By Pastor Christie John, Geneseo United Methodist Church, Buckingham
And when you begin harvesting each of your crops, the very first things you pick must be put in a basket. Take them to the place where the Lord your God chooses to be worshiped, and tell the priest, “Long ago the Lord our God promised our ancestors that he would give us this land. And today, I thank him for keeping his promise and giving me a share of the land.” The priest will take the basket and set it in front of the Lord’s altar. ~ Deuteronomy 26:2-4 (CEV)
“NO! MINE!” my 2-year-old granddaughter shouted when I asked her to share one of her home-baked cookies with me. I was a bit taken aback. After all, I was the one who had baked the cookies and given them to her in the first place. We both knew that there were plenty more cookies where the ones clutched in her little hands had come from. And if she wanted more, all she had to do was ask. Even by two years old, she had figured out that grandma is a pretty soft touch!
Last week we learned that God’s people were to leave some of the last bits of their harvest for the poor and immigrants among them. In this week’s passage from Deuteronomy, God also commands his people to make an offering of the very first crops harvested. This “first-fruits” offering acted as a power reminder that everything the Hebrew people owned, including the land that produced their crops, was made possible by God’s grace. Giving first fruits to God was an act of profound faith, inviting trust that there was “more where that came from” and God could be counted on to bestow it.
We are still invited to give first-fruits to God. Of course for most of us that doesn’t mean hauling beans, corn, pumpkins and taters into church and plopping them on the altar. It might mean making our charity contributions or church offerings a priority when we sit down to pay our bills. Or giving the first few moments of our day to the Lord in prayer. Or using our talents and abilities to love and serve others even before we use them for our own benefit or amusement.
Giving first fruits is still a profound act of faith. It reminds us that all that we have is made possible by the grace of God. And it invites us to trust that when we give to God first, the God of all time, energy and resources can be counted on to provide what we need…and to bless us with a continued harvest of love, joy and peace.
Your Sister in the Giving, Pastor Christie John