Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lenten First-Fruits


This Sunday’s OT lesson (Deut. 26:1-11) sounds more like a stewardship topic than a Lenten reading. In his farewell speech to the people of Israel, Moses gives very specific instructions for what to do when they’ve settled in the land God will give them: “When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you…you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground…and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.”

This practice becomes a part of Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks. The first fruits of the harvest are brought to the Lord and given as an offering of remembrance. There is particular power in the formulaic saying prescribed for the one bringing the offering: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…” The words that follow are a beautiful encapsulation of God’s salvation—how he led them from captivity in Egypt through the wilderness and into the promised land. This process—the giving of first fruits and the recitation of salvation history—was a way to make sure God’s people didn’t forget where their blessings came from.

We are beginning a pilgrimage. During Lent, we journey back into the wilderness for forty days. Why do we bother? To remember that it is only by God’s grace that we are saved. Lent is an experience of stewardship. We give back to God a piece of our lives (fasting, praying, almsgiving) to remind ourselves that only he can sustain us. Unlike Jesus, we cannot make it through the wilderness on our own, but, with Jesus’ help, we can. This Lent, I feel called to consider my discipline a first-fruits offering to God—a reminder of what he has done for me as I seek to deepen my faith that he will always provide.

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