Paying for the party

Leviticus 25:1-19
This weekend, I preached a message based on the parable of the prodigal son. Or, as some have recognized, the parable of the older brother. Maybe it’s the parable of the loving father.

You decide.

I encouraged my congregation to go party. That is, follow the Spirit’s guidance. If you’re open, God will show you where you need to be, how you can be a blessing. Too often, we church-y people would rather huddle behind our stained-glass masquerade (Casting Crowns reference). That’s easier than putting our reputations and egos on the line as we seek to encounter those in need. The older brother in the parable was too occupied by his anger to take part in the joy and love of his father. Preach!

There’s one thing I should have mentioned. If you’re going to throw a party, it’s going to cost. Even our old-school cake-and-ice-cream birthday parties meant spending a little money. Another time Jesus told his disciples to “count the cost” of discipleship. Don’t be blind to what’s required of our walk with God.

I bring that up today because our reading in Leviticus mentions, of sorts, a party. It’s the year of jubilee. Another term for it is the year of release. In its simplest terms, Jubilee is a once-every-fifty-years event. Land returns to its original owners. That’s the most notable aspect. Also, debt is to be forgiven and agriculture lands are to lie fallow. Even basic food necessities get distributed to all. It’s a year of restoration. Talk about a party!

The people of God received the terms of their covenant with God at Mount Sinai. Most of the instructions would be for their future life with God. That includes jubilee. So, let’s imagine the hopeful expectation the Israelites clutch to as they hear of it.

Scholars debate, though, whether the people ever followed through with such a celebration. Were they not willing to take God up on such a promise of restoration? If not, I think we can understand why.

It sounded good at Mount Sinai. As the jubilee year approached, the cost may have been too high. You would celebrate if your ancestral land was returned or your debt was forgiven. But you may not call it a party if you were the one returning the land or money. The party costs someone.

Jesus understood his ministry as a form of jubilee. Think of what he reads in synagogue in Luke 4 about restoration and redemption. Yes, Jesus was ready for that party. And he was ready to pay for it with his life.

So, go party, but know it may cost you. Is it still worth it?

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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