God as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.
I often observe that for many good people exodus stories seem either to be relegated to the past, or are stories expected to only happen in the future.
We commemorate them or just wait for them. We experience them vicariously through someone else or we spend our lives hoping that our exodus will one day come. For many Christians, that past looks like Jesus on the cross, who liberated us from our sins, or else heaven when one day we will die or God brings the world to a fiery end. Rarely do we seek experiences of freedom from the things that bind us now, and almost never do we speak of them as being saved.
However, I believe there is another alternative to at least add to those. Take a moment to think of what you need to be freed from today. What is holding you captive? What would you like to be saved from today?
An addiction to pornography (now a multi-billion dollar industry),
Your anger that emanates from God knows where,
From some form of habitual disobedience that keeps you following in the same dysfunctional patterns,
From some overpowering fear,
From the powerful hold of your resignation and cynicism,
From some experience in your past that keeps you from trusting God or most anyone else.
From over-consumption that has led to a mountain of debt.
You see, I have a bias: exodus stories, stories of being set free by Jesus the risen Christ, and salvation stories are really the same stories. Which puts us all in the same category when it comes to salvation.
Someone asked me once, "Hey. Do you know if 'so-and-so is saved?'" I responded, "Well, participated in his baptism a few years ago, but my view of salvation is a bit different than most, perhaps." I explained that the way that I see salvation is more in terms of liberation. That is, we are set free. It's great when it happens the first time. But the reality is that we are saved again and again, we are set free often, we are liberated time and time again from lots of stuff that continues to hold us captive.
Our view of salvation is far too narrowly limited when it is related as a moment in our past when we were saved and baptized. Or, on the other end, we only long for it to come at the end when we all get to heaven.
What is holding you back from living not only the life you've always wanted, but more importantly the life God has always wanted for you to live?
What binds you?
What would you like to be saved from, today?