As our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover week, remembering God’s work liberating their ancestors from slavery and oppression by the domination systems in the ancient Egyptian empire, and Christians celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus as a path to personal and community liberation embodied in his words and deeds in his last week of life during Holy Week, I thought it would be fitting to share again a poem I wrote on this theme during my time working as chaplain resident in the UNC hospital psychiatric floor.
“O come, o come, deliver me,”
cried those under Pharoah’s lash.
Their hearts longed to soar free
with eagle-feathers bright and brash.
Staff raised high, Israel did see,
with mighty ocean crash
the flaming light of liberty
their backs freed from burning lash.
Like waves I hear this cry still roar
echoing in many deserted hall
lined with cots for the homeless poor
abandoned by those called great and tall
whose money moved to distant shores
when profits began to fall.
“Deliver” echoes still in whispering call
where others lie, victims of a hidden war.
Their broken bodies writhe in withdrawal
from poisons that trap them like iron doors
and wrap their minds in darkling pall.
“Deliver” cries children from other homes
whose minds and bodies lie broken by neglect.
Their hearts bear wounds and scars like broken bones
that will not set but must lay wrecked
uncertain for minds what healing comes.
Oh God, who set old Israel free and yet brightens our sky
what light in such shadows can you bring
what freedom shine in their eyes.
“Deliver, Oh deliver,” their stories sing,
and I cannot help but question why
and what shape will we see rise on morning’s wings
in answer to their ceaseless cry.