Monday, August 8, 2011

Moments of Jubilee Amidst Anarchy?

So I have had an interesting convergence of daily Bible readings over the last 24 hours.  Yesterday's reading came out of Second Thessalonians, and today's reading was the last few chapters in Leviticus. 

Let's start with Leviticus because God was giving instructions to Moses about an amazing national celebration that involved rest and restoration-the Jubilee year.  The basic formula is based on the number 7.  God instructed that for six years crops would be planted and harvested but the seventh year of the cycle the land was allowed a rest.  No planting, no harvesting but you could live off of what the land produced on it's own for that seventh year.  There would be seven cycles of 7 adding up to 49 years.  Then the trumpet would be blown and the 50th year would be declared a holy year-a year of Jubilee.  It was a year where individuals would reunite with their families, where property that was sold would return to the original owners, debts forgiven and celebration would occur.  Jubilee-a year to celebrate God's abundant blessings.

There are ministers who like to preach on Jubilee who tell you to expect your time of Jubilee. That time when all goes right in the world and your ship comes in and all is well!  Well meaning, good hearted people do just that-they sow their seed and wait for a harvest.  Meanwhile all hell is breaking loose around them and they wonder what's going on and why their year of Jubilee has not come?  Where is their promised deliverance?  Are they not worthy enough?  Are they not faithful enough?  Did they do something wrong?  Did they miss the Jubilee boat?

Reading Second Thessalonians gives a slightly different picture.  This is most definitely a letter of encouragement from Paul!  In The Message paraphrase Paul says this:
"'re so steady and determined in your faith despite (emphasis mine) all the hard times that have come down on you."
Paul then goes on to address the spirit of anarchy.  Other translations refer to this as the spirit of the anti-christ but I like the word picture that you get from using the word anarchy because it brings to mind chaos and disorder and it reminds me of what C.S. Lewis talked about in "The Screw-Tape Letters".  Here's what Paul had to say:
"That doesn't mean that the spirit or anarchy is not now at work.  It is, secretly and underground."
There's an important lesson here for today.  If you look at the headlines, even over the weekend, with the deaths of 31 service members in Afghanistan and the downgrading of the United States credit rating it does give one cause to pause.  Just when you thought things might be getting better why does it seem like they are getting worse?  If ever there was a time or need to call for national prayer, this is it, in my opinion!

What is the goal of anarchy?  Chaos, confusion, dissent, fear, loss of faith and hope and a host of other negative things.  Yes, these are things that are alive and well and flourishing in our world right now.  Yet, when you look at Paul's letter we know that the church was experiencing persecution.  They were living with anarchy yet they were able to hold steady.  That's the lesson in all of this-the ability to find your Jubilee within the chaos.  The ability to stay "steady and determined" despite the hardship.  That is the key!

I mourn with the families who lost a loved one.  I pray for them. Being the parent of a child in the service this one hits close to home because I know the possibility exists that I could get one of those phone call!  I mourn for the individual who lost their job because of downsizing and I pray that the next opportunity will be even bigger and better than what they had before.  I mourn for those who have lost their home because they couldn't make the mortgage payment.  In the midst of all of this though, I still believe that God is still large and in charge!  I mourn, I pray, I strive to keep my eye on the ball.  I pray for Jubilee. 

I see moments of Jubilee around me every day.  Right now, two of my friends are on their way to Joplin to do what they can to help out with clean up and to bring some much needed supplies.  Every step towards returning to a normal life is a cause for celebration!  They may have lost everything they owned but hope is strong and they are determined to re-build.  The veteran who chooses to endure grueling physical therapy to walk again is a cause for celebration.  They may have lost a limb but they are determined to stand tall and to move forward.  There are many other examples but the point is, Jubilee exists all around us if we just open our eyes and look! 

Bad things happening have nothing to do with a lack of faith or that someone did something wrong or didn't do enough.  Bad things happen because bad things happen.  The spirit of anarchy exists and is an equal opportunity opportunist!  You can respond the way that it would like you to respond-in fear and sadness and loss of hope or you can choose to stay steady and determined.  Even a little faith mixed with hope goes a long way!

To wrap this up, I'm going to quote The Message paraphrase because I think this is a good prayer for us all.  All of this comes from Second Thessalonians and it's powerful stuff if you can get a hold of it.
"May Jesus himself and God Our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.  (I)..pray that he'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.  Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely."
I pray that you embrace the gift of faith and hope and courage and that you walk forth steady and determined.  I pray that you find your moments of Jubilee even in the midst of anarchy.  May God give you eyes to see what is right there in front of you!  Amen and Amen!

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