The Passover season gives all of us an opportunity to pause and think about what in our lives and in our world calls for justice and liberation.  Today I preached from a text written by colleague Rev John Nichols:

The miracle of Exodus is not whether or not the Red Sea parted.  That is nothing more than a poetic conceit.  The miracle of exodus is that a group of people finally realized for themselves, for us, and for all time that you cannot stay in Egypt.  Any personal commitment that is not toward growing and changing, any religious commitment that is not towards goals beyond one’s own personal welfare, is a commitment toward slavery in Egypt.

And so, in the prophetic spirit of the Passover time and as an ally to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers through Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida, I say to Publix Supermarkets, “You cannot stay in Egypt.  Publix, you must understand that your ignoring the tomato issue does not take away the power of your complicity in modern-day slavery.”  For too long, no one will take responsibility for slavery happening in Florida fields.  Not me, says the contractor, who sub-contracts the “labor.”  Not me, says the grower, who owns the fields  enslaved people are forced to work.  Not me, says the grocery store who buys the tomatoes grown in the fields where slavery and abuse occured.  No one will name their complicity in Egypt!

Publix, as you may know, has been the local focus of the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s Campaign for Fair Food.  For too long, Publix has stood on the side of community welfare to give up on itself now.

And I believe that Publix is greatly in need of liberation.

Their liberation involves breaking free from the chains that stubbornly keep them from coming to the table to talk about signing an agreement with the Coalition.  Such an agreement would ensure, to the best of their ability, that they will no longer be complacent and complicit to slavery in Southwest Florida fields.

A friend sent me some pictures from a Publix advertisement in a paper.  The ad reads.

“This year as you gather with your family around the Passover family to taste the foods of freedom and the wine of redemption, we celebrate your perseverance and faith.”

Now, this is so lovely.  But, in order to authentically celebrate perseverance and faith, Publix must sell foods that were freely grown and picked.  Foods of freedom, for real.  The bitter herbs of slavery ought to only be a memory.  If only they were.  The wine of redemption waits for Publix in Immokalee, if only they would come and drink.  The table is set and waiting, the door open and waiting for Publix leaders to come, sit, and talk about the tomatoes they buy and how it affects real human beings.  For months, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been asking for them to come and talk- with great faith and perseverance, I might add- and the continued campaign has led to a 3-day Farmworker Freedom March April 16-18 from Tampa to Lakeland.  How timely, as we sing songs of freedom,  that we might plan to show up and support the farmworkers in Immokalee.

Someday, may it be that the CIW’s songs of freedom are not ignored.  The festal bread awaits, Publix, won’t you come and sit at the table?

Thank you, Jordan Buckley, for these images.