27th May 2022


I guess a platinum jubilee is without precedent, but the idea of jubilee is ancient with details of its celebration deriving from instruction given in Leviticus 23 and 25. I like the way the Septuagint translates the Hebrew as meaning the sounding of the ‘trumpet-blast of liberty’.

Bible maths has a lot to do with the number seven – so we have six working days and then God’s Sabbath of rest.

Universities have taken this over in the giving of ‘sabbatical leave’ to their staff so that they may have a year for research or renewing their knowledge or being stimulated by teaching in a different environment, all with the expectation that work at the home base will be enriched and improved by this experience so that sabbaticals need to be seen not as time off, but time improving the scholar’s skills. In recent years this practice has been adopted for the ministers of our churches again with the expectation of renewal of vocation.

There was argument in Judaism as to how you did your maths: was Jubilee year the 49th,  that is by multiplying seven by seven, or was it the year following, and so the 50th year? Whatever the maths, the jubilee year was to be a year of renewal when slaves and prisoners should be set free, old debts forgiven, and the land allowed to lie fallow. All this was to be an acknowledgment of the work of God in creation, for the world is his not ours, and this is how that should be respected, that is by some resetting of social relationships to a more just and equal framework, in particular restoring the access of the poor to all that God has provided for them. But the trouble for the Jews of old was that jubilee was a wonderful ideal but too little implemented in practice. So we are faced with the question: what can this nation accomplish in a platinum jubilee: a time for celebration, for rest and for renewal?

John Briggs