Redemption: What Does It Mean?

re·deem
verb
past tense: redeemed; past participle: redeemed
                           compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something).
  1. “a disappointing debate redeemed only by an outstanding speech”
    2. gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment.
    “his best suit had been redeemed from the pawnbrokers”

This week is holy for so many in this country – Passover at the start, Easter at the end. And all of us are talking about being redeemed.

Isn’t that a wonder, we are different religions with stories so bogged in detail, and yet we are focusing on this concept of redemption. Of rising up from the dust, of second chances.

I wonder about this theme of being in such dire straits, we all needed someone holy to take us out of bondage. For Christians, it’s the bondage of sin; for Jews, it’s the bondage of slavery. For some it resides internally; for others it’s put upon us by others.

I don’t care the reason – we feel the need in our cultures to believe that we need redeeming, and that it takes someone outside of us to make it happen.

There are so many lessons within Judaism about the slave mentality back in ancient Egypt, and that so many of the Israelites didn’t want to leave. In fact, most didn’t – it was a smallish group of believers who saw the light enough to leave the life they’d known and believe it could get better. I see so many similarities to today.

And in the same way, Christianity teaches that it is through Jesus Christ that Christians may be redeemed. A conduit to God, a salvation.

Do we truly need to follow doctrine or a leader in order to find ourselves in peace? Do we need the guidance of something larger, something holy, to do right? Do we still fall under the spell of enslavement in modern times, in so many ways (to smart phone, to schedule, to wanting to be liked…)?

I won’t argue with the concept of adding holiness to ordinary days. And I won’t look askance at those who seek inspiration in the mundane world. Both are lofty goals, both hard to stick to in modern times.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of redemption all week, as it excites me when our holiday themes and times align. Every year for my entire life, I read in the Passover story about how we as a people were redeemed. And it’s a word that doesn’t resonate me in this context, so I wonder about that line.

We were led out of Egypt through a harrowing journey in the desert until we crossed the uncrossable sea by fate of a miracle and then the sea swallowed up our oppressors and we danced on dry land on the other side, so grateful for our freedom.

It’s a good story.

So who leads us out of danger every single day? Do we still believe we are in charge? Are we blindly walking forward, thinking we have it all under control, shouldering the burdens and the joys all alone?

This life is truly one big miracle. The fact that we ever came into being, that we remain standing, that we get to start over again and again.

These small truths are wonders that we truly had no part in making happen or continuing on a day-to-day basis. So go ahead today and celebrate. Celebrate the freedom of the Passover story and the new life of the Easter story.

Understand that the ability to stand upright and to think and to feel and to have our hearts broken and to fall in love, that is all miraculous, holy, a wonder. Only then will we begin the path to redemption.

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