Resting and Feasting
Friday, April 25, 2008 -- Week of 5 Easter
(St. Mark the Evangelist)
Today's Reading for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Friday of 5 Easter (p. 963)
Psalms 106:1-18 (morning) 106:19-48 (evening)
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
OR the readings for St. Mark (p. 997)
Morning: Psalm 145; Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11; Acts 12:25 - 13:3
Evening: Psalms 67, 96; Isaiah 62:6-12; 2 Timothy 4:1-11
(I chose the readings for Friday of 5 Easter)
This will be the last Morning Reflection that I'll be writing for a couple of weeks. I'm taking a bit of vacation time.
How nice it is to read in Leviticus today of the commandment of God to rest and to feast. Chapter 23 opens with a reiteration of the sabbath law of weekly respite -- "complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work." The sabbath is a day to rest with God. What a wonderful tradition to reclaim in a time so full of compulsive busyness and work as ours.
Next we hear the instructions for appointed festivals -- great feasts and parties. As Israel is learning to become a community in the wilderness, God appoints for them regular celebrations for recreation, prayer and food. Lots of food. And drink, as well.
As the barley comes in, the people are to bring the first fruits, along with a lamb and some wine. These will be the elements of worship and feasting.
Fifty days later when the wheat begins to ripen, there is another offering of new grain -- bread and lambs and beef and goat for another festival.
Work and rest. Work and play. Work and pray. The balanced rhythm is important enough that God gave Israel specific instructions about breaking up our work with rest and prayer and feasting.
Today's first reading ends with another important commandment. "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; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God."
You might think of this law as a form of early social welfare. The gleaning was whatever may have fallen to the ground in the process of the commercial harvest or the portion of a field that was not economically profitable to harvest. The poor and the aliens are given claim over these leftovers, as well as the borders of the field. Today we see gleanings with organizations that take outdated food or dented cans or other food and produce that might otherwise be thrown away.
There is another way of looking at the command not to reap to the very edges of your fields. Such a command works with time just as it does with fields.
What would it be like if we were careful not to fill up all our time with appointments or jobs or things on our "to do" list? If I begin my day with a full list of expectations, if I do not leave adequate space and time, I am harvesting my field to the border. I am leaving no time for the poor or the alien who isn't already on my appointment list. I am also leaving no time for rest or reflection or those momentary feasts that come our way if we are awake, aware and non-compulsive enough to see them.
Right now the check lists look daunting as I try to cover my bases before the hour comes for leaving. But I'm ready for rest. I'm looking forward to sabbath and feasting and play. Holy time. That's why it's also called Holi-day.
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About Morning Reflections Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
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