Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 37: Leviticus 1-3; Psalm 31; Mark 3

Of fat-takers and garden catalogs....
Off we go into Leviticus, and with that we spend three chapters on the manner and nature of the sacrifice of well-being. God is specific in directing Moses to proscribe that the offerings presented be done in a particular way, with attention paid to the nature of the sacrificial animal (a male from either flock, or herd without blemish/spot) and that it be slaughtered, prepared and particular portions burned on the altar. As I read the passages, I keep getting drawn up by God's claiming certain portions of organs and fat for the entirely burned offering. What is not claimed by God is to be allotted to Aaron and the priestly caste for their use, but God wants the fat...

I spent some time on a Lakota reservation in seminary. While on mission there, I learned a lot about the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In Lakota culture, you are not so much given a name as you earn it. The people tasked with providing you your name are expected to work on it, and to name you in such a way that your nature, your essence is presented to the world. Your name not only tells the story of your life, it ties you in to the deeper narrative of the People and their relationship with the Creator. The Lakota have a name for white people: wasichu (pronounced, wa-shee-chu). It means "fat-taker." When the Lakota got to know white people, it was through watching them interact with the world around them. When whites emerged onto the high plains, they saw-and started to hunt-anything that moved. They slaughtered for sport instead of food. When they killed a buffalo, they took it's tongue and left the rest to rot in the sun. For the Lakota, who used every part of an animal killed, it was a remarkable, sinful waste. White people were called fat-takers. As I said above: we earned that name.

Reading these first chapters of Leviticus, I started to react to God wanting of a ram, goat or bullock only the fat, and perhaps the kidney and the cap of the liver...and I started to recoil from a God who was appearing at first glance to be a "fat-taker." Reading deeper into the text, though, I see that the model of sacrifice God is mandating leaves nothing to waste. What is offered is the whole offering, and what is not consumed on the altar is intended for the care and feeding of the people tending the altar and their families. The meat does not go to waste...it feeds the community. God's portion in relation is, in fact, quite minor to the good the rest of it does for the people.

God is with us, in worship, in the desert and in the lives we struggle to live. God, and the worship of God is not meant to deplete us, but to complete us.

In the Psalm, we remember that God is our refuge, a redoubt that shelters us in storm and conflict. God is with us, and confounds those who stand against us. God is with us, purifying and redeeming us. God is with us as sure as seasons advance....

And that brings us to Mark...and another portal of understanding how we can turn from being "fat-takers" and live in closer harmony with God and in more faithful stewardship with the resources offered to us in this life. Jesus' parables of the growers and grain always move me, but today in light of the Levitical reading I am taking them more deeply to heart. It doesn't hurt that I love to garden and now is the time when the seed catalogs are arriving in anticipation of the next growing season, either!

God's word is the seed scattered by the sower. God's kingdom is like seed scattered on good ground, that sprouts and grows and is harvested by the farmer in faith and with respect to its nature. God's love for us is organic and earthy, and we are called as laborers into a harvest that should feed us, others and even the whole world with the tasty fruits of the good news of Jesus Christ.

But, that takes work, study, practice and daily attention. You can't just expect food to grow in your garden. A plentiful garden requires that we partner with God, the world and the garden itself in order to bring in a bountiful harvest. The soil requires attention. Raiding critters have to be prevented access to tender plants. Destructive bugs and diseases have to be prevented or treated. Beneficial critters need to be encouraged. Plants need to be tended and nurtured to increase yield. Growing food requires us to pay attention on a daily basis to the miracle of life that God is continually bringing into the world, and offering to us for our needs.

My awareness today? It is vested in a deep gratitude. I see in today's scriptures some dramatic ways that God asks only a little of us in return for giving us everything. God requests our attention, not simply to tender occasional praise, but also to see God revealed in scripture, in the breaking of bread and in the natural world around us. God desires to be with us as we live our lives...being with us in the now, in the tasks we undertake to nurture our lives, our families, our communities. Sacrifice to God brings only one, great cost...that we pay attention to the incredible blessings we have already received, and while giving thanks return to God a just and, frankly, small portion. Just enough to keep us mindful...just enough to remind ourselves to not be fat-takers....

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