Throughout Advent, we will explore the biblical theme of Jubilee and its economic significance for our gospel imagination. You'll see a reflection from someone in our community Monday - Saturday.
The Hebrew scriptures lay out a series of teachings about economic rhythms that the people were instructed to practice on a cyclical basis: every 7 days to rest and cease from productivity, every 7 years let the land rest and recover itself, and every 49 years for full economic recovery - debts would be cancelled, slaves freed, leases expired, and land would be redistributed.
Even though there's no evidence that Israel ever actually implemented the Jubilee year, it is evident that they carried an ongoing consciousness of the ideal. Walter Brueggeman says “It is impossible to overstate the defining force of the Sabbatic principle of Sabbath/year of release/Jubilee that altogether reorient thinking about money and possessions.” It was a sort of measuring stick for what a truly flourishing economy could look like.
So then in Luke 4:16-21, when Jesus is giving his inauguration speech in the synagogue, he gives a nod to this Jubilee imagination as a way to define his ministry - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim good news to the poor... to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor".
America has it's own perspective on the ideals of economic flourishing. It's the world we live in, and the season of Advent in particular invokes a tendency to gorge ourselves on the capitalist ideal of it. We see that the ancient imagination of the Jubilee cycle offers a radical and probably more inspiring alternative. Jesus came to bring fullness of life - not only to those who are able to amass disproportionate quantities for themselves, but fullness of life for all, and for our neighborhoods and communities.
May this anticipatory season of Advent be a time to question what is guiding our imagination about flourishing and to wonder: How do we work together towards the Jubilee proclamations of Jesus?