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  • Rev. Michelle Vernone

You are a reason to celebrate.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:24-25)


Here it is! My birthday month, but as most of you know, I’m celebrating in some way, every day all year. Drawing from Leviticus 25, it is my “Year of Jubilee.” A year dedicated to releasing people from debts; healing body, mind, spirit; focusing on family and loved ones; healing and rest. We’re one month in, and let me tell you. Living into the heart of a Jubilee year is beautiful, exhausting, and an exercise in discovering joyful obedience. I hope you will extend to me some grace for this article. I want to share a little of my heart with you. However, the words are hard to find and I’m struggling to put them together well. So, as I share my heart, I ask that you read with yours.

We celebrate because God celebrates us, God’s beloved children. We forgive ourselves and others because God generously, extravagantly, ceaselessly forgives us. We love ourselves and

others because God deeply, unconditionally, eternally loves us. It’s important to keep these truths in front of us because sometimes those truths don’t “feel” true.

2022 has had a difficult beginning. Many, including myself, at church tested positive for COVID and have spent the first few weeks of the new year trying to regain health. Personally, my case was very mild but it’s been slow going getting back to normal energy and stamina. That said, having to slow down has been a precious gift to helping me really experience Jubilee. It’s hard to over-function, over-achieve when all you can think about is if you can get a nap during lunch. There is no shame in being sick. There is no shame in the process of

healing.

I lost, the world lost, a sweet young precious child of God to mental illness and suicide in January. It’s been difficult to remember, even in our grieving, there is something to celebrate, someone to celebrate. Her family and friends are heartbroken, yet are determinedly, intentionally celebrating all of who she was and all of who God is in the midst of our heartbreak.

So here we are, February, the month we associate with love, hearts, flowers, romance, relationships, and all the mushy stuff. However, in this Jubilee year, the world needs us to understand and be bearers love, real LOVE. In Isaiah 61, we read that we are anointed by God to

…bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted

and to proclaim that captives will be released

and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn

that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,

and with it, the day of God’s anger against

their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel,

he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,

a joyous blessing instead of mourning,

festive praise instead of despair.

Living into this text from Isaiah is how we spur each other on in acts of love and good

works. It’s how and why we continue to meet together to celebrate God and each other

in Jubilee – it’s how we set others free, release them from their debts, how we free ourselves. It’s how we embrace the truth that we are deeply, unconditionally loved and in knowing that, we are able to love others deeply and unconditionally.

You are a beloved child of God. You have eternal, sacred worth. You are forgiven. You are free. You deserve to be healthy and whole. You are a reason to celebrate.

In Jubilee,

Pastor Michelle

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