Here's my reflection for week six:
Exodus 40 - Leviticus 15
Psalm 30 - 35
Mark 3 - 9
"Go home to your own people," Jesus said, "and tell them what The Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy." (Mark 5:19)
I was blessed to have devout, practicing Jews among my close family and friends growing up. Through those relationships, I was able to access a parallel, yet different, perspective of the One God. One conversation that was particularly powerful for me was a discussion of our relationship to scripture. "All those rules," my friend said (referring to texts like those found in the readings from Leviticus this week), "are God's way of taking care of us, of keeping us safe and healthy." In a time before the kind of scientific and technologic understanding we have today, the learned faithful had a duty to model practices that promoted cleanliness and health among the people. God's commandments provided the basis for those practices.
This week's readings set 15 chapters of Levitical rules alongside 6 chapters of Markan healings. On first glance, they seem to represent two different gods--one a god of law; the other a god of grace. Except, of course, both sets of text are telling the same story of the same Almighty God. Wedged between those selections are five psalms that add yet another voice: the voice of the ordinary, everyday lover of God. "Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me" the psalmist whispers, echoing our own cries to the god we're dependent upon.
While Leviticus walks us through the rituals of purification, our readings from the Gospel of Mark walk us through the tensions arising around Jesus' ministry. It seems he's exercising his powers amongst the Gentiles, teaching and healing on the edges of his community. We listen to an argument over the understanding of the Sabbath, and of parables of sowers and seeds. We watch as Jesus tries to pass by on the water while we're fighting the storm in the boat. We follow along as he goes to visit Jairus' daughter and we catch a glimpse of the woman who is healed of her hemorrhaging by touching Jesus' hem. We gratefully chew our bit of fish and bread and step back when the demoniac comes near. We catch our breath as Jesus tries to tell us of the reality he will have to confront. We insist we won't betray him. We follow up to the mountaintop, and it's so beautiful and peaceful and God seems so very present with us. But soon we're headed back down the mountain and there is still just so much need, everywhere.
In this week's "challenge" we learn that God's work is going on all the time, all around us, showing us what the kingdom can--and will--be like. Primarily, the kingdom will be a place of abundant, never-ending mercy. The mercy of God is underlying both the promise of health and safety offered in the holiness found in the Levitical code, as well as the healing work of Jesus prevalent throughout Mark's gospel. To be restored to our most pure self, to heal our neighbors, to feed the hungry...that will be the work of the Sabbath of God's kingdom.