As I shared in the sermon this past Sunday, I fondly remember growing up with my cousin Joe and the times our families would take trips together. Whenever we were going on longer ventures, we would take walkie-talkies so we could keep up with one another. Whenever one group thought it was time to make a rest stop, we’d call out to one another, check in, see if we needed to change passengers – perhaps Joe and I needed to be separated if we were making too much noise when were in the same car; perhaps we needed a refresher to look at the map since these were the days before GPS; or maybe we needed to determine where we would need to stop for supper, and so on.
This memory has come to mind as I’ve been pondering over the last year and a half. When I was sent here to Ellendale last year and learned about the history of the church, especially the recent history of the last ten years, of the fact that you were approaching the clearance of debt, I’ve been excited about the prospect of being a part of casting a vision of what is next. But one of the things I’ve learned in my life and in my ministry, is that we often go from one thing to another without taking time to celebrate, to reflect on the things that we’ve learned, to take an assessment of where things are in the life of the church. To say what I think we’ve been trying to communicate over the last few months a little differently, we’re approaching a needed rest stop and this is one that’s not just about getting out (of debt) in order to just get right back into it.
By way of analogy, this rest stop might be the right time for us to have a moment of Jubilee – to celebrate, to rest, to assess the construction zones we’ve endured and detours we’ve had to take, and then just as importantly, to examine the terrain that is still ahead. It is important for us to consider the changing landscape of our surrounding culture and to see what, if any, changes all this might mean with regard to the way we’re approaching this journey. So that’s what I’d like for us to examine over the next few weeks in our worship, in formal and informal conversations, just as Kenny, Terry, and the 20/20 vision team have invited us. In the Bible, the prescription for the Year of Jubilee seems an appropriate lens through which to have part of this conversation.
The prescription for the Jubilee Year is found in Leviticus 25. It was to be celebrated every 50 years and began on the Day of Atonement. (What do you know, we just finished a series on the atonement? Fitting to go here next, it seems to me.) And I really find this interesting because what begins the Jubilee year is like what happens when we would call in on the radio to our traveling companions: “It’s time to make a rest stop,” or something like that. And that’s what the Jubilee was about – a time to reestablish equilibrium, to level the playing field, to cancel debts and return to what we’re supposed to be about as the people of God.
So, as we pursue a celebration as a church, let us remember that worship, ministry, and mission is at the heart of who we are as a jubilant people, of what we do in the days and months and year of celebrating the atonement, of canceling the debts, of leveling the playing field, of setting the slave free. As we celebrate the Jubilee over the next few weeks, I’d like for you to consider the lyrics of the hymn that Charles Wesley especially wrote for this particular biblical theme of the Jubilee. It’s found in our hymnal, #379. Let us consider these in devotional thought and meditation as we worship, as we celebrate, as we discern God’s will for us in the present and future:
Blow ye the trumpet, blow! The gladly solemn sound
Let all the nations know, to earth’s remotest bound:
Jesus, our great high priest, hath full atonement made;
Ye weary spirits, rest; ye mournful souls, be glad:
Extol the Lamb of God, the all-atoning Lamb;
Redemption in his blood throughout the world proclaim:
Ye slaves of sin and hell, your liberty receive,
And safe in Jesus dwell, and blest in Jesus live:
Ye who have sold for nought your heritage above,
Shall have it back unbought, the gift of Jesus’ love:
The gospel trumpet hear, the news of heavenly grace;
And saved from earth, appear before your Savior’s face:
The year of Jubilee is come! The year of Jubilee is come!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home!