The Gospel and the Year of Freedom

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 46.18
18 The prince must not take any of the inheritance of the people, driving them off their property. He is to give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that not one of my people will be separated from their property.’ ” 

Leviticus 25.13-17
13 “ ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. 
14 “ ‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. 15 You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. 16 When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. 17 Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the LORD your God. 

Reflection: The Gospel and the Year of Freedom
By John Tillman

The “year of freedom” refers to the system of Jubilee described first to those entering the promised land. It first divided the land equitably, and then ensured that ownership would reset after a period of years, each family receiving back property lost or sold, being released from indentured servanthood, and being forgiven debts.

For former slaves, this would prevent the foolish or unfortunate from becoming enslaved and prevent the greedy or fortunate from becoming oppressors. There is little evidence, however, that Israel ever faithfully followed the system of Jubilee despite agreeing to it multiple times. 

The brown-skinned authors of scripture did not write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to endorse or condemn economic theories that would be created by white men centuries later. As much as partisans might like it to be, the system of Jubilee is not an endorsement or condemnation of collectivism or individualism. Many current economic and political practices have points of friction with scripture. 

Scripture challenges and convicts all man-made systems, governments, and economic practices of their errors and hubris. Approaching scripture with an eye toward self-correction rather than self-justification should be our default setting. 

The theological basis for the concept of Jubilee was that the land belonged to the Lord, not the people. (Leviticus 25.23) Therefore, since they were “aliens and strangers.” The people could “possess” the land with the Lord but could not claim to own the land and neither could their leaders.

May we pray over and reflect upon a few things described or implied by Jubilee and Ezekiel’s new city of God: 
We don’t own anything even if we possess it.
Equity is the default setting of God’s spiritual economy.
Leaders (princes) must set an example, creating fairness and justice.

Our prince, Jesus, sets our example. He owned everything but lived as though he owned nothing. He laid down his rights as king, taking up the cross. 
He had sympathy for the unsympathetic. (That’s us.) 
He canceled the debts of those who deserved no mercy. (Also us.) 
He restored those whose lives had been wasted by their own choices. (Us, again.)

The gospel challenges us to make every year, a year of freedom, granting forgiveness and freedom to others.

May we seek out unsympathetic failures and undeserving debtors and may we show them the same mercy given to us. (Matthew 18.21-35) In this way, we can make every year (even 2020) a “year of freedom.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Yours are the heavens; the earth also is yours, you laid the foundations of the world and all that is in it. — Psalm 89.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 46  (Listen – 4:49)
Psalm 102 (Listen – 2:45)

Read more about Unsurprising Oppression
“Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Read more about A Cry to God for the Poor from Zimbabwe
You spoke to the children of Israel saying there should not be poor among them. You instituted the Years of Jubilee and Sabbath.

The New Day :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 34.1-3
I will extol the Lord at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
   let us exalt his name together.

Reflection: The New Day :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Every year, the dark of Winter begins to recede as the light of Christmas comes. The Church set the celebration of Christmas at the point of the winter solstice specifically for the teaching metaphor astronomical science provided.

Easter however is set around a historical date and time. Easter and the dates directly related to it, are the only celebrations of the church year that happen on the dates they actually occurred.

Easter’s date, at least at the beginning, was related to the date of Passover, which was set, not by any calendar of modern or ancient man but, by God. In many ways, Easter is the true beginning of the Church year. It is where the fresh newness of life springs up. It is where the root of the church sprouts.

So, although most of our readers are not blessed with the tropical climate of Trinidad, we join today in this joyous prayer, thanking God for the return of life, the return of warmth, and for the strength to walk into a new day with all its struggles and challenges. As this prayer asks, may we worship, slow down, and live in fruitfulness.

Prayer of joy for a new day from Trinidad
Lord, on this new day you have given me,

Let me worship you…
With thanksgiving for the life giving warmth of this tropic sun
In song with the morning wind rustling the leaves
In dance with the chatter of birds and the buzz of bees

I praise you for these songs and sounds of joy.

Lord on this new day you have given me,

Slow me down…
Lead me to restful retreats in the midst of this busy life
Guide me to truth and protect me from sinful dangers
Uphold me as a living sign of your presence in my life.

Let me be eager to tell of your eternal goodness.

Lord on this new day you have given me,

Let me live…
By your grace to face the challenge and the hardships.
With your joy to celebrate that all things come from you.
With divine compassion to reach all those who need your love.

I pray for the fruit, gift, and fullness of your Holy Spirit.

In the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I pray.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 27 (Listen – 4:45) 
Psalm 34 (Listen – 2:14)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about A New Day :: Worldwide Prayer
Every day is a new beginning
Every day is a new challenge
Every day is a new opportunity
Every day is a new invitation to trust you…

Read more about The Eighth Day
The first day of the week, most commonly called the Lord’s day—the kyriaka or dominica—was taken as a celebration of the three great events of salvation history: creation, resurrection, and consummation.

Easter—The Happy Beginning

Psalm 33.1-3
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
   it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
   make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
   play skillfully, and shout for joy.

Reflection: Easter—The Happy Beginning
By John Tillman

We return again this Easter Monday as last, to consider the challenge of N.T. Wright, in Surprised by Hope, to celebrate Easter fully. After all, Easter is not a happy ending. It is a happy beginning.

I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

… Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up.

