Sunday, November 23, 2008

Party With Purpose

Reflections on Leviticus
Everyone loves a holiday, and Leviticus 23 has 6 of them. These are real holy days – days to stop the normal pace of life and celebrate and reflect on the goodness of God as opposed to just skipping work for the beach.

Not that there’s anything wrong with going to the beach, but there’s real value in setting aside special days to reflect on what God has done. If that sounds ominous, realize that, with the exception of the Day of Atonement, these are feast days, not fasts. They weren’t somber church services; they were parties.

But they were parties with a purpose, and I think we need more days like that in our lives.

Christians are supposed to celebrate what God has done every Sunday, and Israel had its Sabbath too, but a weekly service can become just another part of the routine. Breaking away from the normal patterns of life can help us focus on important things.

Low church protestants really only have Christmas and Easter. Americans and Canadians do have Thanksgiving Days that, though largely secular, can be employed for religious purposes, but I wonder if big holidays – with worry about guests, travel, and gifts – prevent us from focusing on God.

Roman Catholics and some others have various “days of obligation” where the faithful are expected to go to church, but is asking people to squeeze an extra church service into their normal busy schedules really what we need?

The feasts in Leviticus contain special sabbaths – days where regular work could not be done. The idea was to stop everything and focus on God.

Can we do that? Could we weave such days into our lives? What if we set aside certain days that were just ours – just as Jews today observe Rosh Hashanah without the rest of the country paying attention.

Even if we can’t take off work, what if we canceled baseball practice, turned off the TV, and had special meals with our families while reflecting on God’s provision and works in our lives and in the history of the Church – celebrations for the Ascension of Christ or the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost or the translation of the Bible into common tongues or the great cloud of witnesses that show us and encourage us on the way?

However it might work out, finding ways to stop and reflect on the work of God can only be good for us. Finding ways to make our faith more tangible for our families can only be good for them.

So is worthwhile? How might it be accomplished?

In the meantime, let’s try to make the best use we can of the days we have – “holy” or not.

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