Like many Americans I celebrated Independence Day by enjoying a local fireworks display with friends. As we waited for the show to begin our conversation turned to political dilemmas and frustrations. Still, we all at one point or another in our dialogue mentioned our gratefulness for living in the United States, realizing many people in other parts of the world face much more difficult challenges, a reality created only by virtue of geography.

Yesterday (Sunday), when I gathered with a group called New Wineskins located in Dallas, Texas, we too, celebrated freedom and its potential to expand more completely in all of our communities. This is part of the liturgy we used, written by Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton.

“We envision a land where the truth that all people are created equal will become a reality. Our vision is of a land where ‘liberty and justice’ for all is more than a pledge. Our vision is of a land where women and men of all colors, abilities, and sexual orientations will share equally in opportunities and blessings. We envision an end to war not only across the seas but in our own city streets, an end to abuse of all kinds on the job and in the home. Our vision includes faith communities in which all share equally in leadership and ministry, communities which give sacred value to female divinity as well as to male divinity. We envision a land free of discrimination and injustice in any form. We sound a call to freedom in our institutions and in our homes. We call for individual freedom from external definition, freedom to follow the voice within. We call for freedom to love, to create, to laugh, to learn, to grow, to become all we are meant to be.”

In this context, we were each invited to speak about our visions and experiences of freedom, a collective “sermon” similar to that of the early Quakers or those who continue the practice of the silent meeting. As several people spoke, there was a genuine Spirit binding our hearts together. Sophia was in our midst and She was encouraging us to acknowledge the abusiveness of male-centered theology and to expand our attention to Her wisdom and love.

I was reminded that fear and freedom are incompatible. Where an inkling of fear exists (you cannot think differently than others; if you don’t believe what you are told you are not a Christian; if you transgress “community” standards, you will be dismissed; etc.) there is no space for liberty. And, where there is no liberty, there can never be real justice.

So, at the end of my Independence Day celebrations I realized I need to do more than celebrate. I must identify my responsibility for extending freedom and minimizing fear. In the words of our New Wineskin’s benediction: “Christ-Sophia has set us free, and we are free indeed! We are free to love, to laugh, to dance, to sing, to create a land where all can be free.”