Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 46: Leviticus 25-27; Psalm 38; Mark 12

The Cost of Covenant...Fidelity
We are ending our time with Leviticus today. I confess that I have found it to be a difficult journey. Part of that difficulty arose out of the hard, frankly overwhelming condemnatory aspects of the Law, what constituted "clean" and "acceptable" over and against that which was seen as "unclean" and "unacceptable." It was with no small amount of sadness that I see how we too often pick and choose which tenet to stress, and which to ignore in our modern society when in the course of debates over social questions we resort to biblical "direction" to frame the debate. We take two lines of the law regarding sexuality and toss much of the rest aside. In Leviticus, more time is spent on what an appropriate sacrifice should be, or for how much a person may be valued in their sale as a slave than is spent on who is an appropriate life partner. And yet, we now consider slavery morally abhorrent.

As well, in today's reading, God gives a refined and expanded concept of "sabbath" to Israel through Moses' teachings. Not only is every seventh day blessed as a day of rest, so also is every seventh year. As well, there is a cycle of rest/work that arcs over decades...every 50th year will be a Jubilee Year. In that Jubilee year, the whole society-as well as the land-will get a chance to reset itself. Land sold will be returned or offered for sale back to the seller. Slaves will be released. Debts will be forgiven. NO work will be done, and Covenant will be renewed.

The price for not keeping Covenant? The cost of not placing primacy on relationship with God by keeping the WHOLE Law? A kind of lasting destruction Israel's safety and well-being sustained by God's wrath that deprives the people of the assurances God promised to those keeping the Covenant. They loose their claim on the land. They loose a sense of safety. They loose the grace of plentiful harvests and good health. Not a good place to be, and the caution of one generation forgetting is that infidelity in one instance leads to separation from God for generations. The children and their children become collateral damage for the present generation's apostasy.

And yet, in all that doom and gloom, there is a glimmer of hope and grace. Though Israel will inevitably stumble and humanity continue to fail in fidelity to God, our God assures us that the Covenant will not be forgotten. God chooses to remember, and to renew the relationship. Separation is not forever.

The Widow's offering
Leviticus, as much as it can, ends on an upturn of hope; just as we reach a breaking point in Mark. Jesus is teaching in the holy city. We hear his summary of the Law, his teaching of the parable of the wicked tenants, and the observations he makes contrasting the conspicuous piety of the Pharisees in Jerusalem with the surreptitious offering of the widow with her meager mite being marked as greater than any larger gift offered to the temple treasury...

Through the lens of Leviticus, I see a teacher in Jesus who is, as the Son, continuing to do what God intends thus far in the Torah...that the Covenantal relationship between humanity and God is always expanding and always being renewed by God's fidelity and love for a human family that echoes across the ages. Though we are inconstant, God is constant...even to the ultimate gift of the Son that humanity be restored by grace to wholeness, and holiness in relationship with God.
Restoration in Christ....

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