We’ve all seen signs that list
“Our House Rules.”
Things are included like,
“If you open it, close it.
If you turn it on, turn it off.”
“In this house,
we forgive often,
like to have fun,
say we’re sorry,
love each other no matter what.”
House rules today make great wall hangings.
And often make us smile as we read them.
So as I began to read in Leviticus this morning,
I was pretty overwhelmed for the Israelites.
I’m not sure if “smiling” was their first response to the “house rules” given to them.
If printed, they would have required all the trees from the nearest forest.
Wouldn’t Hobby Lobby have looked different in those days?
And I’m not really sure how anyone could artistically display rules about
infected hairs,
unclean discharge,
or the spreading of mildew.
But God was starting from scratch (no pun intended) with these people.
They had no idea what could lead to a plague.
So like a teacher who doesn’t smile before Christmas,
God had to lay down the law.
Holiness was a big deal.
And big deals require more than generic rituals like,
“Sing all the way through the ‘Happy Birthday’ song as you wash your hands. 
And always use soap.”
Leviticus is anything but easy to read.
Even while eating oatmeal.
But maybe it should be this hard to imagine living a life separated from what God sees as good…..
and bad.
Maybe it should turn our stomach to watch certain shows and use certain words in conversations.
Maybe we should get a little nauseous when we look in the mirror and realize our clothes are pointing people in the wrong direction.



Do these words even matter anymore?
I saw a news story this week about a so-called female pastor melting a mass number of purity rings into the shape of a women’s most treasured body part and then having it made into a trophy, declaring “freedom” for girls who have been shamed into staying pure until marriage.
Just when we thought the days of melting gold into false gods was over.
Leviticus is meticulous.
It’s tempting to skip over all the things the priests had to examine in those days.
We’re not priests, after all, so it’s not like we’ll be looking closely at anyone’s skin to determine if it’s clean or unclean.
But that’s not why this book is included in the Bible.
It has nothing to do with me understanding the exact way to know if the Israelites were allowed in their camp.
But it has everything to do with me understanding
 what it takes to stay within my own.
God still has rules.
Whether I like it or not.
We’ve taken the word “freedom” too far these days.
As a result, it’s hard to know what’s truly right and what’s incredibly wrong.
And since “judging others” is none of our business,
we’ve fallen into the trap of turning our heads,
quietly nodding as we do.
And whether we want to admit it or not,
we’re sending a loud message to the next generation.
It’s as if we’re saying,
“I’m not looking so surely God isn’t either.
Whatever makes you happy,
makes me happy too.”
When the Israelites chose not to follow the rules,
things didn’t go well.
And I’m afraid they’re not going well today either.
Anger Issues
They’re all on the rise.
Children are losing in this era of “rights and freedoms.”
Not knowing where to draw the line is scary,
because it also makes it hard to know where to stand.
The Psalmist says,
 “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Boundaries aren’t bad things.
And the laws in Leviticus weren’t either.
 I think the Israelites got it.
They knew it was in their best interest to follow the guidelines
for things as small as a white dot on their skin that might be spreading.
And the act of purifying themselves had to feel great.
Who doesn’t like the feeling of a hot shower after being sick for several days?
Regardless of how hard it is for us to stomach all the rules and regulations in this book,
I love that even Mary and Joseph obeyed them.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses,
Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 
(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ),  
and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord:
“a pair of doves or two young pigeons.
After being visited by angels and told their Son would be the Messiah,
it would have been easy to think these rules somehow didn’t apply to their miraculous baby.
How could a child who was visited by shepherds and announced by a Heavenly choir require any kind of earthly sacrifice?
But maybe that’s exactly why they were chosen to be Jesus’ parents.
Mary and Joseph knew it was critical to do whatever it took to
“keep what is said in the Law of the Lord.”
They realized even the Son of God had to be consecrated to His Father.
If this couple wasn’t above the law,
should we be?
So what are we doing today as parents and grandparents to “keep what is said in the Law of the Lord?”
Not the Old one.
But the New.
Does anything matter more in this life
than the direction in which we point our children’s feet?
Yes, they can choose to veer off the path as they become adults.
God never forced anyone to keep His laws.
We shouldn’t either.
But let’s at least give them a path to veer from.
When things get tough,
I know they’ll look back.
They’ll remember the straight path they started on.
And God promises that in time,
they will return to it.
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
So let’s give our kids a road to return to.
It may feel narrow at times,
but we know where it ultimately leads.
Enter through the narrow gate. 
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it. 
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.
God loved the Israelites enough to say things like,
 “No,” and “Don’t do that.”
How much do we really love our children today?
(Today’s reading was Leviticus 11-18)