This last week I have spent a lot of time preparing the programme for our upcoming Celtic retreat on Camano Island. Our theme for this year is Jubilee and new beginnings. Some of my research I summed up in two blog posts last week – Celebrating Jubilee – Much to Look Forward to and Jubilee in Christ – Sound the Ram’s Horn.
When I talked about this with our song leader he commented:
I love the idea of Jubilee but so few people actually know what it means and only a handful of people in the history of the world have ever tried to seriously practice it. It’s a nice sentiment but if we’re going to sing about jubilee, I’d rather it be about how I’m going to live it out. Without that, it seems like empty sentiment.
And its true. Jubilee is nothing if we only talk and sing about it. The wonder of Jubilee and Christ’s proclamation in Luke 4:16 – 21 where he announces his purpose is amazing. The gospels are not just about proclamation of Jubilee however they are about bringing it into reality here and now. Christ didn’t just talk about Jubilee he practiced it in all his actions – opening blind eyes, feeding the hungry, setting free the oppressed are all very concrete expressions of Jubilee.
But is it true that only a handful of people in the history of the world have ever tried to practice it? I don’t think so. The trouble is that we rarely acknowledge or rejoice in its practice. I have seen the Jubilee of God break through into our world in so many places – sometimes small, sometimes overwhelming in their splendour, but often overlooked or passed by in their significance of God breaking into the world.
The message of Jubilee was brought home to me again during the sermon on Sunday when our rector John Leech talked about the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jubilee is about caring and sharing. It is about recognizing that the little we hold in our hands, what we so often want to hold onto for ourselves, in God’s hands can miraculously be transformed and become provision for the whole world. Any offering we make to God is inadequate – like small loaves and fish, but at the table of God it is transformed into a banquet feast – bread from heaven becomes bread for the world. Oh the wonder of God’s Jubilee. We can all live into now, today as I wrote in my morning prayer
Come and eat what God promises
A banquet of plenty bought without money or price
God’s grace poured out in justice and mercy
Where we see lack open our eyes to see abundance
God’s generosity poured out in bounty and goodness
When we hold to ourselves open our hearts to be transformed
God’s love poured out in caring and sharing
Food for the hungry, released for the captives,
Let us proclaim God’s Jubilee
So it’s time to share stories of Jubilee .
To be honest every time I go out into my garden during this summer season, I am awed by God’s promise of Jubilee. The abundance of squash, beans and fruit at this season can be overwhelming. There is bounty just not for us but to share lavishly. But there are other stories of Jubilee that I love too.
One of my favourite stories of Jubilee is this one from Hackney England – Reclaiming the Jubilee.
Another which made a deep impression on my life is this one from my days on the Anastasis: The Generosity of God – Fish and Loaves for All
But I have also seen the Jubilee of God break through into the economic and political systems of our world. For example The Jubilee 2000 movement which campaigned to see the debt of the poorest nations in our world cancelled did have some success. And then following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, partly due to pressure from the Jubilee project, the IMF cancelled Haiti’s debt to it. Now I know that did not solve the problem but we need to recognize the presence of God in the midst of what was accomplished.
I see Jubilee too in the growing concern for fair trade often generated by concern for how the poorest of those who produce our food and clothing are treated. And I see Jubilee in the lives of those who reach out daily to feed the hungry, heal the sick and seek justice for the oppressed often with little regard for their own well being.
The principles of Jubilee are alive and well in our world – where do you see them in your life and work?