Jubilee State Of Mind

Central to God’s covenant with ancient Israel (the spiritual ancestors of Jews, Christians, and Muslims), these laws describe and prescribe what the new life beyond “Egypt”—at that time seen as a symbol of bondage, economic exploitation, impoverishment, and slavery—is to be like. They embody God’s dream, God’s passion for a different kind of life on earth, here and now, in this world. – Marcus Borg

What do we do when we are placed in a time with so much uncertainty and fear? With the current pandemic we are facing, how do face the reality of death and economic turmoil? Whatever your view on the causes of the covid19 virus—from conspiracy theory pandemonium to “mainstream media” coherency—we cannot deny the current effects of the onslaught of mental and physical devastation. When we are hit with something that is so out of our control, how do we react in a healing and liberating way? Well, trusting in our first responders (the real heroes) who are putting themselves in harm’s way for the safety of others is what we must do now. But what about the bigger systemic issues that are taking hold?

One idea comes to mind: Jubilee. No, not the chick from X-Men (hehe). The word “jubilee” is derived from the Hebrew word jobel, which means “ram’s horn”; since it was precisely that horn which was used as a trumpet, whose sound indicated to everybody the beginning of the jubilee year. We find the concept of the jubilee in the book of Leviticus, in the code of holiness, which tells us of the significance of the jubilee year: a year of liberation, alleviation and simplicity. It is within this framework that the official reset idea was started. To experience the commonwealth of God, living out this jubilee reality wouldn’t hurt. I believe we find ourselves in such a time where the spirit of jubilee could burst forth and become incarnated in the current coronavirus-stricken world.

 

Liberation

The Year of Jubilee, which came every 50th year, was a year full of liberating people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to its original owners (Leviticus 25:1-13). Could we use the essence of this ancient “law” (which really was a vision for a new lifestyle) in our current state of affairs?  Let’s see how this can correlate with our current social issues. Here are some stats (from the U.S. perspective):

  • Covid-19 has cost more than 33 million Americans their jobs in the last seven weeks – 10% of the entire US population. The official unemployment rate had shot up from 4.4% to 14.7% on Friday (unseen since the 1930s Great Depression). {1.}
  • Forecasts suggest COVID-19 is likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998.
  • Using the most recent data, the World Bank has predicted coronavirus is pushing 40-60 million people into extreme poverty.
  • The areas most affected depend on the impact of the virus on economic activity and the number of people living close to the international poverty line. {2.}

It isn’t just what the virus is doing to the economic climate now but what it was doing prior to the lockdown. Mass incarceration, education reform, racism (in all its forms), civil rights, climate change, white supremacy, etc. all were issues before covid19 hit. We are still facing this, as we just witnessed an actual murder on video of an innocent black man: Ahmaud Abrey! If this is not the call for liberation (which includes merciful justice) then I do not know what is.

 

Alleviation 

The other side of this coin is the over exacerbation of western consumerism. If we do not keep up with the “empire money making” machine, we will be left in the dust. Western civilization has over emphasized the competitive spirit into a form of slavery. If we do not work those long hours, we do not move up the corporate ladder (yay). Look, hard work is great when it is done in a way that benefits you and others well-being. Hyper Capitalism (not taking any sides on the socialism vs. capitalism debate) is not helping anybody. We are stuck in the consumerism rat race and we need to take steps to release the chains.

Especially with the current pandemic we find ourselves in, we cannot ignore the fragility of our “economy of exchange” that is not up to handle an onslaught of helpless communities in need of care. This is not to criticize our first responders (nurse, doctors, fireman, etc.). We would be utterly doomed without their heroic service. What I am implying is the current trajectory that western societies are headed, we will see no type of practice of rest (sabbath). You see through popular culture the rise of awareness for the importance of meditation. By this becoming more of a daily practice will be a huge step into this sabbath way of contemplation. Like all mystics of the past, the way to encounter true existence is to be aware of the ever-present moment.

Simplicity

Last but not least, is the jubilee call of simplicity. When its all said and done, the task of one living the “simple life” is to actually stand against the plague of disease, social injustices, and economic woes. I do not know about you, but during this quarantine I found less of the non-stop merry-go-round business of life and found more of a content way of being. Yes, I understand that not all of us our experiencing this. People are losing their jobs, houses, and more. But this is where privileged people like me can step up and really show a service minded outset to bring about the peace that is so needed in our current culture. To quote Richard J. Foster from his book, Freedom of Simplicity:

“Simplicity is not merely a matter of having less stress and more leisure. It is rather an essential spiritual discipline that we must practice for the health of the soul.”

There it is. The Jubilee. Yeah, a pretty hefty proposal, I know (is it really, though?). Look, this is not an attempt to make the utopian jamboree (though it does sound nice). It is also not some idealistic plea to just make me (or you) feel all warm inside (not that I am against that haha). But I do strongly believe it is something we can (and should) explore. Why, you ask? Well, when faced with an entity (virus) which has taken us to a place we have never been before—societal disorder on a worldwide scale—that’s when the spirit seems to move herself to places where we have never seen available. Jesus was not lying when he said: “you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” It starts with the breaking of the fruit of the spirit to entice us to act in love. Placing our trust in a new “abnormal” could just be the ticket to embrace a new kind of communal reality. One that brings the jubilee admonition of liberation, alleviation, and simplicity. That is good news, right? Some good news sounds pretty fucking fantastic right about now…

“Now is the time to give me roses not to keep them for my grave to come. Give them to me while my heart beats, give them today while my heart yearns for jubilee. Now is the time.”-Mzwakhe Mbuli

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