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Our Jubilee Year

Author: The Rev. Clelia P. Garrity, LCSW


Amidst all the dashed plans developed by our diocesan Jubilee Year Celebration Committee one active remnant remains. The remnant of a plan that was intended to be carried out in a time quite different from this COVID-19 world in which we now live. A remnant that remains as the closing collect offered in our Prayers of the People. A collect that is stunning in its relevance – its critical importance – at this beleaguered point in time.


The collect reads: Lord God of all creation, fill us with your grace as we remember your kindness and goodness to us, through providence and through struggle; and let the trumpets proclaim the year of the Jubilee, a year of the Lord's favor, as we dedicate ourselves to reorient our mission efforts to renew your Gospel in our midst. May your Spirit inspire us we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


According to the Book of Leviticus, every 50 years would be a Jubilee year. A year in which Hebrew slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. In other words, it was a year of celebration; a year of thanking God for the gifts of abundance bestowed on us; a year of resting and renewing – of preparing for the future.


Our diocesan Jubilee collect addresses these activities: …fill us with your grace as we remember your kindness and goodness to us, through providence and through struggle; and let the trumpets proclaim the year of the Jubilee, a year of the Lord's favor, as we dedicate ourselves to reorient our mission efforts to renew your Gospel in our midst. May your Spirit inspire us…


If ever there was a time when we needed to be filled with God's grace, it is now. If ever there was a time when we needed to remember God's kindness and goodness towards us, it is now. If ever there was a time when we needed to reorient our mission efforts to renew the Gospel in our midst, it is now. If ever there was a time when we needed the Spirit to inspire us, it is now.


I find this collect – this remnant of a different time and a different reality – to be of critical relevance to this time - this COVID-19 reality.


Our lives lived in relative isolation from each other for the past 12 weeks have been incredibly stressful. Overnight, we have gone from believing that we were in control of our lives to a dead zone in which nothing is clear, and much is being lost, or at the very least cast into jeopardy.


Simple decisions such as whether or not to go to the grocery store are fraught with anxiety, and yes, perhaps danger. Jobs and/or retirement funds are no longer secure. Visits to loved ones who may be dying in hospital or nursing homes are prohibited. Plans to visit family and long anticipated vacation adventures have been eliminated. Life as we knew it has disappeared. We are, whether we want to admit it or not, in shock. We have and are experiencing trauma in its Nth degree.


We are very much in the same boat as the bewildered apostles when they asked Jesus, "Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?" How must they have felt when he answered, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority."


As we move through this COVID-19 challenge we are continually asking, "Lord, is this the time when will this be over. When will we be restored to normal?" Jesus offers us the same response that he has always offered, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority."


Our feeling of anxiety, fear, anger, and confusion are ever present. God's plans and timeline are as always obscure – unknown. It is not for us to know God's plans.


But we may – indeed we must - take comfort in the knowledge that Christ abides in us, and we in Christ. That we are one and as such we are given strength, courage, power, and are capable of being Christ's witnesses in the world – no matter what the circumstances. The power of the Holy Spirit is with us and in us – always. Christ with us - always. We are beloved children of God – always.


That is why this Jubilee Year collect is still so very relevant despite the dramatically changed circumstances of its creation. This is most assuredly a time to remember God's kindness and goodness towards us, through providence and through struggle.


This is most assuredly a time to dedicate ourselves to reorient our mission efforts – our efforts to spread the Good News through word and deed.


This is most assuredly a time to pray for the Spirit to inspire us. To give us courage to overcome the challenge of COVID-19 anxieties and fears by experiencing Christ within us and with us in the here and now. By listening for and being guided by the Holy Spirit in the here and now.


The here and now is our reality. It is not our "new" normal. It is life as we know it in the here and now and it will change; and keep changing. It will not go back to the "old" normal and we have no way of imagining what a "new" normal will be. Indeed, a new normal may be, at least for the near future, a state of continual change.


What is clear is that we must not stop living. We must not stop loving our neighbor. We must not stop being God's people in the world. We must not stop reorienting ourselves to this new and challenging world. We must not stop renewing our vows as Christ's anointed. We must not – not ever – stop listening to and being inspired by the Holy Spirit – our advocate – our gift from God.


Perhaps, more than originally conceived, this is the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast's Jubilee Year. Perhaps this COVID-19 challenge with its mandate that we pause from the hectic turmoil of our everyday life is God's way of placing us in a position that forces us to remember, reorient, and renew.


Will we step up to the challenge? Will we with courage, strength, and the inspiration that comes to us through the Holy Spirit let go of the "old" normal and live with the reality of today and the uncertainty of tomorrow? Will we allow our imaginations to take us into new and exciting ways to spread God's good news, his love, into a world that is so filled with pain?


Should we be able to come together in a Jubilee Revival Celebration in December, will we be celebrating our good works of the year past? Will we be a people expressing through song and prayer the joy and bounty that we have reaped despite the overwhelming challenges of COVID-19? Will we be celebrating the remembering, reorienting, and renewing of God's Kingdom in the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast?


Lord God of all creation, fill us with your grace as we remember your kindness and goodness to us, through providence and through struggle; and let the trumpets proclaim the year of the Jubilee, a year of the Lord's favor, as we dedicate ourselves to reorient our mission efforts to renew your Gospel in our midst. May your Spirit inspire us we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.


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