The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrates 60 years of her reign, diamond being the jewel chosen to represent 60 years. Wedding anniversaries are remembered with different items each year: the first wedding anniversary being paper, the tenth tin and so on. The ‘special anniversaries’ are well known (silver for 25 years, pearl for 30 years, ruby for 40 years and gold for 50 years).

Anniversaries are good, because they cause us to stop and remember all that has happened. On 6th June this week, we celebrate 2 years since our first meeting in the Market Street building and in July will be having an anniversary weekend to celebrate our official opening in this building. We do that to remember God’s faithfulness and work in this place. We have seen something of who God is and want to let others know about this!

Jubilee, so widely used in the UK this year, is a Biblical word. Leviticus 25 talks us through the origins of the Year of Jubilee. God established the Sabbath principle right at the beginning of Creation (Gen 2:2-3) and gave the commandment to keep it holy to Moses (Ex 20:8). Leviticus 25:2-5 goes on to talk about a Sabbath year, when the land was to be left unattended and fallow and no sowing or reaping was to be done. Even the land was to have a year of rest!

The Year of Jubilee happened once every fifty years, rather than once every seven years. “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land and its inhabitants.” (Lev 25:10) In this Jubilee year, everyone was to return to his family property and to his own clan. It was to be a Sabbath year, so there was to be no sowing or harvesting of the land. It was to be a year of restoration, so if land was sold, it had to be done without taking advantage. This year required the compulsory return of all property to its original owners or their heirs, except the houses of laymen within walled cities, in addition to the manumission of all Israelite slaves. In other words, there was a strict limit on what people could do with their land and with their servants. God was reminding His people of the value and worth of all that we own and reminding His people that ultimately, everything we own is simply loaned to us by Him. He is the real owner. He was also keen to prevent our abuse of all we own, which so easily happens when we forget who God is and think that whatever serves our own interests must be the right thing to do.

The whole Sabbath principle and Year of Jubilee introduce us to the topsy-turvy kingdom of God, where the first shall be last, where the least shall be greatest, where we gain our lives by losing them, where ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.’ (1 Cor 1:25) How can we be more productive if we rest for one day rather than working for seven? How can the land produce food for a year if we don’t work at it? How can we prosper if we let all the slaves go once every fifty years?

God’s ways are not our ways. In Lev 25:21 -22, He said:“I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.” This is the same principle that is found in Malachi when the principle of tithing our income is discussed: God says “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’” (Mal 3:10) God can do so much more with all we have than we can!

As a church, we have proved the generosity and provision of God first hand over the years. When we were buying the building on Market Street, we had just over £7,000 in the bank, which is definitely not enough in the 21st century to buy a building of this size! The provision of a grant from CRT was a miracle, yet still the asking price kept rising, beyond what we had. In the end, we took the risky and scary decision to put in every penny the church had to the bid: £7,257.07. How would we pay the next gas bill? What would we do if God didn’t step in?

From this safe vantage point of hindsight, the story is an exciting testimony of God’s provision and faithfulness. By the time we moved into the building, we had as much in the bank account as when we had committed every last penny to the bid. We were able to do renovations and refurbishment costing thousands of pounds even before we sold the building on Beever Street. The money poured in. Even now we cannot say where it all came from. But the fact remains that the very week that the building on Beever Street sold in December 2011, we had paid back every penny of the loan we had been given (itself a miracle) and done far more to the building than we had possibly imagined. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine! (Eph 3:20)

Jubilee, though, is more than a God-given principle of how to live. It is a reflection of God’s heart. It acts as a pointer to His amazingly generous character, to the mercy and grace which are such an intrinsic part of His divine nature. It shows us something of who God is and what He is like. I can’t put it better than to quote the words of the Michael Card song ‘Jubilee’, with which we finished the service:

‘The Lord provided for a time
For the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled
So his chosen ones could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness
He longed to see their liberty
And his yearning was embodied in the year of Jubilee

Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is the Jubilee
Debts forgiven
Slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time
His deep desire became a man
The heart of all true jubilation
And with joy we understand
In his voice we hear a trumpet sound
That tells us we are free
He is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee

To be so completely guilty
And given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face
And see a Saviour there.’ (Michael Card, ‘Jubilee’)

‘Jubilee’, Michael Card