The Sacred Art of Rest - Jubilee
This week’s sermon was given by Vicar Morgan.
Our sacred story comes from Leviticus 25, where God tells Moses how he and the Israelites should balance work and rest in their lives, and we hear of a great jubilee in which all debts are paid, accounts settled, and people restored to their homes/families/farms.
It’s really fitting that this is the text for our last Sunday in “The Sacred Art of Rest” sermon series because it is a text about what comes after the rhythmic pattern and cycle of work. And rest. And work. And rest.
And so here we are in our own kind of jubilee week! Over the last four weeks we have been talking about and living our own patterns of work and rest, and understanding how we are called to works of various kinds and types and that it IS good and holy to work, but that we are also called to REST.
We are called to take a Sabbath from the work that we are called to, because is not only good for us but it is in fact holy and necessary for us to live into the abundant life God has created us for.
And in this text today, God talks about a great, extended rest for God’s people, the land, and all of Creation. God told the Israelites through Moses that the land should have a sabbath year after 6 years of sowing, planting, and harvesting. And then God said, once the land has gone through seven cycles of work and rest, there will be a year of jubilee.
God says that in this year of Jubilee NO ONE will work on their land.
There will be no clearing of last year’s harvest, just let it be.
There will be no planting of a new crop, just let it be.
There will be no moving or selling of livestock, just let them be.
Let it be.
This idea of letting the land rest is still practiced in many areas of agriculture today. This past May I took a class in seminary on ministry in rural settings and we spent a week in South Central Nebraska learning from members of rural congregations who were either farmers themselves or came from a family of farmers. We learned about the day to day work of owning and running a farm, and about the kind of crops they grew.
Many of the farmers owned dozens of acres of land spaced out over several blocks, and each block was about 4 square acres. They told us that each block of land was used, planted, and tilled differently depending on the kind of crop they were growing and how much product they needed to harvest in order to make a profit, or at least, break even.
Some of them had “no till” fields which meant that once the field was harvested, all of the leftover...”stuff,” the stalks, leaves, husks, etc. were left where they lie, instead of being cleared away. We were told that this was meant to give the land a chance to rest and allow the soil to retain some of its natural nutrients and soak up whatever extra the decomposing plant matter of last season’s crop leaves behind.
These fields are getting a season of sabbath where they can rest from the usual rhythm of till, plant, and harvest.
And also, it’s important to remember that this is only done with some of the fields, not all. While one or two fields rest and enjoy a no-till season, the rest of the fields are maintaining their regular cycle of:
And this weekend many of us have a break from our normal cycles of rest, work, and play with the Labor Day holiday. We know that Labor Day was started in the late 1800’s as a way of recognizing the working people who made things function in the United States - well...the white working people at least. But this Labor Day weekend I’m mindful of all the people in the service industry especially, who don’t have the privilege of a day of. I’m thinking about the sex workers who don’t get a day off from working for their living, and the people working for the infrastructures of our city, state, and country who work tirelessly to keep power grids running during the heat of summer and transit routes open as people vacation and travel. And I’m thinking and wondering...when is their sabbath year? When is their jubilee?
I’m thinking about everyone re-traumatized by the news of the shootings yesterday in Midland and Odessa. I’m thinking about the people in El Paso who 4.5 hours away from the Home Depot in Midland are still frozen by fear, thinking “oh God, not again...” and I’m wondering WHEN IS THEIR SABBATH YEAR. WHEN IS THEIR JUBILEE.
I’m thinking about our community right here. Still carrying the loss of Tracy Single, the 15th black trans woman who has been murdered in the United States in 2019. I’m thinking about our community right here where living off of what grows on the land isn’t a sabbath practice, but maybe a necessity. When is our sabbath year? When is our jubilee?
And I know y’all are tired, fam.
I know that in the cycle of work and rest it can sometimes seem like work wins most of our time and that it seems like there really is no rest for the weary.
And yet, the God of the Israelites who spoke a word of rest and jubilee is the same God who is with us today amidst all of the burdens and trials that weigh heavy on our hearts.
And God says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29)
And so receive this good news: you are good and worthy of rest. Rest in this time and in this place, with these people who know and care about you. Because here, as +KINDRED, this is our own kind of jubilee where we are kind to one another and treat each other with respect, and we rest from our work to be in fellowship with each other.
This jubilee doesn’t have to end with us here tonight, and I think the world could use it's own kind of jubilee right about now. Let’s carry out the spirit of jubilee with us as we go, proclaiming rest as radical and holy, and living into the abundant life that we are called to through the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.