Let’s Have a Year of Jubilee!
This sermon was preached by Pastor Jim Kniseley at Resurrection on January 5, 2014, the Second Sunday of Christmas. The text is John 1:9, “The true light that gives light to all was coming into the world.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Have you noticed the central theme that runs throughout our scriptures and music and prayers today? The theme is the light that shines in the darkness. Today the gospel writer John talks about Jesus as “the true light that gives light to every person.” We sang in the Entrance Hymn, “Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory.” We prayed in the Prayer of the Day, “Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in that we do…”
Tomorrow, January 6, is officially the day the Wisemen visited Jesus, after following the star. Next Sunday we’ll observe Epiphany Sunday and remember how special that day was. But today I invite you to join me on the road to Bethlehem. The star is overhead, guiding us, giving us great hope. The journey is good for us, as we are being refined to love and serve the Lord more and more. Right now, as Martin Luther said, “We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.”
I think that is a pretty good description of every one of us here today, and it’s a great description of this congregation: We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing toward it.”
We are officially in the 25th anniversary year of this congregation’s founding. This is our Silver Jubilee. Thanks be to God! I pray that Resurrection will be here for hundreds of years to come. The question that we now ask must be, “Lord, what do you want us to do and who do you want us to be in your future?” The future of Resurrection can certainly be influenced by the foundation stones that are being laid now in this generation. Those foundation stones include the passion and sincerity of our witness to the community, our teaching the faith to our children, the way we treat each other in times of anxiety and conflict, and the spirit of love, mercy and forgiveness.
Have you heard of the Year of Jubilee in the Bible? We read in Leviticus that every 50th year there was a whole year in which wonderful acts of charity and kindness prevailed among the people of Israel. Slaves were freed and reunited with their families. Land was redeemed to those who lost it through adverse circumstances or poverty. God required forgiveness of debts. The land had to rest and thus could not be sowed or reaped.
Bible Scholars are pretty sure that Jesus had in mind a time of jubilee when he preached at his home town synagogue in Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. That scripture sure sounds to me like a mission statement for Jesus as he started conducting his earthly ministry.
I did a little research on my computer about Jubilee Years in the Roman Catholic Church. Since the year 1400, they have been declared every 25 years. The idea is that forgiveness of sins is granted in return for acts of piety or repentance. Our Protestant view would strongly say that our acts of kindness, love and forgiveness are done out of a sense of thanksgiving to God and not as a payment.
I would love to see us have a Year of Jubilee here at Resurrection in honor of Jesus and in recognition of our 25th anniversary. It would be great to see each and every one of us go overboard in showing kindness, love and forgiveness. That would include members of the congregation to each other, but would also extend to others we encounter in our everyday lives. I know that many of us have been making our new year’s resolutions, and those probably include things like losing weight, and spending our money more wisely, and attending worship more. Please don’t forget those, but how about adding in the ingredients for having a year of jubilee?
Last year as part of the 25th anniversary of the ELCA, many of us participated in a community day of service. We wore yellow shirts with the ELCA name and logo and the name of Resurrection in bold letters. We stood outside the various food markets and asked folks to donate for the food banks and pantries. That was so satisfying that many of you asked if we could do something like that again. I know that our Faith in Action Team is working on this and you will be hearing details of when we will make that happen in the year 2014.
Let me conclude with the formula “25+1”. You are going to hear it a lot this year. It is something we believe would make Jesus very happy and bring health and strength to our ministry and witness. It means that in our congregation’s 25th year of jubilee, each and every one of us will commit to increasing our attendance at worship by one service per month. What would that do? It would mean the pews would be full, the vitality of the worship would be significantly enhanced, it would teach our children about Christ-centered priorities, and it would be most welcoming to visitors and members alike.
Resurrection People, “we are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.” This day, I invite all of us to continue the journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus, the true light of the world. Amen!