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Friday, May 15

Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Leviticus 23:1-22
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: These are the appointed festivals of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations, my appointed festivals.

Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements.

These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, there shall be a passover offering to the Lord, and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. For seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation: you shall not work at your occupations.

Devotion – Giving God Thanks for the Harvests of our Lives
Leviticus was written as a way for the priests of the day to establish a functional and working relationship between them and the common people.  Chapter 23 talks about celebrating festivals, specifically celebrating the harvest, which would be led by the priests, and offering the first part of that harvest to the Lord.

Harriet and I, along with her two brothers and their spouses, jointly own a farm in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.  Since we are all “city folks” and none of us have any idea of what it means to be a farmer, we rent the land to a man who is a life-long farmer and grows mostly peanuts, beans, and cotton.  He normally is able to do quite well, makes good use of the land, and because he maintains the land well has a rich harvest each fall.  I would be surprised if he brought a bushel of peanuts into his church on a Sunday morning, laying them at the altar, and offering them to the Lord.  If anything, he probably offers a joyful prayer of thanks for his harvest and is pleased that the income from that harvest will be sufficient to care for his family for the coming year.

There is a tradition of celebrating a yearly Harvest Festival in churches begun in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall, England.  Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter,” “Come ye thankful people, come,” and “All things bright and beautiful” helped popularize this idea of harvest festival.

The author of Leviticus, known only as a “priestly source,” talks about celebrating the harvest with the “appointed festivals of the Lord.”  [Lev. 23:2] Since most of us are “city folks” and not farmers, what kind of a harvest could we have that we would celebrate?  Sitting at an office desk we produce words joined into, hopefully, coherent sentences where our harvest is ideas, directions on how to do things, and how to organize activities so work takes place.  All very different than the agrarian way of like known to Moses and the people of Israel.  All very different than for those of us who live in Northern Virginia in this day. How can we offer the first fruits of our harvest to the Lord?

Dear Lord, guide us as we adapt to this difficult time and grieve the loss of our “festivals” and celebrations. Help us to still bring the first fruits of our new harvests to you.

Rick Neldon