Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Don Peterson was one of the faithful farmers in my rural congregation in Watson, MN. Don and his wife Alta showed great hospitality in their home. There was coffee, pastries, and conversation in Norwegian every morning around 10 a.m. You never knew who might be visiting—local neighbors or goose hunters from "the cities."
When I first arrived in the fall, Don gave me a tour of the area including his fields. He showed me a cornfield along the county road. He mentioned that when it came to planting the rows nearest the highway he would fill several hoppers of the planter with sweet corn seed. When the time came in the fall, anyone could come and help themselves to the sweet corn along the road. It was a way of providing for the needs of the wider rural community. His was an updated practice of gleaning. It wasn't a handout but a gift of opportunity. It was a kind of justice. But, as Reinhold Niebuhr might say, it was showing love at a distance.
Leviticus has some interesting discussions of bodily emissions and skin lesions and the problems of maintaining ritual holiness. And then it makes holiness personal; it has to do with love and the neighbor. Of course there is the question, "Who is my neighbor?" That issue comes up again in the New Testament. Holiness is to be found in the everydayness we know.
O Lord, teach us through your word and through the example of others about that holiness that has to do with loving our neighbor. And give us the imagination and courage to find ways to show that love. Amen.
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 (NRSV)
1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
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.
11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.
12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.
14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
18 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.