Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sermon Notes for A Service of Jubilee

Last, but not least, the sermon notes.  When  I preach, I do not go word for word based on what I've written.  The notes do, however, keep me on track so I don't wander too far afield!

 The Importance of Jubilee

Leviticus chapter 25 devotes almost the entire chapter to discussing the Year of Jubilee.  Leviticus states that every seventh year was intended to be a Sabbath year for the land.  No crops were supposed to be planted, the ground was to be given a year of rest.  After seven cycles,  a Year of Jubilee was to be declared.  Verse 10  in the NIV Bible says “you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”  Liberty.  Freedom.  Two very important words.  Why does this matter?  Why should we care?  It matters because Jubilee was not only meant to be a celebration, it was also meant to be a release from past burdens.  It was meant to be a way of letting go of the past, in order to move on to the future.  More importantly, this was God wanted for his chosen people-liberty!  The idea of Jubilee is woven throughout the Bible.  The when and how are not as important as WHY.  Why did God put forth the idea of Jubilee?  It all goes back to the idea of being free by letting go of old things in order to move forward.

A wise New Testament writer by the name of Paul discovered the importance of this idea.  In Philippians 3 verse 13, in the NIV Bible Paul says “…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has call me heavenward in Christ Jesus”

Goal?  Prize?  What is he talking about?  Jeremiah makes the point a little more clearly in chapter 29 of the NIV Bible as he shares with the exiles what the Lord was trying to tell them.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you…”

God has a plan for you.  He has a plan to prosper you.  He has a plan to give you a future full of hope. Prosperity is so much more than wealth!  Prosperity involves the heart, the soul, your health and the path that you are following.  Prosperity is about your entire well being!  Listen to what John writes as a greeting in his letter to Gaius.  In Third John verse 2  from the Amplified Bible he says this:
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and that your body may keep well even as I know your soul keeps well and prospers.”  True prosperity is not is not simply inward or simply outward, it is both!  Everything in  your life “prospers” as your soul prospers.  In the old Methodist tradition, one of the questions that was asked was “how is it with your soul?”  In other words, what is really going on in that deepest part of your being?  Is there something holding you back from following God’s plan for you?  Are you carrying a burden that you need to let go?  Understand that the burden you carry isn’t always about the past or even the present.  Sometimes that burden can be a dream for the future-an unspoken hope, that we‘re not even sure we want to admit.  Even the good things can sometimes be a burden if we hold on to them too tightly!

Now let’s get back to the overall idea of Jubilee.  God sent his only son, his beloved son, in to the world to do what?  To save the world from sin.  To reconcile us to God.  To offer us liberty from the heavy burden of sin and death and all the other things that we needlessly carry around with us in our soul.  Jesus was, and still is, the ultimate Jubilee!  God has proclaimed liberty for all who believe!  He sent that liberty into the world in the form of his son, Jesus, as an offering, a gift.  We simply have to choose to receive this gift!  We have to trust that this gift is meant for us, personally.  And what does that gift give us?  Forgiveness for ourselves.  Permission to let things go.  Hope for better things to come.  All those past hurts, all the mistakes and failures, we can let them go!  The things that we fear today.  Our worries about the future.  Past, present, future-it’s all covered!  We have that heavenly confessor and intercessor, in Jesus.  We can pray and unload all those things that shackle our very souls-the positive and the negative.  We have permission to bring them ALL before the Lord!  

To bring everything to the Lord means we have to trust that the message is not just for the world, it is for you and me personally.  That means we have to understand how God truly sees us, individually.  God is a God of the one, as well as of the many.    How does God see us?  In Genesis, when God created man, he didn’t say just that his creation was good.  He said it was “very good”.  Each one of us is the apple of God’s eye.  To be the “apple of the eye” means that you are very near and dear to God and he treasures you so much that he closely guards and protects you!  You are precious!  You are the apple of his eye!  Deuteronomy 32, in the NIV Bible, contains the song of Moses.  In verses 10 and 11 it says “…He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.  Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads it wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.  The Lord alone led him…”   In Psalm 17, verse 8 in the NIV Bible, David says “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”  We see in the very first chapter of Jeremiah how well God knows us and how we are the apple of his eye.  In verse 5, the Lord tells Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”  and in chapter 31 verse 3, the Lord tells Jeremiah “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  David describes the closeness of God beautifully in Psalm 139.  He says, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.  You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; there night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”  Does that sound like a distant and far off God to you?  This is a God who treasures you!  He sees you as the apple of his eye and he wants a close relationship with you.

God’s intent from the very beginning was relationship!  A close, loving, trusting relationship.  That’s why he created Jubilee.  That’s why he sent Jesus.  That’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to be with us today.  He wants you, his precious child, to be free!  He wants you, the apple of his eye, to be the very best that you can be!  He wants his church to be the very essence of Jubilee.  Trusting God fully doesn’t mean that your problems will magically disappear.  What it does mean is that he is here, truly here, now, today!  He was with you in the past and he will be right there with you in the future, if you’ll let him.  But the choice is yours.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Are you willing to do that?  Are you willing to let go of the hurts of the past?  Are you willing to let go of the worries of today?  Are you willing to lift up your hopes for the future?  That is what this service is meant to do today.  Individually each of us will write down, all the things from the past that we need to let go of.  Individually we will write down our worries of today.  Individually each of us will write down all of our hopes for the future.  They can be things from your private life.  They can be things from your public life.  And some of them may be things from church.  Whatever they may be, today is the day to release all, ALL to God!  Today is the day that we take hold of, and proclaim our very own Jubilee at First United Methodist!  We will gather them up and then together we will pray over them.  Then we release them to God by burning them.  We will let these things go!  And together we will praise God for this season of Jubilee!

God has great plans for each of us!  God has great plans for us as a church, working together.  Today is the day that we leave behind those things that burden us and walk forward, by God‘s grace, in liberty!  Today is the day that we wipe the slate clean and step in to a future filled with hope, peace, love and joy!  Today begins our season of Jubilee!  Let us proclaim our liberty!  Let us claim our Jubilee!  Thanks be to God!  Amen

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