from St Anselms Chapel Center @ USF
One of the things I love about visiting my daughter and son-in-law is the opportunity to attend worship services at their church. Revolution (Kansas City) is a United Methodist mission located in a traditional old church building in the urban Westport neighborhood. Sunday morning worship there is a refreshing mixture of new and old, and for me it is always a welcome breath of fresh air.
Their stated mission is to “serve with passion, worship with relevance, and love without judgement.” A strong commitment to social ministry is evident throughout the worship service and (especially) in the activities of the church. As a member of the congregation, you have ample opportunities to serve in fellowship with your church family.
Worship with relevance is a wonderful mixture of the old and new. Hymns include some of the old Baptist hymns I remember from my grandmother but the words are up on a screen and the music is played by a band that may or may not include singers, guitar (electric or acoustic), drums, and even a little harmonica. The congregation is encouraged to bring their Bibles to worship, but as the sermon begins I notice that about half the Bible toters are folks sporting iPhones with Bible apps. (And that was definitely OK.)
Finally, love without judgment is evidenced in everything from the casual (but reverent) atmosphere to the preached message to the folks still standing around chatting in the sanctuary, 30 minutes after worship had concluded.
This summer we happened to attend during the last two weeks of four week study of Leviticus. I knew in advance that it was gonna be good.
The sermon for the first week (week 3 for the gathered assembly) dealt with the rules and regulations of Leviticus, focusing on the original intent to promote the survival and identity of the Israelites and their preservation as a holy people. And how might we write the rules of Leviticus today to promote the survival and identity of our Christian congregations?
“Thou shalt not text while driving”?
“Wendy’s Baconator shall be considered an abomination to you”?
More importantly, what guidelines would we use to set us apart from contemporary culture as God’s holy people?
Think about it! Interesting question, isn’t it? Just wait. It gets better…..
The second week we were there, the message focused on the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25: 8-12).
The Year of Jubilee was to be a hallowed time, a time set aside every 50th year for rest and rejoicing. All debts would be forgiven, all prisoners released. It is a very real reminder that we do not own anything on this earth but are only “strangers and sojourners,” totally dependent on God.
What’s that, you say? All mortgages cleared after that 50th year? All the prison doors opened and the criminals released back into our midst?
At that point in the sermon, Pastor Eric reminded the congregation that the word “criminals” in Old Testament prisons referred to debtors. (The punishment for violent crimes was much more swift, certain, and severe–no expectation of rehabilitation and release!)
And that got me thinking….
Many of us have struggled with unusual debt in the past few years and with our own forms of “debtors’ prison” due to unemployment, rising medical expenses, home foreclosures and short sales, student debt and excessive credit card debt. For many of us, the burden seems overwhelming–a hole that gets deeper and deeper.
But, if you are currently locked away in today’s debtor’s prision, consider what it would be like if the next harrassing phone call you got, the next scary letter from your lending agent simply said:
“Congratulations! This is the Year of Jubilee. The balance owed on your account is now $0.00. You are now free and clear. Go and have a wonderful life.”
When I considered this, the meaning and significance of all the New Testament parables about debts, debtors, and forgiveness suddenly shifted for me. How incredibly amazing would it be to have your debts really forgiven?
Go a step beyond. How wonderful would it be to have the burden of all those things you did and shouldn’t have, all those times you could have helped and didn’t….
Of course, I wondered as I listened to this sermon, how did all this work out for the Israelites? And also, why have I NEVER heard about this scripture before?
As it turned out, the year of jubilee was apparently never implemented. (Just not practical when you think it through, you know….)
But we know the Year of Jubilee. We are privileged to experience Jubilee in Jesus, we are redeemed in the gift of his body and blood.
And as my family deals with the fiscal difficulties of the current economy , the message of Jubilee has not left me. There is redemption and there is reason to hope.
And Radiohead, too, you may ask?
As we finished the service at Revolution and the band concluded the final hymn, the musicians popped some recorded music into the sound system. After a moment, I recognized “Paranoid Android” from OK Computer.
Redemption, release, and Radiohead, too?
Yes, indeed, I do love worshiping at Revolution…..