Jubilee: Celebrating Sunsets and Treefrogs
By Aurora Sarchet
Recently, I walked out to catch the sun sinking over farm fields and losing itself behind the silhouettes of evergreens. I stood with bare feet sinking into cool grass, talking quietly with my mom. We watched the sky shift through spectacular gradations of color and light, finally fading to soft dusky tones as the sun dipped below our horizon. As we were turning back, I found a Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla) perched regally on a platform of round yellow tansy flowerheads. Tiny, perhaps only two centimeters long, the little amphibian held itself perfectly still, its limbs tucked tightly. Treefrogs are easy to miss; so are sunsets, for that matter. It takes slowing down – thinking, praying, pausing – to see precious things. This month, the Season of Creation calls Christians around the globe to seek mindful rhythms as we celebrate God’s good earth. The 2020 theme is Jubilee for the Earth – the biblical idea of a year dedicated to rest and restoration. In a season where I’ve felt more restless than rested, that theme makes me pause. How do we find rest? As we see the brokenness of our planet, what opportunities for restoration are available? What are we missing when we refuse to stop and really look?
The theme of Jubilee comes from Leviticus 25, where God outlines the structure for a holy year: “…you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan…” (Leviticus 25:10, ESV). When I hear “Jubilee” I think celebration – a time to rejoice and appreciate the beauty of life. There is certainly a component of joy in the biblical jubilee – but it is the blossom, not the root. The jubilee God envisioned required restoration and rest, for the land and people. Today, our world hungers desperately after that true restoration – not oppression labeled as peace, but the loving healing of wounds.
A Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla) perches among hydrangea leaves
Rest gives us the opportunity to think, to reevaluate and notice. It brings into sharp focus both the beautiful and the broken. Seeing a sunset, or a treefrog, can be a moment of revelation; a chance to cement our sense of God’s goodness and love. God’s character ripples out through his world; we see his sustaining love in the creatures and systems that make up the global ecosystem – the promise of rain and food and oxygen for tomorrow. We read the imprint of his kindness in the compassion of those around us, reaching out to support us in our times of struggle. We sense the echo of his delight when we look at something beautiful and realize that this sparrow or lily or treefrog is loved – as are we.
As we take time to focus on these reminders of surpassing love, we are also forced to recognize the countercurrents of injustice, exploitation, and selfishness that run beneath our social and political structures and eddy about our lives. The Season of Creation celebration guide states: “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.” I think it’s telling that, in the end, all injustice and evil are connected. We can mistakenly think of ourselves as independent, isolated from the suffering of others. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has provided a painful object lesson on just how interdependent we are.
How can we respond to witnessing the awful contrast between God’s love and human injustice? This year, consider uniting with other believers to celebrate the Season of Creation, coming together to pray and act, focusing on the theme of Jubilee. Find a place to walk and pray with a friend or watch a sunset and glorify God for the beauty he is pouring out. Write a song, write a letter to your political representative, sketch a treefrog, help with a beach cleanup, plant a climate victory garden. Ask yourself questions like these: “What does loving my neighbor look like in a changing climate?” “What about my own life needs to change?” Take time to think, and take time to notice. This is a year for jubilee – praying and working for a restoration that is worth celebrating.
Photo Credits: Aurora Sarchet
Aurora Sarchet is a volunteer writer with a passion for books, outdoor adventures, and (of course) treefrogs.