March 3, 2014


So here's how it was: every 7 years the farmers of ancient Israel were supposed to let the ground lay fallow, give the soil a rest, and trust God for their provision. Then, once ever seventh-seventh year (49 years), the whole nation of Israel was supposed to, as it were, take a break. Slaves were to be set free, confiscated land returned to its original owners, debts cancelled. It was a big deal, the pinnacle, the crown jewel of the Old Testament law; nothing like it has ever been seen before or since.

But unfortunately, that's just the thing - nobody's ever seen it done. One thing a lot of people don't seem to know is that it was never actually celebrated. Not once. In fact, if you count the years Israel was exiled in Babylon, it adds up to the exact number of Jubilees they missed while living in the land God had given them. God took time on the seventh age of creation to rest, to enjoy His creation. And when Jesus came, He lived a life among the people, but He also took time away, to rest, to pray, to be silent. He set an example we're supposed to follow. We're not slaves, and we're not known only by what we do, what we produce, what we do for society.

We're God's family.

I think that this is something that our society, and especially the western church, has forgotten. To rest, to really enjoy the fruits of our labors, is something that's been drilled out of us in the constant pressure to produce. In my experience, pastors don't get a day off, not really, because they're "on call" in case something happens to somebody. And while it's not like we pastors wouldn't want to help our family (the Church) when something happens, something is - always - happening. And it doesn't take long before we're stealing five minutes from our sabbath to answer just one more email, to finish that one chord chart, to catch up on reading, to visit one more person in the hospital ... we're still very good at ignoring the rest of Sabbath. (side note: I use pastors as the example because I am one, not to single out a profession; if you apply it to your own field, I'm quite sure you'll see what I mean)

Here's the problem: you can't sharpen a blade while it's still spinning. We turn off our power tools because trying to maintain them when they're still active is how fingers are lost. To keep a saw doing what it is supposed to be doing means turning it off to sharpen it, to lubricate the moving parts, to let it cool off. A burned-out saw is no good for itself, or for anyone else. And while people aren't merely tools in the hands of some divine architect (again, we're called family), it IS important to have rhythms in the year where we can be quiet, less intense, even silent.

We still need times of Jubilee.

Our churches need times where there aren't a plethora of events planned into everyone's schedule. Our parents need times of rest (so badly). Our teachers need times of rest. Our firefighters. Our laptops. Our engineers. Our flight attendants. Our stockbrokers. Our stock market. Our janitors. Our president. Name your profession or your institution, it needs life-giving times of silence and stillness, of Jubilee, because these times remind us that it's enough to simply be, that anything we produce comes from our identity (children of the King) and not the other way around. These times are when we remember again that we are loved, not for what we make or do,

but for who we are.

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