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In a region where evangelical Christianity has been hard to find for much of the last century, Park Street Church is a durable exception. Its white steeple rises above the Boston Common, an icon of New England Congregationalism. But walk into the crowded sanctuary on many Sunday evenings and you may be surprised to hear a distinct Carolina cadence in the voice of the preacher—and in the pews, since the church attracts students and young professionals who are every bit as regionally and internationally diverse as the city itself. Daniel Harrell, one of the ministers at Park Street, is known for his dry wit and hairpin turns of phrase, as well as his consistent emphasis on grace in unlikely places. But could he convince his congregation that the Book of Leviticus was good news? His story is a fitting response to our big question, "Is our gospel too small?"

Mention Leviticus to most people and what comes to mind is that arcane tome of Torah devoted primarily to the proper (and gruesome) management of sin through animal sacrifice. Others may recall mind-numbing instructions on how to rightly handle infectious skin disease and mildew, and a mishmash of other commandments about not mixing fibers and seeds and not sleeping with your stepmother or sister or nephew—commandments deemed either irrelevant or plain common sense. Rarely studied and even more rarely preached, Leviticus often becomes that graveyard where read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans go to die. Skeptics know it as ammunition for homosexual haters or as a target for animal-rights activists. Many Jews regard it as awkward and outmoded. To slog through it can be unbelievably tedious. Which is why most of us don't.

But what would it look like to take Leviticus ...

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August 2008

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