Some monthly newsletters, like some daily newspaper editorials, almost write themselves in-so-far-as a theme jumps to mind immediately. I suspect you would be very surprised if I failed to mention Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations sweeping the nation at the start of this month. The length of her reign and her great qualities and examples of service, dedication and high principled living have naturally created a ground swell of thanksgiving in the great majority of our nation regardless of age, ethnic origin or political persuasion.
This month we have an extra Bank Holiday and there is a link between this and Jubilee which has Biblical origins. When the Law was given to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, a time-rhythm of sevens was established. The seven day week following the Creation pattern recorded in Genesis laid down a day of rest after six days of labour. This Sabbath was to be a Holy Day when men and women went to the synagogue, studied the Law and spent time together in families. The next set of seven were years, with the farmers instructed to leave the land fallow as a ‘Sabbath to the Lord’ after six years of cultivation. People were to live on their stocks of grain, wine, animals, salted fish etc. and whatever they could gather from the uncultivated land’s natural yield. Finally, after seven cycles of seven years, came the Jubilee Year. In this year all land was restored to the original owners because all land was leased – not bought and sold; all servants were freed since most had been forced to serve by poverty, and all debts were cancelled so that everyone was placed on an equal footing.
Today we have moved a long way from this pattern; Sundays are no longer universal days of rest as varied activities place demands on employees to man establishments and events. Jubilees are not just fifty years; they can be Silver, Diamond and Platinum as well as Gold whilst, just to confuse things, a Diamond Jubilee is seventy-five years in the USA!
Nevertheless, this Jubilee is, perhaps, a time to take stock of where we are as a nation and to reflect on the values spoken and acted by our Queen. Perhaps, too, the extra day’s holiday will remind us of the value of leisure, rest and refreshment in the hurly-burly of our lives. The Book of Leviticus may be ancient and written for a different culture and economic system but its promotion of a rhythm of work and rest, business and reflection, periods of human endeavour and thanksgiving for God’s creation still has much to recommend it today.