The good thing about reading the Bible in one year is that you read parts of the bible which are less popular or well known but still incredibly useful, such as Leviticus 23.
In Leviticus 23, God shows that He wanted to establish a planned rhythm of life for this new Israelite community. He wanted to establish a rhythm to their lives which involved, feasting, working and resting. Interestingly, the word, ‘Rhythm’ is often associated with music and is something that brings order to sound, to create music. It is something which brings shape to music defining mood, tempo and action. In a similar way, this was what God was trying to achieve with this fledgling, Israelite community. He wanted to shape a rhythm of everyday life which involved work, and rest, but also allow for the occasional God parties (feasting). God, it seems, wanted to set a rhythm which would disturb the everyday ordinary life of the Israelites and give them the opportunity to remember and appreciate regularly the truths of who God is, what He had done for them and who they were to Him. In doing so God was affirming and reminding this community that they were a people who belonged to Him, whose purpose was to worship and enjoy Him and be a blessing to the world. With the time pressures of modern life, we would do well to remember that this Godly Rhythm is just as relevant for us today as it was for Israelites back then.
At the centre of this healthy rhythm was space to rest and celebrate. I’m sure, as an agricultural community, the temptation for those working the land would be to work all the time to get as much out of the land as possible. However, what God wanted for His people was not for them to only work purposefully but also enjoy space to appreciate life. Moreover, asking the community to rest weekly was a reminder that God wanted a people who had faith and time for relationship with Him. Furthermore, punctuating the calendar year with various feast days reminded the community to stop and remember, to come together to celebrate, and worship their God as a community.
When reading this account I have felt personally challenged by the level of planning that God put in to the Israelites’ yearly calendar. Rest and celebration were not left to chance or slotted in when the community had time. They were carefully planned for and followed.
Since becoming vicar of All Saints’ I feel like a new chapter has started in my life. There is new and significant work to be done which poses some new and significant time challenges that I am having to think about. I know this is not something unique to me as many of us are challenged by work demands, family demands, church demands: each wanting a piece of our time. It is in this context I have found God speaking through Leviticus 23. Rather than working ever longer, I have felt God challenging me to proactively plan in time for rest, time for people and hopefully times for feasting!
Being a spontaneous type, my major challenge has been the planning! I am struck by Eugene Peterson’s quote, ‘ A busy pastor is a lazy pastor!’ and so I am currently planning the year ahead to make sure that purposeful work is accompanied by satisfying rest and hopefully some partying too.
In short I want my calendar to reflect well my priorities: to develop my relationship with God; develop my relationship with others; and reach out to others with the Good news about Jesus.
My prayer is that we, just like the early Israelite community, will proactively have God at the heart of our annual calendar and in doing so we would know the rich blessings that God has for ourselves, each other and our community.
Every blessing in Christ,
Daniel Currie (Vicar)