Grateful

I’ve led a small weekly Bible study for over seven years now. We’ve spent five months in the book of Judges, nine months on the sermon on the mount, covered a botched conglomeration of Proverbs, several months on the minor prophets, and walked for over a year through the chronological life of Christ. We even attempted what will go down as the worst book study in history, which was very sad for me as it was one of my favorite Shane Claiborne works. Leader error on that one.

Recently, as we neared the end of our most recent series, we were discussing what to cover next. The group decided, much to my chagrin, that the book of Leviticus is not taught nearly enough so we should dive into it. Meaning I should spend the next months immersed in the world of animal sacrifice, bodily discharge, and sexual rules that really should be givens. Those who know me well, in particular that I’m prone to a weak stomach and overreaction to all things gross, will either pity me or find themselves very amused by all of this.

I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find relevance in this most obscure of all biblical texts. So much of its content is archaic, seemingly barbaric, or just confounding from a modern perspective.

We started where the book starts: sacrifices and offerings. First we looked at the burnt sacrifice, a voluntary act of worship that represented a desire for total devotion on the part of the worshiper. This week we looked at the next offering: the grain offering.

This was also a voluntary offering, one that came from a motive to thank God for His provision of food. An agricultural society would be particularly aware of their dependence on elements beyond their control for survival. This offering gave expression of gratitude to the One with control over those elements.

We talked about how to be more grateful people today, when access to basic necessities is a given for those in my dining room that night. We each had a warm bed to go home to, coats to put on, shoes, food, cars to get us to jobs we are fit to work in. Beyond this, we all have good relationships with each other and others, mental and physical health, freedom to connect with spiritual communities, access to the Bible as well as tools to help us better understand it. We have educations, families, space and time to pursue hobbies and interests.

Obviously one could argue that these blessings are all a matter of circumstance or social reality. Just like a farmer in Israel could argue that the sun would shine on his crops whether He attributed that act to God or not. But in a world of entitlement, of drastic gaps between the wealthy and the poor, and selfishness, I think it does me good to foster a sense of gratitude for the things I have been given.

I could have been born to a family that sold me into slavery, or into the sex trade. I could have only the options of selling my body, selling my children, or starving. I could have been murdered at birth because I am female. I could be forced to cover my entire body because it’s shameful to be a woman. I could be a man’s property, literally or just socially. I could be carrying a jug of water miles across desert that may save my child from dehydration, or give my child a fatal worm.

Jesus taught me to pray, among other things, that God would supply my daily needs. It’s amazing how much my perspective changes when I do so. I’ve become aware of how well He takes care of me. I’m more sensitive to the needs I see in others, and my ability to help meet that need. I’ve become deeply humbled by how much I’ve been given.

The grain offering is the one offering that required no blood or death, expanding the idea of sacrifice from death to a gift given to God. Throughout the letters to the early church, Jesus followers were encouraged to offer their lives, their minds, their resources, their help to others as living sacrifices to God. I think this is a beautiful picture of worship, that as I offer what He’s given me to others in His name He accepts the act as “a pleasing aroma. I have the power to make God…happy.

May we seek new ways to be grateful, new things to be thankful for. May our view of provision be expanded, and may we have eyes to see how we might be God’s hand of provision in another’s world.

I’d love to hear others’ experiences with gratitude as a practice, or what you’re

If you’d like to start practicing intentional daily gratitude, check out http://www.aholyexperience.com/joy-dares/.

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