mind your sacrifices: looking at Leviticus through the lens of mindfulness

Mindfulness is all a buzz lately. Mindfulness can improve your health, improve decision making-skills, help cope with trauma, prevent succumbing to cravings, and even capitalize the O in your orgasm (dare I say mindfulness puts the O in your OM; ha! …couldn’t resist). Mindfulness is on the football field, in the medicine cabinets of vets, on my blog, and within classrooms. Mindfulness is so pervasive I found all these articles in a matter of minutes.

But mindfulness in Leviticus? Come on, no way. I mean Buddha wasn’t even around then (wink, wink). But this weekend in my camping chair, as I trudged through the decrees of cleanliness and uncleanliness, inclusion and exclusion, and lions, tigers, and bears, oh my, the list of sacrificial animals, I found myself as usual asking: Why? What would be God’s intention in making so many harsh rules? Especially, when in the end, Jesus fulfilled them all (amen to that mystery!) and criticized the people for offering empty sacrifices, “honoring God with their lips, but not with their hearts” (paraphrase of Matthew 15 mine). I know some of the responses to this question: hygiene, health, separation from the “others,” etc. But always those attempted-answers do not assuage the shock in my heart as I read a book like Leviticus.

But, as I wrestled with the idea that all this was for His people and not for Himself, my mind rested on a few key Scriptures:

You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean (10: 10)…

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (11:44).

To consecrate means to set apart, to distinguish as other, to separate and elevate. And is that not mindfulness? When I pause and mindfully eat, my food becomes sacred and not just calories. When I pause and set my intention on my mat, it becomes a sanctuary. When in a conversation and I mindfully stop, then respond, I am elevating my relationship with that person. When I settle into stillness on my swing, I invite God into that space. To consecrate, one must be mindful.

I’d venture this is part of what God intended. That when the leper was healed and came back to the camp, instead of just diving right back in, he would have to find the appropriate sacrifices, then offer them. This intentional, time-tasking, budget-demanding act was a transition back into community, a chance to be mindful about what has occurred in his/her life. While the anointing oil ran down the head, then neck, then shoulders of the priests, it was a chance to be mindful about their holy positions, as well as for the people watching. All these decrees forced His people to slow down, be present, and engage with what mattered most…an awareness of the Divine.

This, of course, does not answer all my questions about Leviticus and the law. But, I’m quite okay with that…

the questions are more invitations to be mindful.

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Hosea 6:6