The Month of Jubilee (aka The Month of Giving Back)

In the Hebrew Bible, we read about a direct teaching, an expected practice, in ancient Israel: Every 50 years (or possibly every 49 years, it’s unclear) was to be known as The Year of Jubilee, in which everything was returned to its proper owners. Land that had been bought, sold or swindled returned to its original owners. Folks living in slavery or indentured servitude were set free. Debts were forgiven. It was a built-in measure to ensure that systems of inequality never came to define God’s Chosen People. The year of Jubilee was to be celebrated with the blowing of the Shofar, an ancient musical instrument made out of a ram’s horn With the blowing of the horn, with rejoicing and celebration, God’s People were to remember that their pride, their welfare, their success was not predicated upon generational wealth…but simply God’s abundant grace.

After Jesus lived, died, and resurrected to show humanity a new way forward…a way completely anchored in faith, love and justice…it could be said that Christians began practicing Jubilee every week. One of the things we know about the early church is that they gathered for weekly meals in order to break bread and share wine in the sacrament of communion, they prayed together, they sang together, they worshipped…and at the same time, they shared “all that they had in common” (Acts 2: 44; 4: 32). They would pool their money and possessions and give it out as people had need. This is the foundation of our tradition…to gather together weekly and give what we have so that everyone receives what they need.

We didn’t have a shofar in worship yesterday…but we had many other instruments, we received the gift of beautiful music from dozens of talented musicians in our community. It was a moving and joyful worship, and a beautiful way of entering into our church’s Month of Jubilee, in which we challenge the ways of commerce and collecting that we have learned in our culture…and we dedicate ourselves to giving back as much as we can…so everyone has what they need.

Every Wednesday morning in the month of June, at 6:30a.m., anyone who desires to can join us in the Church Sanctuary for a short devotional time, when we name the things in our lives that are weighing us down—stress, fear, anxiety, too much to do, not enough time to do it—and we search for relief by naming what belongs to whom and giving it back to them.

This Saturday evening, at 6;30p.m., we’ll gather in the Parish House for a Time and Talent Auction, a fun opportunity to raise money for the church by giving our gifts, our treasures, our talents and our commitments to one another. By sharing what we have to offer, we ensure our community receives all it needs.

This Sunday, we’ll practice giving our Trust back to God, as we celebrate folks who are going through big Life Transitions; graduations, marriages, losing loved ones, starting new jobs. It’s easy to know who God is and what God requires of us when we are settled and satisfied…but when we have to enter into a new chapter in life…when everything is up in the air…when life is unpredictable and chaotic…we need to remember how to give our Trust back to God who always leads and cares for us.

And that’s just Week 1 of June!

Many will try to convince you that if life is hard or if you’re feeling overwhelmed…it’s because you’re not doing something right. But it seems to me that you can do everything “right” in life, and still wind up in over your head. How can that be? Perhaps it’s because we are all carrying around a mixture of blessings and burdens that are not rightfully ours to own. Who do these things really belong to? How can our faith teach us to give them up and give them back?

Let’s find out together.

Brian Gruhn