Going Deeper 3/5/2019

The first reading for Lent 1...
Deuteronomy 26:1-11   When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, 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.  You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, "Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us."  When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.  When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.  The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  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.  Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house. 

This text underscores once again the vital role that memory plays in the lives of God's people.  Yes, it is about the offering of "first fruits" of the harvest, which at this point in history were used to support those who were landless and thus lacked self-sufficiency... the widows, orphans, resident aliens, and the Levites whose served as priests.  Compassion and generosity have always supposed to be common traits of God's children, reflecting the heart of their Creator.

It is clear that this offering was to flow from gratitude for what God had done for them and for their ancestors.  The called for "response before the Lord your God" was a mini history lesson recounting the powerful works of God done in order to rescue them from abusive slavery in Egypt and to establish them in the promised land.  Remembering has always been vital... from the Old Covenant to the New.

When at His final Passover celebration meal with His disciples Jesus took bread and wine and through them gifted His followers with His body and blood, He said to "do this in memory of me."  This is our ongoing reminder of God's rescuing of us from sin, death, and the devil, as well as His bringing us by grace into His Kingdom.  This is to fill us with never-ending gratitude and move us to compassion and generosity, to caring for those in need.  

May we never repeat the mistake of simply going through the motions, of taking for granted the grace and mercy of God, of running dry in our compassion and generosity.  Let's pray for good memories!

With You in His Grace,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."