the year of Jubilee


Please accept my caps lock as excitement for what this year means for me, for you, for our church!  It is incredible.

In the olden days the Jews would participate in what’s called the Jubilee year.  Every seventh year, by law, would be a sabbath year and after the seventh sabbath (49 years) they would have the Jubilee (the 50th year).  If you read Leviticus chapter 25 you will read about the sabbatical year, “for six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the LORD; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard….it shall be a year of complete rest for the land” (25.3-4, 5b).

So just as there is a sabbath every seventh day, there is a sabbath every seventh year and after seven sabbaths, the great Jubilee.

Leviticus continues to then outline the law for the Jubilee year and here’s where it gets good.

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years.  Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud….And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.  The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines.  For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you:  you shall eat only what the field itself produces” (25.8-12).

In the Jubilee year you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land, return to your family, and not sow or prune the field.

– Proclaim liberty: as part of this year you are to free any debts owed to you.  If you have a slave they are freed, if someone owes you money or land you forgive the debt.
– Return to your family: this part emphasizes communal life.  If you have an estranged family member or a family member who has fallen on harsh times you are to take them in and provide for them without any return or payment or rent.
– Don’t sow the field: rest and let God provide for you.

Ok, now let’s look to Jesus.  In the Gospel of Luke Jesus takes a scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4.18-19, Isaiah 61.1-2a).

Jesus is announcing a Jubilee year and as we know from Leviticus it is a time to proclaim liberty and freedom, to release slaves and forgive debts.  It is a time to return to communal life, to provide and care for one another without counting the costs.  It is a time to give rest to the field and let God provide food for you.

Here’s what I know.

– Jesus’ life, death and resurrection give us freedom from sin and death.
– Jesus instituted the Church and showed the importance of communal life.
– Jesus is the Bread from Heaven, the Bread that sustains.

Freedom from sin, forgiveness from the ones we’ve hurt or forgiveness for the ones who have hurt us, a return to family and to a life giving community and church, and the Eucharist.

This is the reality we live in.  Today starts a new Jubilee – a time for mercy and joy.

How are you going to live this Jubilee?


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