Most people don’t read Leviticus, so it’s really no surprise that most people don’t know a lot of details about the different sacrifices in Israel. The beginning of Leviticus details the four main offerings in Israel; the whole burnt offering, grain offering, offering of well-being, and the sin offering. The whole burnt offering was completely consumed on the fire. The grain offering was just as it says, an offering of grain that was typically offered with the other offerings. The sin offering was an offering made to make atonement for wrongs committed. All of these were offered in response to sins and consumed by either the priests or God.
The offering of well-being was slightly different. The offering of well-being, also known as the thanksgiving offering or the peace-offering, was offered when one was thankful for all that God had done. It was not tied to sin, although it was a sacrifice, but was instead a free will offering to celebrate relationship with God. It was also different in that the offering was to be eaten by the worshiper. The participant offering the sacrifice of well-being would invite friends and family to come and feast together as they celebrated their relationship with God. Part of the meal was consumed on the altar, allowing God to participate in the celebration, but the rest was distributed to serve as the main dish of a thanksgiving meal. It was a time when one celebrated new life in God. It was a meal, God served as host, and relationship was celebrated.
We don’t still offer sacrifices as they did in ancient Israel, but we do have the opportunity each week to celebrate the offering of well-being. Each week as we gather around the table to remember the Eucharist (communion, or Lord’s Supper) we celebrate renewed relationship with God. Jesus meets us as host at this meal. Jesus serves at the table. It is a meal of remembrance, but it is also a meal of celebration. A sacrifice has been made, Jesus died on the cross and made atonement for our sins. But instead of a solemn funeral, this is a celebration. Victory was won at the cross. The powers of sin were defeated. The idolatry that had held us captive, the desire to choose our own way and worship the creation over the creator, was shown to be powerless. The Son was lifted up and became victorious through the death, helping us to see that it is not through power and might that we become fully human, but through love and self-sacrifice. We become God’s image bearers when we die to self and are raised to new life in Christ. And we celebrate that new life with a feast. We eat of the bread, the body of Christ. We drink of the wine, the blood of the covenant that was freely offered for humanity. We feast and celebrate together life.
The Supper is not a time of painful self-reflection about all of our sins, and how horrible we are. That’s an aspect of the remembrance, but it’s not the sole response. The Supper is not just a time of quiet remembrance, it is a time of communal celebration. The Supper is a time when I come to worship with God, but also we come together to worship God. It is a time when I join with my family, my community of believers, and we join Jesus at the meal of celebration and thanksgiving. We celebrate new life together. We feast in the presence of God. Just as Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel feast in the presence of God as they ratify the covenant and celebrate new life at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24), we join God every week at the table and feast and celebrate new life with God, through the body and blood of the Son.
The Eucharist is a time of thanksgiving. It’s a time of celebration. It’s a time of worship as we join God in celebration of new life. Just as the offering of well-being was a time to celebrate together with the community our relationship with God, the Supper is a weekly opportunity to celebrate together in community our relationship with God. Enjoy your quite time. Remember the Savior. But also rejoice in salvation and new relationship offered through the Son.