It’s not every year that we have a long season after the Epiphany and have the opportunity to preach from the words of Leviticus. Oh Leviticus, so complicated, so misused. I remember one of my classes in seminary divided the class into five groups, each one assigned a book from the Pentateuch. My group got Leviticus, lucky me. But truth be told it was lucky. At the library I found an amazing book written by anthropologist Mary Douglas, that unpacked Leviticus in a way no one else has. Although its been twenty years what I remember from Douglas is that the book of Leviticus is essentially a guide for being in relationship with God, self, and others. The “moral” code in Leviticus may talk about blood and laws and cleanliness, but these are not the point.
The meaning of Leviticus is to recognize what is holy and to honor the holy in one another and God. We lose the beauty of the holy relationships when we focus to literally on specific actions instead of the integrity of the self and one’s intention to live in a holy relationships.
What is a holy relationship? Well, Jesus sums that up for us in Matthew, a holy relationship is love – love God, love yourself, and love others. It’s about integrity and dignity and self worth, about being, to use a Bowen Family Systems theory phrase, “a solid self.” A solid self is clear about the values and principles that guide one’s life, is capable of introspection and self reflection, never blaming or shaming others but being accountable for one’s own thoughts, words, and behavior, working to change one’s self, not others.
This may be pushing too much of a 21st century lens onto this ancient text, but if so, I come to it from Jesus. His life and his teachings ground me in this understanding, and the Gospel reading this week points us to where it ends up in Chapter 22 with the shema, the summary of all the law and the prophets, love God, love self, love others.
That’s kind of where my head is at with the RCL readings this week as we draw near to Lent. What about you? What text speaks to you, perhaps the Psalm or the Epistle? Or maybe you are following the Narrative Lectionary? If so you can find a great discussion on that text if scroll down to Tuesday and the NL post.
Regardless, this is the preacher party. We’re here all day to commiserate, support, pray, inspire, share ideas, or at the very least share a cup of coffee or tea. I have plenty of both, along with some left over chocolate raspberry mousse cake (from my 60th birthday)….pull up a chair and join the party.
The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving a congregation in Dearborn, Mi. She joined RevGals in 2006 and has been blogging at Seeking Authentic Voice ever since.
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