Sermon Epiphany 3C Sunday January 24, 2010. Ocean Forest
Eat the fat and drink the wine Luke 4:18-19, Nehemiah
It was a grand plan that God had for community.
It was the way in which people would live their lives with freedom from any kind of oppression, which included escaping overwhelming debt, having community and family relationships restored repeatedly. It was a plan that would have a community of people renewing itself and living peaceably with each other and most importantly, at rest and peace in the love and kindness of their God. It was called Jubilee – which literally means Trumpet blast – in ancient terms, ram’s horn blast!
Jubilee: what a plan from a gracious and wise God with a heart for the release from any oppression or burden – spiritual, relational or economic.
In God’s land among his community, all land was to be returned to God every seven years. Just as God had rested on the seventh day, so the land was to rest on the seventh year – a whole year of Sabbath – rest with God – no sowing and reaping and any wild seed that sprouted was to be shared by all – especially those without income or means. There was also to be no buying or selling of land for this seventh year. The best you could do was lease it out.
On the seventh Sabbath year; the seventh cycle of seven year cycles – every 50th year, amazingly, all land was to be returned to its original tribal/kin group. All debts between people were to be cancelled and those with and without land were given a new beginning; a fresh start in terms of their family and economic relationships. Families could return to their ancestral lands every 50 years. Imagine what that would be like for a minute…
How connected to the land would we be? How much would be committed to caring for the land! We would all live connected to a place and know that this place was to be cared for and managed well because it would always be in the family – a lot like a family farm. How different would our ecology be, our salinity, our clearing a thousand trees a minute in the lungs of the world – our forests. How connected would our families be? Every generation there is a return to original place. There would be so much connection to each other. It would ensure a return to connected extended families. A return to raising children in a connected community….. looking after our seniors in the family, sharing the load of life….
How different would our attitude be to wealth and consuming. No need to be self-made, just thankful a lot more!
It is doubtful whether God’s community could ever live in his grand design for community. The decades and centuries of God’s community is laden with the enemies of peaceful and just relationships holding sway – • the greed of a king or two, the tyrannical rule of a legalistic religious system which keeps people in fear of God, rather than embracing him and his Word, the idolatry of a whole community, replacing God with self….. • Surely this whole Jubilee gift of God was a long gone pipe dream
Maybe this is how we feel about those ideals of youth or of earlier times in our life? That goal that inspired us seems out of reach. That deep longing inside for a particular role or relationship or way of overcoming the evil we know……Nothing can be done about that.
Surely the people in the main street of Capernaum would have given this whole scheme of a complete re-shuffle of “how thing are” up long ago. It could never be that the daily grind of making money and looking after one’s own stuff would ever end. To be truly a community of mercy and justice, ending poverty and giving new beginnings to those who have not fared well….who would do that?!
But then this local man in his far north home town hall rises one average Saturday morning to declare that Jubilee is being restored!
So intentionally the local carpenter places the pointer down on the sacred Torah scroll before the hometown congregation in the weekly gathering. He speaks the words of a hope long gone that everyone probably still longed for, but could never believe they could ever happen.
They are words from the prophet Isaiah and they reflect the original communal pattern God intended in Leviticus.
“Jubilee: I have come to announce the year of Jubilee”, says Joe’s son.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (The year of Jubilee!)
He is saying the dream is not lost. God can bring good change. Families can be re-connected and children can grow up in a new place. Spiralling debt can be arrested. There is hope for families and communities and whole countries that crushing debt and the greedy fights for one upmanship and hording stuff to themselves can be replaced with contentment, a new goal, a new life’s work, a new hope for justice and fairness and above all – compassion.
We know that Jesus did what he said he was going to do. We know those accounts of healings and freeing. The Promised One delivered on his promise and fulfilled his gaol to do exactly what he said he could and would do – albeit in ways that no one expected or fully understood at the time!
And, he had announced his Jubilee to us too. In that gift of baptism we began to live in his Spirit, anointed with his power, freed from our chains of self-serving, healed of our terminal blindness to God’s ways and his love, set free from only serving our own desires to receiving new desires and callings. And in him we become him and we become his Jubilee to the people of our day
But, we long for more of his freedom and his sight and understanding. We know we are still growing into this time of Jubilee. Jesus’ time of jubilee can seem so far away and we wonder why. Where is your blessing, Lord? Why is it so hard to understand – myself, other people, my task, how to truly love, where you want me to serve and what you are making of me….?
For what are you longing from God today, friend? Where does this gift of jubilee – of the Lord’s favour and blessing and power need to be more in your life now? Is there someone or something oppressing you?
• Are you poor in some ability or understanding that you long to be rich in? • Is there something you would love to understand about God, or a relationships or yourself but somehow feel as though you just cannot get a hold of it? • Are you longing for a new direction or for more understanding of the one he has already given?
I hear today that we do not have to lose hope in Jesus’ jubilee. I am hearing that new things are possible in my life and that the Lord is in this. I am hearing that he wants new connection with him, and that his power and love are present and possible for me and you and our community.
The way to receive this hope for good things called – Jubilee is to enjoy it! The prophet calls out to those beginning to trust in God’s jubilee, “eat the fat and drink the choice wine”. He says this to a people who had been totally gutted and were only just now beginning to find their way again.
They had come back from exile and had been given the onerous task of rebuilding Jerusalem to its former glory with no money or protection…. Someone discover the Book of the Law _ the Bible) and they read it and hope began. On the day they heard God speak – many for the first time in their lives, they were overwhelmed with their failures and yet, directed to eat the choice meat and drink the wine and enjoy God’s gifts.
Friend, begin to hope for that thing again. Begin to trust in God’s jubilee intentions for you and your relationships. We can do this because his jubilee is underway. He signed and sealed it in the giving of his Son, the resurrection of Jesus, that personal resurrection gift to you in the font in which you were baptised and now live.
Seek that new sight. Ask for those new legs. Cry out for release from that oppressive thing.
Enjoy today. Enjoy the jubilee of God’s favour and love and invite others to receive the good food and wine as well. 2010 is a jubilee year. Enjoy it with the Lord. Enjoy it with each other as we eat the best food and drink the best wine – the bread and wine of God’s jubilee.