Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lost Themes of Mission - Jubilee...

Jubilee should be something that shapes our understanding of mission - but I sometimes wonder if we are too busy singing songs or looking at cool video loops backed by Coldplay

Bruggemann (2002) (Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes) draws attention to the biblical concept of Jubilee, a radical ethical-economic practice sanctioned for Israel to curb greed, exploitation and the whole rapaciousness of society where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. The general idea was that every fifty years the people were to: release all debts; set slaves free; let the lands lie fallow, and lands were to be returned to their original (and rightful) owners.

This certainly sounds like good news to the poor. Disappointing then that Old Testament scholars suggest that it never actually happened. I was disappointed but found myself drawn to what was however God's intention for humanity.
  • The idea of Jubilee recognised that a major source of fragmentation in society was the propensity for greed that condones and encourages the rich to get richer and for the poor to get poorer.
  • The idea of Jubilee recognised this greed in society is unjust and should therefore be curtailed.
  • The idea of Jubilee recognised God's concern for the poor.
  • The idea of Jubilee recognised where the cause of poverty is injustice, charity is not enough.
  • The idea of Jubilee recognised God's plan for reparation or restoration of righteousness or fairness

Kraybill (1990) observes:
In true biblical fashion, the Jubilee integrates spiritual and social dimensions. It weaves religion and economics into one fabric. Pulling the two apart prostitutes the biblical truth. Refusing to participate in the economic turnover constitutes flagrant disobedience. (Kraybill 1990)

Kraybill, D (1990) The Upside-down kingdom. Herald
Jesus demonstrated a new way of living, 'disclosed God's social habits!' and it seems to me that Jubilee was a strong theme to that life. Bruggemann draws parallels with the ministry of 'Lukan' Jesus enacting the jubilee. Jubilee should be something that shapes our understanding of mission - but I sometimes wonder if we are too busy singing songs or looking at cool video loops backed by Coldplay.

Jubilee 2000 held great potential; Make Poverty History (or in Poplar Salvation ARmy's highly successful tributary campaign - Make Povery History) was also well supported by churches but whether we can say that Jubilee is foundation to mission, whether we can say that Jubilee is shaping our understanding of our role as church - I'm not convinced.

By and large I wonder if the theme of Jubilee is as lost as it was in the non-practice of Jubilee in the Old Testamant. Shame!

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