Scripture: Leviticus 8:1-17
Key verse: (14) “He led forward the bull of sin-offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bull of sin-offering.”
Reflection: July 13, 1997 I was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA) to serve as Pastor of the Stockbridge Presbyterian Church. It was the culmination of a journey that began in the fall of 1990 when my pastor at the time asked me if I’d ever considered going into ministry. I remember the moment of ordination, when my teachers, my in-laws, and elders from the church I would be serving came and laid their hands upon me, and one of my former pastors offered the prayer of ordination. I remember tears streaming down my face in thanksgiving for the moment and all it represented. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
It paled in comparison to the ordination of Aaron and his sons, as described in Leviticus 8. It seems “other-worldly,” because it is. We cannot conceive of animal sacrifice as a means of atonement for sin that somehow purifies the one being ordained. Reading these chapters of Leviticus, it just seems exceedingly gross. Animals being slaughtered, entrails being washed, blood being splattered, even dabbed on Aaron and his sons, what on earth is going on here?
As we read through Leviticus, we see animal sacrifice as central to the relationship between God and the Israelites. A cursory reading could leave one feeling like God is blood-thirsty, demanding these brutal slaughters to somehow appease God’s sense of righteous indignation. Yet there is more going on here than meets the eye. The animals are not simply a price to be paid to appease God. Rather, they become representative of the people. When Aaron and his sons lay their hands upon the head of the bull, this creates a sort of union with the bull. As the bull’s life blood is offered to God, the bull becomes a representative for Aaron and his sons. As the bull offers his lifeblood, so they offer their lives to God’s service.
One of the cornerstone beliefs of the Reformed tradition is the concept of the priesthood of all believers. We believe all disciples are ordained to God’s service through the waters of baptism. While some are ordained to particular offices like Ruling Elder, Deacon, or Minister of Word and Sacrament, the only separation is training. We are all ordained in our baptisms, which is to say, we are all called to offer our lives in service to God. In this way, Leviticus has something important to teach us all.
Prayer: Thank you for calling us into your service, O God. Bless us with your Holy Spirit as we seek to offer our lives in service to you. Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].