Daily Reflection
June 8th, 2005

Sue Crawford

Department of Political Science and Intl. Studies
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2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Psalm 99:5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Matthew 5:17-19

As I read through the readings for today I keep coming back to the question of what I am to do with Leviticus. The first reading assures me that by grace through Jesus I am qualified to be a “minister of the new covenant.” So, I’m qualified by grace. Perhaps I can just ignore that part of the bible.

However, reading the many details of the law concerning what was required in order to serve as a priest of the old covenant still serves an important purpose. These requirements reveal how few were able to have access to the inner realms of the sanctuary and what was required for that kind of contact with God. This does help to create an appreciation for the awesomeness of the gift that we have through grace. We have access to God. We have the living Spirit with us and in us. Many of us have access to a community of believers in which we can meet and experience the living presence of the Body of Christ – not just once in a lifetime--but many times a year! Surely a gift of this kind of access to God was beyond the wildest dreams of those who sought to follow Leviticus.

The Psalm reminds us of God’s holiness—but also God’s willingness to reach out to us. God is holy and deserving of our praise and all efforts we can make to live a life that pleases. Leviticus reminds us how all encompassing this can be. Everything matters down to the fiber of the clothes you wear and how you deal with household mold. Yet, this God is not just about giving orders. God answers those who call to Him and forgives us repeatedly. God remains awesome beyond our understanding -- all powerful and all deserving, and yet attentive and merciful.

I have to admit that when I read verses 18 and 19 of the fifth chapter of Matthew I get a bit queasy in the stomach. “Not the smallest letter or the smallest part of the letter will pass from the law --- those who break the least of the commandments and teach others to do so will be least in the kingdom.” Yikes. We just talked about some of the laws in Leviticus in youth group last week. Have I just relegated myself to least in the kingdom because I made light of wearing cotton polyester blends—and in front of impressionable youth? The phrases “until all things have taken place” and the notion that Jesus fulfills the law appear to offer an out here – especially in light of the first reading that describes our covenant as a covenant of Spirit not of law. However, this passage in Matthew occurs as the first of a series of teachings of Jesus that go the other direction. This is the first of a series of teachings that indicate that the expectations of followers of the new covenant will be even higher—particularly concerning reconciling and maintaining human relationships.

This reminds me of the summary of the law given elsewhere by Jesus – that the law could be summarized into two commandments: Love the Lord your God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. The example set by Jesus healing in the Sabbath seems to further the notion that these two commandments serve as an important interpretative tool for living a holy life. The standards are high, but love is the ultimate standard. The standards are high, but thank God, we are not on our own in trying to meet those standards. The expectations are high, but thank Jesus, that our salvation does not depend on our human efforts to meet those standards. How I select my clothing still matters. The new covenant standard emphasizes love—so perhaps it doesn’t matter whether it’s a poly- cotton blend as much it matters whether I purchase clothes and wear them in ways that further just and loving relationships. Thankfully I have the Spirit as a counselor to help me seek options that enhance love even in mundane daily details.

Thankfully, I can rejoice that my salvation comes from Jesus and that my efforts to select clothes need not be full of legalistic anxiety. Our God is holy and worthy of our attention in all things. With the help of the Spirit who gives life, may we serve as ministers of the new covenant in all the details of our day today.

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