Leviticus 16–18, Psalm 36, Mark 9
Often seen as the definitive “law book” of the Bible, Leviticus narrates how God separated and sanctified Israel to himself as a holy people, expecting them in turn to reflect the nature of God’s holiness by separating from all that was unholy. The holiness called for in Leviticus was not merely for individual or private piety but was a holistic and inescapable expectation covering all spheres of human activity. The people of Israel were, however, prone to human failings just as we are today. It was for this reason that the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) was implemented as a priestly responsibility intended to address the “impurities” that potentially endanger community. While the impurities listed in the book of Leviticus provide us fascinating examples of what was once considered utterly profane, the march of scientific and moral progress since that time now leads us in some instances to very different understandings. As God’s twenty-first-century Christian people, we are nevertheless still challenged to discern and to act against the “impurities” of our times—those things which create and sustain grave social disorder—and thus put distance between ourselves and God.
Mark’s Gospel provides some dynamic examples of how it is that we are to be as Christ’s witnesses in the world. Mark highlights the age-old universal impurities of superficial spirituality, of hungering for power, of insider arrogance, of the misuse of power. As with the disciples we, too, need constant reminding of the behavioural and attitudinal standards expected in return for our unconditional acceptance as members of the beloved community. Our task then is to act constantly and faithfully against those things that are life-denying, life-diminishing, or dishonouring of the God-created humanity of any in the global village.
What are some of the impurities listed in Leviticus 16–18 that you feel can no longer be realistically upheld?
How do you, in your day-to-day faith journey, live out your belief that the first must be last and servant of all?
How precious is your steadfast loving, O God? All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.…For with you is the fountain of life: in your light we see light. Amen.
-Dr. Jenny Plane-Te Paa
Dean of Tikanga Maori
The College of St. John the Evangelist
Auckland, New Zealand