"Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves."
Unfortunately it seems to me that the world has forgotten these words from the book of Leviticus. Every day, the world is full of things that we take as our idols: money, electronics, etc. The world would rather worship these idols. Too often, the world forgets about God who is holy and who calls us to follow Jesus.
Yet Jesus was the first one to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus wasn't afraid to turn the world upside. Throughout the Bible, it seems to me that Jesus was all about getting down and dirty. Jesus often had to defy the law in order to get God's message of love, grace, and mercy into the world.
However, that is not an easy example to follow. In fact, I have always been a rule follower. Yet sometimes I wonder if, in order for all God's people to feel loved, we need to make exceptions or at least understand where our neighbors are coming from. In all actuality, the world is meant to be a place where all the world can stand and feel loved and accepted. But the reality these days is that often too many in our world are filled with fear. They yearn to be loved and accepted. They yearn for the day they won't be questioned for who God created them to be. They yearn to feel that the world is a place where they can stand and proclaim, "This is holy ground."; holy ground that reminds the world that God calls us to be holy and not to defile one another through our words and actions.
"You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and alien."
Who are the poor and alien in our midst? Who are our neighbors?
The truth is that the poor and alien in our midst are also our neighbors. Are we willing to leave the edges of our fields and gardens so they can glean from it? Are we willing to share our resources with those who are in need?
Too often, my eyes are not fully opened and aware of the poor and alien in our midst who are in need. And to be honest, I think the world's eyes are blind to seeing the poor and alien in our midst too.
"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord your God."
These words from Leviticus are a list of things God calls us to do. They are much akin to the words we read in the Ten Commandments. We are sinners in need of God's grace because we fail. We don't always leave gleanings for our neighbors. We do take vengeance against our neighbors. We do hold grudges. Every day, we find ourselves turning and asking for God's forgiveness because of the things we have done or failed to do.
I read these words and I don't feel very holy. In fact, I feel pretty dirty and tear stained. I want to do better. I want to interpret my neighbor's actions "in the best possible light." I want to leave the edges on my fields so the poor and alien can glean from it. I want to be kind to my neighbors. I want to share God's love with the world.
More days than not, I will fail at being perfect and holy because I am a sinner in need of God's grace. But as we journey to the cross, I will do my best to reflect on what Christ does for us when he dies on the cross. I think of the words Jesus uttered the night of his crucifixion and death when he uttered "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." Friends, these words are pure grace. But you and I both know that we do know what we are doing. So are we willing to let God change us as we journey to the cross?
Because when we are standing at the foot of the cross, hearing Jesus' utter these words, our hearts will break knowing the magnitude of these very words. Words that remind us that Christ died for us and promises to piece our hearts back together as we proclaim, "This is the Lord our God." For wherever two or three are gathered in his name, sharing God's love with the world, we also declare, "For this ground on which we are standing is holy ground."