Abundance, Jubilee, and Fresh Starts

This sermon was originally preached via podcast and Facebook Live at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on August 9, 2020. To listen to the full recording, visit our podcast, “Mission Hills United Methodist Church” or search ‘Mission Hills United Methodist Church’ wherever you get your podcasts. If you would like to donate to the ministries of Mission Hills UMC, you can make a secure online gift here. 

Leviticus 25: 1-13

“The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. You may eat what the land yields during its sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound laborers who live with you; for your livestock also, and for the wild animals in your land all its yield shall be for food.

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces.

In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. When you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not cheat one another. When you buy from your neighbor, you shall pay only for the number of years since the jubilee; the seller shall charge you only for the remaining crop years. If the years are more, you shall increase the price, and if the years are fewer, you shall diminish the price; for it is a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you. You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.

What is a rule that is important to your household or family?

While on the same topic as rules, today’s passage from Leviticus sets itself in a time that is very different than 2020, but also shares some pretty interesting characteristics. You see, there was this tradition that the Israelites partook in, that had to do with God’s promise to the people of Canaan. God delivered this message to Moses, and then Moses taught it to the community. This message had to do with how to deal with land and how to manage worship spaces, in other words, the rules. God told Moses that every seventh year, the people should have a sort of sabbatical year from occupying the land, and then every fiftieth year, the people should have the year of jubilee, which is a release of the debts accrued, and a time when land and property should be returned to their rightful owners.

Jubilee is a celebration. Today, we might celebrate a jubilee through a party or a parade. Back in these days, it was celebrated by forgiving debts and giving back what was never meant to be taken. Jubilee is meant to indicate a fresh start, a way to push the reset button in the community, or at least that’s what happened in Canaan. It was a way to make peace with God, and with the community as a whole, so that God’s message of abundance was once again for everybody. 

Try to imagine a time when you were given a fresh start. What was going on before you got it? What did it feel like to receive a fresh start? How did things change after? 

Jubilee was a time for a fresh start for all of God’s people. It was a time to be forgiven, and a time to forgive, a time to love, and to be loved. Because of the intentionality of the jubilee, this holy celebration, those in Canaan were able to see and feel God’s abundance. Perhaps your fresh start also showed you God’s abundance too, and how that abundance is even for you. 

Perhaps we are in the midst of a Jubilee of a different kind. Perhaps we are confronted with a time to see God’s abundance in our midst, the opportunity to see how all people are deserving and worthy of God’s abundance. 

What is something you wish you had an abundance of? What’s something you wish you had an endless supply of, no matter how trivial or serious that thing is?

The idea of abundance means that there will always be enough. And this is a key theme in God’s story. Even from the very beginning, God created us, however many billions of us, and there was never a doubt in God’s mind that there was enough love for each of us. Then as the story was more and more unfolded, we as humanity had moments where we truly lived into the idea of abundance, and there were unfortunately moments where we didn’t. 

There is so much scarcity that we have allowed our society to believe is true. We don’t have enough money, or time, or food, or energy, and while those things may at times be true, this mindset all the time forces our brains to think we need to covet what we already have. It puts us into a pattern of constantly taking, less often giving, and this pattern continues the cycle of scarcity. 

But God said there was enough. God is in relationship with us to give us abundant life. And this is what the story in Leviticus is trying to teach us, that abundance is possible for all of us. 

On the fiftieth day, the people in Canaan had a fresh start. They redistributed the wealth and righted wrongs and made new goals. We are in a time of fresh start too, where we get to ask what our jubilee looks like. What wrongs, both personal, relational, or systemic, need to be wronged? How is wealth and power unequally distributed, and what will the church do about it? What are we looking towards, that we want to accomplish in our next season of jubilee? How will we, like the Cannanites, reevaluate the rules and the ways our community wants to live?

What rules do we need our community to live by, when we ‘start over’? They may be different than before, or things we want to continue.

As God told Moses, this fresh start is a sign of new life. It is guaranteed to come, perhaps showing up in different ways, like on the other end of a pandemic, for example, but it will happen. And our job as followers of God, as descendants of Moses, is to be open to the abundance God has called us into, and the abundance God is calling us towards. May we do that together. 

Let us pray:

God of us all, we give you thanks for the outpouring of abundance you have showed us. Help us continue living into our future as a church, and as a community, as we allow ourselves to believe in God’s journey to abundant life. Amen.

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