Sermon for Sunday January 23, 2022

“Share In the Jubilee”

Luke 4:14-21

 

    Have you ever been in debt? House? Car? With the general habits in today’s society to spend rather then save, I imagine that it is probably true that most people probably owe somebody, something on any given day.

    Now imagine if you will what it would be like to wake up one morning and hear a knock at your door. You look outside and you see that man or women from down at the bank –the one that gave you that big loan, or the one who deals with the mortgage on your house. You open the door… “Good morning, can I help you?” “No” that person says, “But I just wanted to give to you the papers regarding your loan. Today we are forgiving all debts. You no longer owe us any more money. Your house or car is completely yours. Have a good day.” Now in our reality this is where you wake up and realize that you have been dreaming. But in a way, within our text today, Jesus proclaimed that dream a reality.

    In our scriptures Jesus returned back to his hometown in Nazareth. His fame was spreading. People had heard about the miracles he was doing, the gospel reports that he was praised by everyone. He was the hometown boy who was making a success of himself, and God was using him in some amazing ways. On the Sabbath went to the synagogue that he had grown up in and taking a scroll he unrolled it until he came upon the words he was looking for, from 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.”

    To our ears the words Jesus quoted from Isaiah sound easy enough to hear, but they do not usually hold any special meaning; however, to Jesus’ Jewish listeners they held a more significant truth that is really central to our text. The phrase, “a year of the Lord’s favor” alludes to the Jewish understanding of the year of Jubilee. This was an event associated with the most basic understandings of who the Jewish people were before God.

    We can find the year of Jubilee explained in Leviticus 25. After seven times seven or 49 years had past, on the day of atonement, a large trumpet called a shophar (SHOW-far) was blown and at that moment all the land that belonged to your ancestors as it had been divided up by Moses according to God’s plan reverted back to the ownership of its original tribe, clan, or family. If you remember according to Jewish beliefs God gave the Promised Land to the children of Israel and it was divided up as an inheritance for each of the tribes. With the year of Jubilee even if property was sold that original plan of division was always maintained. Not only that, but if a person placed themselves in service to another as an indentured servant to work off a debt. On the year of Jubilee not only would they have gotten their land back, but they would have gotten their freedom as well. Debts were canceled. (Good news to the poor) Freedom was given. (Good news to captives and the oppressed) People were to remember and return back to the original covenant God had made with their ancestors. Any blindness to the truth of God was healed away.

    Think a little farther about what Jubilee would have meant. The advantages of this institution were manifold:

(1.) It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community at large.

(2.) It would render it impossible for any one to be born to absolute poverty, since everyone had his hereditary land.

(3.) It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one person dominate over another.

(4.) It would utterly do away with slavery.

(5.) It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again.

(6.) It would periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and a lower class, and preserve the theocracy inviolate.

 

    There are days when I think that a year of Jubilee, and the opportunity it gave for its people to start over again is not really such a bad idea. That is why in the being of the sermon I asked you to imagine what it would be like to have a large debt completely forgiven and forgotten. The year of Jubilee was about the restoration of the community’s life before God. Also, what catches the imagination about the whole thing is that it structures life in such a way that we are always mindful of God’s presence in life, otherwise, why give back that which you have earned or been smart enough to obtain from someone else? You are led to do so because you realize that if you have more than another, more than your share, than it is wealth that you are only borrowing. It eventually must go back towards completing God’s purposes. The Israelites would have always been mindful that the land really belonged to God.

    A year of Jubilee sounds like an interesting idea. Most importantly it was the idea that Jesus used to express the purpose of his ministry. Not only did it speak of a time of restoration and hope in the past –a time when people would acknowledge the place and necessity of God in their lives and conform their lives to God’s stated plan in life, but Jesus saw within the year of Jubilee a sure and certain hope for the present.

    It was an image of Jesus purpose in life, for as he finished reading the text, he spoke to all who were listening and said “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” As Jesus interpreted the text, the Bible tells us that “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Within Jesus interpretation the scriptures are something more than just a record of past activities on God’s part. The scriptures defined God’s purpose for life. Now the time is at hand to be free and conform your life to God’s purpose. This was Jesus defining the purpose of his own life for our sakes. In fact, one can see the scriptures as forbearing the greater truth of Christ which was just beginning to be revealed as Jesus stood in the people’s presence.

    You can be free from your sin, your indebtedness to God. You can be healed within. Your life can follow God’s purpose, and that which has been lost to you can be restored. This, my friends, is not the year of Jubilee, but it is the age of Jubilee. Any time now is a favored time before God.

    A once popular radio psychologist was in a conversation with a woman who was just struggling to get a hold on life, and she said to her at one point, “You are here for a special reason. You life is meant for great things. The potential is there, but it is up to you to make it happen.” That I thought was a wonderfully optimistic view of life, and I believe that is also God’s view.

     Indeed, within Christ God has called us to lay claim to our birth right and our inheritance that he has prepared for us. We are to believe and receive the grace that is given. Faith is to be something more than a thing we possess, but it should be something that possesses us. Jesus once told his disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” If you want to be free; if you want to be part of the Jubilee, then you must know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It is Christ that makes freedom a possibility. Through Christ we know our jubilee. The person who struggles with alcoholism or drug addiction can find the strength to stay sober, the man in prison can find forgiveness and a new direction, families may gain the hope they need to survive in this world that seems to sponsor unfaithfulness, divorce and separation. Everybody needs a time of jubilee in their lives –A time to let go of the past and be empowered by the hope and promises from God.

    And I would say that the thought even goes one step farther. In as much as the year of Jubilee was God’s plan for ancient Israel, in as much as it came to characterize Jesus’ life and ministry, and provide and image of hope for us, so it also belongs to our future. We have the call upon us to be part of the fulfilling of this scripture. –To invite others to the celebration. From Nehemiah we read the story of how an old scroll containing the laws of God was found in the temple. An assembly was called, and the scroll was read and interpreted to all the people. The people cried when they realized that they had not been doing God’s will; however, the priest told them not to mourn, but to celebrate. This was to be a day of feasting. The joy of the Lord is your strength. There’s was to be a time of celebration, because on that day the people were able to reacquaint themselves with God’s law, and they understood it. Not only that but, it is interesting that the people were told to take a portion of the food to those for whom nothing had been prepared. (The first church carry out dinners) The celebration is to be shared. Take food and drink to your neighbors and tell them why you are celebrating! So, this is our call today as well. No matter where we come from or what roads we have traveled; Christ has declared for us a Jubilee. We are to be free from the sin that binds us and no longer live in the shadow of sorrow, but rejoice in the joy of the Lord, and live in the strength God gives. Give these truths to all.

    Consider this week, how Christ has set you free. How the year of Jubilee does and can define your life, and finally how you can share these truths with others. When you do these things, then I believe you will find how prophecy is being fulfilled even today, and how much God has indeed given you. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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