June 29, 2021
Laity, Burks UMC Scenic South District
Certified Parish Nurse
19 “Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. Anyone who touches her during that time will be unclean until evening. 20 Anything on which the woman lies or sits during the time of her period will be unclean. If any of you touch her bed, you must wash your clothes and bathe yourself in water, and you will remain unclean until evening. 22 If you touch any object she has sat on, you must wash your clothes and bathe yourself in water, and you will remain unclean until evening. 23 This includes her bed or any other object she has sat on; you will be unclean until evening if you touch it. 24 If a man has sexual intercourse with her and her blood touches him, her menstrual impurity will be transmitted to him. He will remain unclean for seven days, and any bed on which he lies will be unclean.
25 “If a woman has a flow of blood for many days that is unrelated to her menstrual period, or if the blood continues beyond the normal period, she is ceremonially unclean. As during her menstrual period, the woman will be unclean as long as the discharge continues. 26 Any bed she lies on and any object she sits on during that time will be unclean, just as during her normal menstrual period. 27 If any of you touch these things, you will be ceremonially unclean. You must wash your clothes and bathe yourself in water, and you will remain unclean until evening.
28 “When the woman’s bleeding stops, she must count off seven days. Then she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 30 The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Through this process, the priest will purify her before the Lord for the ceremonial impurity caused by her bleeding.
31 “This is how you will guard the people of Israel from ceremonial uncleanness. Otherwise they would die, for their impurity would defile my Tabernacle that stands among them.
Levitical law is the ultimate precursor to death and resurrection. On the surface, it’s about how to manage life in the culture of Ancient Israel. But Leviticus also shows us God’s deep commitment to humanity, to Israel, to us.
In this passage, we see some clear guidelines for handling the ritual impurity of the menstrual cycle. This ominous sounding passage has been used over millennia to support misogyny but it references human bodily functions that are normal, not sinful. Levitical laws regarding ritual impurity do not hold moral significance. It is not sinful to have a menstrual cycle, nor does it make a woman less capable than a man. It is merely a natural function of the fertility cycle of women.
The Levitical purity laws function to establish an order of cleanliness in an ancient society but their roots are in the “theology of presence” that God establishes with Israel. They point to God’s commitment to dwell among Israel. The unique relationship that God is continually maintaining with God’s people has requirements. Bleeding is a sign that our bodies are fragile and mortal because bleeding eventually leads to death. God does not accept signs of death in the Tabernacle or in the Temple. God overcomes death and opposes the forces of death.
God has invested in creation, fabulously and abundantly. Out of all that is created, God desires community with us— with people! A clear example of this desire of God to bring people into right relationship, into wholeness and healing, exists in the story of the woman with the flow of blood, recorded in Matthew 9:20-22. Not only was this woman was separated from her larger community, she was cut off from worshipping. She was cut off from her own understanding of the presence of God by a condition that resulted in her bleeding, probably off and on, but excessively, for 12 years. This type of condition is referenced in V 25, a sign that these conditions are by no means new to our generation. Jesus recognized her distress and isolation, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually, and healed her when she dared touched but the hem of his garment. This is a beautiful example of how Jesus accepted her touch, which would have made Jesus ritually impure as well. It reveals to us clearly that God is invested in opposing the forces of death and Jesus, particularly, is the instrument of that reconciliation.
It is like us as people to serve our own purposes. But make no mistake: God serves God’s purposes as well, and they are always for our wholeness and our redemption. We are offered the opportunity to accept God and thus experience our own resurrection. But when we choose to make scripture into something that is easily manipulated by people, we are not ritually impure, but morally impure.
God, our lavish creator and sustainer, please forgive us when we separate ourselves from one another and from you. Your deep desire for community with us in an honor beyond our comprehension. May we always use your word for understanding and clarity, not to harm relationship with one another and creation. Amen