Author: Kathryn Powell
Reflection: v. 10, ‘so now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me. You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God.’
Reading this passage, I think of Mass, where Roman Catholics bring the ‘gifts,’ the bread and wine, to the priest for a blessing and the offering is taken up in a basket, prayed over, and set at the foot of the altar where the bread will be broken. At Mercy Community Church, instead of an offering basket, two black milk crates sit below our altar: one full of chimes, bells, maracas, and drums, the other piled high with Bibles. During our service, worship is shared with a congregational percussion section, and then the Word is exchanged as all are invited to speak. Here in Deuteronomy, ancient Israelites are encouraged to offer the first fruits of the prosperity God has given them. The Lord heard them in their pain of exile, brought them home, and now they return gifts in thanksgiving to God.
As we meditate on the scripture during Lent, I’m struck by the way that such an offering is not out of a need for penance but an honoring of the Giver. What if this Lent we understood ‘giving-up’ as just that—giving, which is a reflexive response of gratitude? What does this gratitude prepare our hearts for? Not for individual salvation or personal holiness, but communal remembrance and celebration in the presence of the One who guides us with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. I remember the boy who gave fish and loaves, the widow with her two coins, Mary with her only child Jesus. All gave in gratitude for what was given, and, in the sharing, communities were created and sustained. So let us give, and offer up, and in this way enter our community prepared to one day ring out praise and thanks to the Lord. Come worship with us on Sunday. I’ll hand you a bell from the milk crate.
Prayer Lord, we give you thanks for your abundant love. Teach us to give in love.