In the Money Stories study group this week, we looked at a Leviticus passage that describes (and prescribes) the year of Jubilee. Following some tricky calendar math, the scripture says to
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants…. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other…but fear your God. (19:10-17)
Then we considered this question:
Imagine debts forgiven and prisoners freed. Imagine enough harvest for all. What might a biblical-style Jubilee look like in your community?
In the brief silence between the asking and the answering, I thought of how fantastical this scenario seemed. Wonderful, for sure - but fantastic, and other-worldly, and pretty unlikely - such a sweeping change from where we are.
Then one of us told of loading some church items into her car on Seminary Avenue as an angry person walked by and broke out her car windows with a rock. One thinks right away of calling the police, but our storyteller said: That person needed help! We recalled the tragedy of Marcus David Peters, whose extreme mental distress cost him his life at the hands of law enforcement. I began to have a glimmer of the road to “biblical-style Jubilee in my community”: it is not a grand sweeping motion. It is being open to understanding the needs of an individual; it’s attending a year’s worth of RISC meetings in advance of a Nehemiah Action; it’s inmate outreach in a women’s prison; it’s the willingness to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
I was overtaken by a real-time reimagining experience earlier this week, attending Doug’s lunchtime hymn recital. I hadn’t sat in the sanctuary since February - I’m pretty sure that’s the longest gap in attendance since I joined at age 14. So much flows through my being in that space - a whole mess of stories for sure - and as Doug trilled the trumpet toward the end of “Joyful, Joyful”, it evoked the wonderful ways we lived and experienced worship in our sanctuary.
Against that was the emptiness of such a huge room, and the Lenten floral arrangement (bare branches) bleakly noting when time stopped.
What, in God’s name, does it mean to have that big beautiful space on the corner of Walton and Chamberlayne? It’s an active question that goes back at least 30 years. And if there were ever a time for re-imagining our gifts, it is surely now. I sat in the sanctuary in the wash of our fabulous organ and wondered - my head as empty as the spacious room around me. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to imagine the fullness of a sweeping vision of change.
Fortunately, God also accepts small steps.
Alfred Walker has begun roughly his 4th term on our Session. He provides varying levels of emotional support to the other members of his family who, between teaching and studenting, are traversing the strange new world of education from grades 3 into college.