Hallowing the Fiftieth Year

Someone asked me if I would be developing a liturgy for this Jubilee of forgiveness, and I think it’s a great idea. (By the way, I realize that the fiftieth year is the one just over, but I only got the idea in a birthday card.)

So what would it have?
Scripture
Prayer
Ritual action
Litany? But who would do it with me? There’s a problem for Congregational/former Baptist me with the idea of doing a ritual alone, so I’ll be considering whether there are people who would be appropriate witnesses/participants.

This morning I looked at the order for Reconciliation of a Penitent Person in the UCC Book of Worship, which is frankly modeled on the Book of Common Prayer, and that just feels totally unhip to me.

I think what I need is some combination of reading and writing. I need a text and a prayer and maybe a poem, and something I write and then a ritual act of letting go, whether’s it’s tossing stones into the ocean or burning pieces of paper with words written on them. I need a symbolic act.

So where scripture is concerned there’s that always weird to me passage in John 20:

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23, NRSV)

And of course the passage that started the whole thing:

10And 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. (Leviticus 25:10, NRSV)

My friend quoted only Leviticus 25:10a, but I am contemplating the whole thing in an attempt to understand what’s going on in a Jubilee year. In the Catholic church, the idea was developed into a year of official forgiveness, which is not what I’m getting from Leviticus at all. It sort of turns it into returning to the church. But what’s going on here is really about taking a year off to go to the home place and reconnect with the people who matter, if I’m reading it right.

I don’t feel called to a family pilgrimage particularly. So what am I called to do? To return to my psycho-spiritual roots, perhaps. To seek out, identify and forgive the wounds that have been festering, the trespasses that have been unrepented and the debts that have been unpaid. To heal, to absolve and to forgive, because holding on to those wounds and trespasses and debts may have prevented me from loving, fully, and from receiving love wholeheartedly.

That’s getting somewhere. How much of this will ever be bloggable? Certainly not the content of the trespasses. (People have therapy for that!) And the ritual will require witnesses not to the facts or memories but rather to the action being taken to let things go, to let them go up in smoke, even, to be released.

And that release will deliver me.

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4 thoughts on “Hallowing the Fiftieth Year

  1. I have done a ritual of forgiveness/letting go/moving on…I gathered with a friend and we wrote down the things we needed to let go of, the people who'd hurt us, etc. We even talked about them if we wanted to. Then we did whatever we needed to do to the paper (I wrote mine in list format, so needed to cut them apart, for instance, while she chose to crumple each one individually), then dropped them into a fire. We drank wine while we let them burn with the wood down into coals. Then we made s'mores, to symbolize something sweet coming out of the bitterness of the past. It was amazing and wonderful and I am so so so glad we did it…I want to do it every year now.

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  2. I think you do need some symbolic act, but I also think you need a human witness to this act. Is there someone you can trust – a fellow-pastor, for instance, or a close woman friend who is not ordained, who can stand with you as you do this, and proclaim to you the truth of God's forgiveness and that it has been cast away as utterly as the East is from the West?

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