Our little church near downtown Omaha, Nebraska, was started 50 years ago. That alone is a good accomplishment; not all urban churches survive for 50 years. In Leviticus 25, the Bible makes a big deal out of the Jubilee year, and our church leaders knew this. In fact, they began meeting well before our Jubilee began to discuss creative ways to make the year special.
One of our teenagers made a 3-foot by 18-foot banner that said “50 Year Anniversary: Come see what God has done,” and it hung outside of the building above the front doors. We planned special events, including a celebration weekend in early June for the whole church, offered special memory items, collected historic photos and researched our records for important dates in our history.
Before our anniversary year began, while spending time with God deep in nearby Fontenelle Forest, I, too, began to think about our Jubilee. The year of Jubilee was the 50th year for the Israelites of great trust in God, great care for one another and great focus and holy fear on the almighty God. And it was as if God was saying, “Why not make the whole year of preaching centered on the Jubilee year from Leviticus 25?” And so, we did.
We focused on seven words and considered a question for each theme:
- Rest: Physical, spiritual and emotional rest (Lev. 25:4-5). What looks like real rest to you?
- Freedom: We are free in Christ indeed! (Lev. 25:10-11). In what way would you like to truly live free?
- Reverence: Having a holy fear and respect of God for how great he is (Lev. 25:17). How might God be inviting you into a deeper reverence for him?
- Trust: Relying on God to provide in all the many aspects of life (Lev. 25:21-22). In what ways would you like to grow in trust?
- Remember: Reflecting back on what God has done, thanking him and learning from the past (Lev. 25:38). In what ways could remembering the past give life to your future?
- Generosity: Sharing our finances, resources, time and skills ( Lev. 25:35). How might God be calling you toward increased generosity?
- Knowing God: Understanding more and more who God is (Lev. 25:25). How would you like to really know God?
The congregation responded well to the sermon series. It was a fun learning time for us all. To help the congregation learn to trust God, we took no offerings all year long. Instead, we placed a secure box in the back in which people could drop their offerings, and it worked just fine. It is a practice we are continuing.
During the year we also held an outdoor service on the church’s front lawn, the musical group “Reconciled” came and presented the Sunday morning service, we spent a Saturday together at the lake and we delivered special gifts to our church neighbors. We ended the year with four months focusing on knowing Christ which included a reflection on eight of the names of God.
A reality for many in the church though is that our 2018 Jubilee felt like anything but a jubilee. Many suffered through intense problems, even some deaths. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ the Old Testament power of the Jubilee of rest, freedom, reverence, trust, remembering, generosity and knowing God can now be lived out every day for the rest of our lives, regardless of all the hurt and pain.