For Freedom! 5

For Freedom

Late 3rd century/early 4th century Christians depicted the fiery furnace in the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome (Public Domain)

On May 22, 2015, I was the preacher for the Baccalaureate Service for the 2015 graduates of New Brunswick Theological Seminary…an honor bestowed on me by the students. The purpose of education, I asserted, was For Freedom, and I asked the graduates, “So are you freer today than you were when you started down this road?” The story of the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace demonstrates not just gumption but true freedom: “We will not bow down!” they said. I wandered from the three boys to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Shakespeare’s Othello and the villainous “friend,” Iago; to James Baldwin and the Apostle Paul and then landed in a final blessing with Amanda Palmer’s “Ukulele Anthem.” All while I was dressed as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (see the pic at the bottom of this post). Thank you to the students for letting me play like this. I loved weaving all these things together! And hope I perhaps said something worth hearing. Thank you!

The Sermon

Audio File /  For Freedom (pdf)

The Scripture Lessons: Daniel 3 (KJV!); Galatians 2:1-6; and 4:12-20


  1. “Anger is the purest form of care.” — in David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words  [Amazon]
  2. “But If Not” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • He delivered this sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, on November 5, 1967
    • Audio of his sermon (public domain)
    • Text of his sermon: “But If Not”
    • YouTube
  3. William Shakespeare, Othello
    • “O, my soul’s joy!” Act II, Scene 1
    • “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, / Is the immediate jewel of their souls.” Act III, Scene 3 (dead center for those who know Freytag’s Pyramid!)
    • Read it!  — The No Fear Shakespeare edition [Amazon]
    • Watch it!  — ”Othello”: The Laurence Fishburne, Kenneth Branagh production (dir. Oliver Parker)—DVD [Amazon]
    • An essay I wrote on “Iago as Othello’s Shame” — I’m hoping to rewrite this, to show how Iago plays on Othello’s internalized racial oppression. Stay tuned. 🙂
  4. James Baldwin
  5. “Ukulele Anthem” — by Amanda Palmer
A really bad picture of Virginia preaching.

I look like the Wicked Witch of the West! Elphaba is a hero, though, so I’m perfectly okay with that!

I was hoping to put some pics from the Baccalaureate up. Sharon Watts snapped this one and sent it to me. It’s so wonderfully bad that I can’t help sharing it, but didn’t have the guts to put it up top! I look like the Wicked Witch of the West! I’m Elphaba!


Creative Commons License
“For Freedom” by Virginia Wiles is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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