This past Sunday I started a new sermon series on the book of Leviticus, but before I could get into much of the actual text, I had to do some setup to make sure we are all on the same page as we embark. For those of you who are a part of our congregation and were in worship on Sunday, this will be redundant. But for those of you who weren’t with us Sunday—or those who are just interested in a few thoughts on Leviticus—I thought it would be helpful to recap my introductory sermon.
I began my sermon on Sunday by declaring the irony that my main reason for preaching on Leviticus right now has very little to do with Leviticus itself. What I’m really interested in is developing a ‘Rule of Life’ for our church. A Rule of Life is a framework or structure that can help guide us in the way of God. It’s a set of practices and values that, if we strive for, will help us to live more closely like Jesus. There’s nothing legalistic or obligatory about these practices, but they serve as a guide for faithful living as the people of God.
Which is where the book of Leviticus comes in. I think Leviticus is essentially a Rule of Life for the people of Israel as they emerge from the captivity of Egypt. They’ve been slaves for 400 years and have no identity or practices of their own. As Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, they have no idea how to faithfully live as the free people of God. How should they connect with God? How should they practice their religion? What does an ethical and faithful life look like? They need help!
So, Leviticus becomes a framework for faithful living—a guide to help them live as the free people of God. It’s personal and practical and meant to be helpful for a specific group of people thousands of years ago in an entirely different world.
Which is why this book seems so archaic and barbaric—and largely gets ignored today. Of course it seems archaic…it is! Of course it seems outdated…it is! But that doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful and can’t be helpful for us today. If we will do the hard work of scraping off the top of layer of this text and mine it for the real meaning and purpose behind these ancient practices—this ancient Rule of Life—we will find immense value and wisdom in crafting a new way to be a community of faith.
I’m excited to embark on this new journey and am prayerfully hopeful that we will emerge as more devoted disciples of Jesus with a Rule of Life to guide us as the free people of God.
If you weren’t here on Sunday, it would be helpful to listen to the whole sermon. You can find it HERE.