Browsing articles tagged with " Leviticus"
Aug 30, 2016

What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

I am a white, straight, male pastor in the United Church of Christ. From 2008-2014 I was the only one in the entire state of Utah. All the other UCC pastors were female, minority or LGBTQ. Among UCC ministers it is not unusual that the white, straight, male is the odd one out and I enjoy the ride very much. If you are uncomfortable by now, you know I am writing this for you. The important issue of skin-color and race I will have to address another time. Lately I have had multiple people ask me about “the gay question”. Sometimes it’s worded, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?”

My initial reaction is usually: “The Bible” doesn’t say anything. Because the Bible is not a book but an entire library with dozens of books in it. They were written over the course of 1,000 years in three different languages on two different continents. The Bible has contributions from nomadic peasants and highly educated scholars. There is no way they all can possible give one and the same answer to a single question.

Overall biblical authors are not very interested in questions of homosexuality. There are a few examples that are told in a matter-of-fact way without raising an eyebrow: King David addresses his lover Jonathan saying, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26) The author of the Gospel of John tells of his affection for Jesus, “One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him.” (John 13:23) Yes, the Bible tells stories of men loving men without question.

Then there are negative voices from times when God’s people were under attack. The Holiness Code commands, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) And the Apostle Paul mourns, “And in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:27)
The Holiness Code was written by priests who were deported during the Babylonian Exile. God’s people were afraid they couldn’t keep their cultural identity alive. It is during this period that circumcision and the Sabbath become identifiers of the Jewish people. Deviation from the norm seemed scary because those were anxious times. Similarly, when the earlier church was a minority in the largely hostile Roman Empire, Paul warned to not live like the Romans. Instead he asked the early Christians to remain distinct in their practices.

Today in North America God’s people are not under attack. We are not in a situation where we need to be afraid of the culture that surrounds us. We don’t have to hide our worship services in the Roman catacombs but can be open about our Christian faith. We don’t have to develop a rigid corporate identity because religious freedom is protected. Literally hundreds of times the Bible says: “Do not be afraid”. The Bible says that we need to tell stories of all kinds of love and celebrate them.

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Oct 22, 2014

How Holy Art Thou?

Dost Thou Speak King James? And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, dost thou offer it at your own will? No, really, on a scale of 1-10 with ten being God-like: How Holy Art Thou? How do you rate your own Holiness? That is the challenge that the Holiness Code offers with its motto:

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
(Leviticus 19:2 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 26 October 2014)

God is a 10. That’s easy, nobody and nothing could possibly be holier than the Holy One! But God does not just rest there in all God’s Holiness. God picks, elects, drafts, calls up God’s chosen people: first Israel and eventually all the peoples in Christ Jesus. That includes you and me. And the charge to God’s people remains in effect: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” If you did not rate yourself to be a 10 on the Holiness scale you got your work cut out for you!

How do I do that – become more holy? Forget most of the religious knowledge and practice you have learned over the years! Yes, the Holiness Code has some religious and cultural stuff listed but that is mostly common-sense or general moral practice. At its core the Hebrew word for “holiness,” “kedushah” (Hebrew: קדושה‎) has the connotation of “separateness”. So since God is separate from the world so God’s people are supposed to be special. That is in our everyday dealings and not a flashy worship kind of way.

Holiness does not show when you are in Sunday best but working towards a farmer’s tan. Here is an example from Leviticus 19:10
“You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.”
The way you go about to your day job shows how much you are attuned to the Divine and the people around you. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment all he could think of was the summary of the Holiness Code from Leviticus 19:18
“love your neighbors as you love yourself.”

Learning to speak King James and saying the most beautiful prayers and thinking the most pious and righteous thoughts is so easy but are you willing to work on your Holiness the hard way? Do you dare being separate, special, holy?

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Jul 17, 2011

Scapegoating

Everybody needs a scapegoat, right? Sometimes you just need someone to blame. Well God’s people have had a wonderful tradition to channel this desire into an annual event called Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement): Once a year Aaron shall put both of his hands on a goat’s head and confess over it all the evils, sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel, and so transfer them to the goat’s head. Then the goat is to be driven off into the desert by someone appointed to do it. The goat will carry all their sins away with him into some uninhabited land.
Wonderful thought…

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Feb 1, 2011

Leviticus 19:1-18

Today’s Reading is Leviticus 19:1-18.
This chapter is central to the so-called Holiness Code. The motto is; “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” The Hebrew word for “holiness,” “kedushah” (Hebrew: קדושה‎) has the connotation of “separateness”. So since God is separate from the world so his people are supposed to be special. There is some religious and cultural stuff listed but that is mostly common-sense or general moral practice. A couple of things really stick out though:

Verse 10: “Do not go back through your vineyard to gather the grapes that were missed or to pick up the grapes that have fallen; leave them for poor people and foreigners. I am the LORD your God.”
God’s people know they were slaves in Egypt once. Hence they have a special responsibility towards their poor.

Verse 18: “love your neighbors as you love yourself.”
Asked about the most important commandment Jesus quotes this verse, echoing the teaching of the school of Hillel.

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