Each year, the ecumenical steering committee that provides this Season of Creation Celebration Guide suggests a theme. The 2020 theme is Jubilee for the Earth.
Climate change is a result of the intersection of greed, inequality and destruction of God’s earth. The theme of Jubilee is chosen for this year’s Season of Creation as it reflects those three interlocking themes. Jubilee is a time to renounce overconsumption and economic systems based on constant economic growth at the cost of the Earth and those who are poor. Jubilee is a time when those who have consumed the most must make restitution to those who have suffered the most. Jubilee is a time of rest for the land from constant exploitation, to restore ecosystems and people.
The concept of Jubilee is rooted in the holy wisdom that there must exist a just and sustainable balance between social, economic and ecological realities. When one variable is exploited to maximize growth of another, the whole system will eventually suffer. When one part of the earth community is stressed, every part is affected. In 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic demonstrated this reality on a global scale. While the experience of living with the COVID-19 outbreak points back to this need to maintain justice, the lessons that we learn may point us towards the need for a Jubilee and motivate us to restore balance to the very systems that sustain life.
And you shall consecrate 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)
Jubilee means “a ram’s horn”. It was blown to mark the start of a time of universal redemption. The year of Jubilee involved release from indebtedness, when injustices of the past fifty years were to be restored. It was also a time for rest for the land.
The theme of Jubilee has clear links to the root paradigms fueling unjust exploitation, such as neoliberal and capitalist approaches to the world economy. It brings together the need for a prophetic voice on climate injustice and actions for the restoration of the Earth. The theme of Jubilee affirms the need for equality, justice and 10 sustainability, and a transition to sustainable economies. It honours the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, which successfully called for an amnesty on debt for global South countries and redistribution of wealth. And 2020 marks 50 years since the first Earth Day when the environmental movement was born.
A Climate Emergency
We are in the midst of a climate emergency. Several studies have indicated that the world is nowhere near meeting pledged emission reduction rate targets. The latest IPCC report highlights that “only with rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy, on a scale and at a rate without historical precedent, can the 1.5C limit be achieved. It is therefore a time to reconcile ourselves with creation through concrete repentance and urgent action. The Season of Creation is a time to acknowledge that tipping points are being reached, threatening the lives of the most vulnerable and putting the lives of future generations in jeopardy. As people of faith, we are being called to stand up against climate injustice in prophetic ways.
The Season of Creation 2020 will also be an important moment for the Christian family to raise a united voice for rapid and radical ambitious action ahead of the 26th annual United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) to address the climate crisis. COP 26 is particularly significant, as parties are due to announce how they will implement the Paris Climate Agreement (and whether they will fall short). It is a time when faith communities are called to support and challenge their countries’ leadership to implement visionary and significant goals. It is also a time when we must listen to the prophetic voices of young people.
Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the Day of Atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. (Leviticus 25:9, NRSV)
Prophetic call of hope
As people of faith we are called to sound a voice of hope, like the Jubilee. We lament, for everywhere we hear the groaning of creation. So we act as carriers of creation, and we sound the horn of hope, for the Earth and all they that live in it belong to the Lord. We know that God has promised the renewal of this Earth. 11 During this critical and trying time, we acknowledge our role as people of faith in sounding hope amidst this current crisis and affirm ourselves as prophetic witnesses. Jesus has given us a choice between God and Mammon. For the sake of the earth and all creatures, we have no choice but to pursue Justice (Micah 6:8).
Season of Creation 2020 is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Jubilee today, especially in the lead-up to COP26. How will we, as persons and as the Church:
What does it mean for the church to declare ‘the Year of the Lord’s Favour’? How can we glorify God for the hope we have in Christ, who restores and redeems the earth? What changes will we see for those who are poor, and the land we enslave? We are far from a picture of Jubilee provision. As God’s earth suffers, God’s people suffer also. Season of Creation 2020 encourages churches and Christians to participate through: