Year of Jubilee

I can’t get over yesterday’s lectionary gospel passage. I’ve been thinking about it all week.

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21 NRSV)

jubileeRobert Parham, executive director of EthicsDaily, suggests “Luke 4:18-19 is one of the most ignored, watered down, spiritualized or glossed-over texts in white Baptist pulpits, evading or emptying Jesus’ first statement of his moral agenda.” (Thanks to Heather Entrekin for pointing me to the article). While Robert is writing to and from a Baptist context, I’d suggest that the neglect extends far beyond Baptist life.

The truth is, as exciting as encouraging as this text is, it is hard. The church where I work hires homeless individuals to do the custodial work in exchange for room and board. In the six months I’ve been here, we’ve had an overturn of three guys (luckily at least one of those was to his own apartment — which is the goal).

These last six months I’ve also been a volunteer for the Community Mediation Program (through the Mennonite Peace Center). The most peaceful agreements I’ve seen parties (usually neighbors) come to is the decision to act as if a restraining order is in place — they decide not to have eye contact, not to talk to one another, not to talk about one another, not to call city services on one another (for the uninitiated, one of the ways to get at your impoverished neighbors is to call various city agencies and make claims of rats, garbage, etc. Your neighbor then has to take a day off work while folks determine that their home is not, in fact, infested). And while this kind of “peace” is better than pursuing a violent end, it isn’t exactly good.

Declaring a year of jubilee isn’t easy. It involves moments of wanting to pull your own hair out. It involves walking into someone else’s imperfect story and loving someone in the midst of terrible decision making.

But I can’t help but wonder what it would look like—how we would live—if we truly believed that this was the year of jubilee. Yesterday my church joined with others across the world in declaring it so. And I was thankful that it was also membership day to show that we need one another to live out this declaration. And I need all of you. What are your ideas? What are the cool things you are doing to proclaim and live out the good news to/for the oppressed? How might we be God’s agents in making this world more awesome?

(photo credit)

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