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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Leviticus 25:8–12

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces. (NRSV)

A passage detailing the establishment of a “year of jubilee”—a term we associate with joy and celebration—might seem at odds with the contemplative nature of the Lenten season, but understanding the meaning behind this festival year helps bring its purpose into focus. In Leviticus, this time of Jubilee begins on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)—the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and itself a call to atonement and repentance—and continues through the entirety of the fiftieth year. It was, in effect, the routine establishment of a sabbatical year—a command to break from the routines and rhythms of daily life and culture, particularly those that are harmful. As the author of Leviticus goes on to write, this was a time when outstanding debts would be forgiven and slaves would be freed to return home, a time when the land would be allowed to rest and be renewed and when a sense of God’s grace would be known by all.

This is, of course, akin to our routine observation of the season of Lent through self-examination and penitence, but it challenges us to perhaps imagine something even more comprehensive: what if our intentionality around how our actions and behaviors affect others and ourselves were not confined to a forty-day season, but an entire calendar year or beyond?

As overwhelming as this concept might be, perhaps it is not all that far removed from Jesus’ call to discipleship in our lives: to intentionally reorient our lives according to God’s grace and love. So may that intentionality remain with each of us in the days—and years—ahead.

Holy God, may this season of Lent continue to shape me in lasting ways and may I truly live a life that is intentionally shaped by your grace and love. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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