Easter is not the “end” but the beginning of our new, joyous life in Christ. We don’t get to go back to “normal” even if we go back to what we gave up for Lent. Normal is dead. Going back to normal means crawling back into the tomb. If we are to live in Christ, it must be a new kind of living.

If, like Cleopas, we try to find happiness and joy by going back to Emmaus, Jesus will intercept us. If, like Peter and the other disciples, we try to find fulfillment going back to fishing for fish instead of fishing for men, Jesus will call to us from the shore with breakfast cooking on a fire.

Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year. Let us abandon our destinations for his, and let us leap out of our boats, swimming to shore when he calls.

Let us see what the risen Christ will say to us today.

Prayer: A Reading
“Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?” There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, “The Lord has indeed risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognized hi at the breaking of bread.  — Luke 24.32-35

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 26 (Listen – 6:22) 
Psalm 33 (Listen – 2:08)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Waking up to Easter
“Waking up” to Easter may be a disruptor to our ordinary lives. If we are honest, we’d rather get on with the world now. We want to go back to winning at life and move past all of this gloomy suffering and servanthood.

Read more about Tomb of the Unknown Savior
Mary of Bethany may have been the only disciple who realized Jesus was about to die a sacrificial death. But it seems only his enemies remembered that Christ also promised to come back to life.

The Prayer From the Cross

Psalm 30.11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
   Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Reflection: The Prayer From the Cross
By John Tillman

On the day the Church now calls Good Friday, when Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” people were confused about what he meant. Some even thought he was crying out to Elijah.

Truthfully, we don’t know exactly what was in Christ’s mind, and we also don’t know that he wasn’t thinking multiple things all at the same time, as most humans do in stressful and painful situations.

The clearest, simplest explanation that I lean toward is that Jesus was intentionally quoting Psalm 22, which appeared in our reading plan on Palm Sunday. Jesus knew that most of his audience would recognize the quote and understand that he was referencing the entire psalm. If I said, “To be or not to be,” many people would recognize that I was referencing Hamlet’s entire monologue and its meaning. People less familiar with Hamlet might be confused. Some might think it was from some other source, such as an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

So, on this Good Friday, we will join Christ in his suffering, praying excerpts from this psalm prayed on the cross, ending with excerpts from Psalm 30 from our reading for today.

Make these psalms our prayer, today and over Holy Saturday as we await the joy of resurrection morn.

Praying with Christ, from the Cross (Psalm 22):
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish?

All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
   “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
  For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.

Future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!

Weeping may stay for the night,
   but rejoicing comes in the morning.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.


Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?  — Psalm 22.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 23 (Listen – 6:31) 
Psalm 30 (Listen – 2:41)

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 24 (Listen – 2:58) Psalm 31 (Listen – 3:11)
Leviticus 25 (Listen – 7:41) Psalm 32 (Listen – 1:34)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday
You will find the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the Cross. It was one who had nobody all his own on earth who said, “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.” (Philippians 2.17)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It’s easy to think that when Jesus referred to laying his life down for his friends, he was referring to his imminent death on the cross. But stopping there simplifies what Jesus did — and what he said — into one single act.

Names of Jesus—Priest, Lamb, and Vine :: Throwback Thursday

Psalm 28.29
Hear my cry for mercy
   as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
   toward your Most Holy Place.

Reflection: Jesus, Priest, Lamb, and Vine :: Throwback Thursday
By Nicetas of Remesiana (335–414)

In the Holy Scriptures there are many names and titles which are applied to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. He is said to be the Word; He is called Wisdom, Light and Power; right hand, arm and angel; man and lamb, sheep and priest. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; a vine, Justice and Redemption; bread, a stone and doctor; a fount of living water; peace and judge and door. Yet, for all these names—which are to help us grasp the nature and range of His power—there is but one and the same Son of God who is our God.

These then, are His names; but what are the meanings of these names?

He is called the Word, first, to imply that He was begotten of the Father with no more passivity or substantial diminution in the Father than there is in a person who utters a spoken word. Second, for the obvious reason that God the Father has always spoken through Him both to men and angels.

The name Wisdom tells us that in the beginning all things, through Him, were ordered wisely. He is the Light, because it was He who brought light into the primordial darkness of the world and who, by his coming among men, dissipated the darkness of their minds.

Power is one of his names, since no created thing can every overcome Him. He is a right hand and arm, for through him all things were made and by him they are all sustained. He is called an angel of great counsel, because he is the announcer of his father’s will.

He is said to be the Son of man, because on account of us men he deigned to be born a man. He is called  lamb, because of his perfect innocence; a sheep, to symbolize his Passion.

For two reasons he is called a priest: first, because he offered up his body as an oblation and victim to God the Father for us; second, because, through us, he condescends day after day to be offered up. He is the Way along which we journey to our salvation; the truth, because he rejects what is false; the life, because He destroys death.

He is a vine because he spread out the branches of his arms that the world might pluck in clusters the grapes of consolation from the cross.

*From The Names and Titles of Our Saviour

Prayer: A Reading
Before the festival of Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end… — John 13.1-15

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 22 (Listen – 4:41) 
Psalm 28-29 (Listen – 2:41)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Ending up Like Jesus
The reason we don’t want to surrender power and love our enemies may be that at heart, we really don’t want to end up like Jesus—powerless and crucified.

Read more about Dirty Feet
Jesus gathered the disciples around him, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed their feet. He served them with love and humility. As his followers, we are called to do the same.

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