Posts Tagged ‘Sabbath’

jubilee2Just try to figure out how that actually worked back in Old Testament times. If you think scholarship over the New Testament issues is hot and contested, check out the controversies over this Levitical proclamation in chapters 26 and 27. At first, it seems relatively clear cut, but apparently, a closer examination reveals a number of issues.

Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. [Leviticus 26:8-13, NIV]

Entire articles are written on whether the Year of Jubilee is indeed the 50th year in addition to the 49th year which would make it a Sabbath Year times two (really? two years with no planting?). Others argue over the start date, when is year one? And then still others question the intricacies of all of these transfers of property and slaves in the same year throughout the land. Havoc.

Honestly, I’m not that interested in the intricacies of implementing this law. But I do find the concept fascinating. In essence, ownership of land or slaves had an original possessor (in this case, based on the tribes and families who entered the promised land upon leaving Egypt). And as a result, anything and everything after that, was a lease, a rental, a borrowing contract. Nothing outside of the original grant was permanent.

native americansThis idea reminds me of some of the historical documents that reveal a basic misunderstanding between the Native Americans and the white interlopers from Europe. While the pilgrims and pioneers thought they were buying the lands, the Native Americans always considered these agreements to be temporary and somewhat silly. How could they sell to the whites what they did not own. The land belonged to nature, to God, to Spirit.

How different things would be if we understood today that our lands as well as our wealth and buildings, out cities and our systems are merely leased for a season. God can take them all back in a moment. Nature can easily supersede our so-called ownership and if left fallow, even for a short time, man-made things are engulfed and buried, if necessary, to start anew.

I don’t know when year one is in God’s eyes either. But there is some evidence that our lives and our world do run in cycles. I seriously doubt I could figure out that cycle, but in the spirit of Jubilee, I could proclaim it. I could choose a year of Jubilee, a year of letting go, a year of freedom, a year of rest, a year of renewal. What would I do in a year like that? A true sabbatical.

ResetI don’t really honor the cycle of seven days, resting on the seventh (as in Sunday). Every day is full of activity and obligations, shoulds and musts. Nor have I considered the seven year cycle, re-evaluating my world each seventh year. It’s not required anymore, I know that, but there might be something in this idea of rest and renewal, stopping and starting, taking a deep breath and releasing the past.

In October of 2014, I will reach the 9th set of sabbatical years. I would like to mark the following year as a Jubilee. I’m not sure what that will be exactly, but I’m putting it out there now. To ponder, to think, to imagine, to plan, to reset.

What would you do in a year of Jubilee?

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Photo By Irm Brown

Is this the ultimate Sabbath-rest — is this heaven? Having gotten excited about Rob Bell’s Love Wins and the idea of heaven on earth and the manifestation of the Kingdom within now, I have to ask, what is this? Or is it a call to a 7-day week with a rest day?

Hebrews 4:9-10
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

Instead, I’m thinking it’s more inclusive. The 6-day work week and the 7th day rest has been a classic model throughout Jewish history. It was cultural as well as mandated by the law. Why, it’s even in the Ten Commandments: (Number Four) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . .” [Exodus 20:8-10a]

But, when I look more closely at these rather convoluted passages from Hebrews Four, I must re-think this idea of work and no-work. The Sabbath is a no-work day, but really, who’s doing that? We still cook, we teach Sunday School, we check e-mail, we cut the grass, we go shopping. And these are the light days! We are the lucky ones who don’t have to show up and stand behind a register all day or take food orders or hold bedpans. Are we sinning to “work” on this day?

Or is their another rest? Is there a rest that comes merely from entering and operating in the world of the Christ? Wasn’t it proclaimed that the Messiah would complete all things? There would no longer be sacrifices for sins nor striving to be good to be accepted by God. Jesus said, at the last, “It is finished.”

Perhaps we need to worry less about doing the right thing on the 7th day and spend more time building the 8th day, the time of new beginnings. Followers of the Christ are actually living in that day and time: grace above all, without condemnation, ongoing forgiveness, love as a force, while transparency and authenticity reveal the life to those who don’t know.

“This is the Day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” [Psalm 118:24]

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What Is Lawful?

Mark 3:4-5
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

It struck me this morning Mark reports that Jesus was angry. These glimpses at His emotional life are important and are telling. For me, his angry was fueled by the narrowness of the Pharisees. They had an agenda and no matter what happened around them or before them, they only knew one thing, Jesus was “breaking” a law that was foundational to their beliefs. I think the 21st century church shows signs of the same narrowness at times. Many have taken political and moral stands on various controversies from abortion to homosexuality to music and art or even the environment and made these the litmus tests for identifying a “real” Christian…. a “Bible-believing” Christian. Would Jesus be angry with us? In this story, there is no joy for the healed man? He was insignificant in the face of the law. Let us remember the person today… the sacred soul made and loved by God.

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