Folksinger Richie Havens was the opening act for the three-day Woodstock festival in August 1969. He played a lengthy set, in part because the bands to follow him had difficulty reaching the event due to the massive crowds and traffic. Havens ran out of songs to sing, then improvised on the old African-American spiritual “Motherless Child,” interspersed with repetitive singing of the word “Freedom.” It resulted in a powerful performance, evocative of the era of slavery in the United States when families were torn apart and of the ’60s generation’s alienation and celebration of freedom.
The apostle Paul affirms the freedom of the gospel, which is the freedom to serve. We are not under obligation to the law as a means of earning our salvation. Rather, in faith by God’s grace, we are made free. Thereby the Spirit inspires and opens us to recognize the needs of others and our broken world, and together with others to work to liberate and heal. We are made free to serve, to celebrate and to find peace.
As Richie Havens sang at Woodstock, “Freedom! Clap your hands!”
God of freedom, give us peace and make us free. Help us to liberate others from what binds them. Amen. — TDW