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Exodus 23:14-19, The Annual Festivals

Monday, June 18

God's Dance Party

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

Remember the last time your congregation busted out into a dance party right in the middle of worship? Right. That probably never happened. Rarely, at least. Not if you're in a mainline Protestant congregation. For some reason we seem averse to outward expressions of glee. Worship services have become largely passive, primarily mellow, and usually quite reserved. 

For the Israelites, God was quite clear there was to be celebrating in honor of all that God had done for the people. They were to hold three festivals a year -- the festival of unleavened bread (Passover is one day in the seven of this festival), the festival of the harvest (Shavu-ot), and the festival of ingathering (Sukkot) -- three times when God proved God's loyalty to Israel during the event of the exodus. At these festivals, Israelites were to bring the best of their offerings -- first fruits -- to thank and praise God.

I imagine these festivals to be grand affairs. After all, it's not every day God frees an entire nation from slavery they'd endured for 430 years! In fact, God laid out several festivals for Israel -- all together, the Jewish community celebrates God a lot! Not only that, but after centuries of enslavement, the people had earned a little time to relax and celebrate. What better way to celebrate than to honor the one who made celebrating possible?

The crux of the celebrations are to offer God the first fruits of the harvest. God doesn't want leftovers. God wants the first and the best. It's not too much to ask for all that God has done for us! Here's a little more background on Shavuot and the other festivals God requested. And the next time you're in worship, go ahead and cha-cha-cha! (Remember to offer your first fruits, too!)

Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 23:14-19

Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed. You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God. You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning. The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.