Summary: Year C. 1st Sunday of Lent March 4th, 2001
Year C. 1st Sunday of Lent
March 4th, 2001
Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church
Web page http://lordofthelake.org
By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor
Heavenly Father we recognize that we are truly dependent on You alone for everything. Amen.
When the Israelites moved from a nomadic economy to an agricultural one, that is, when they settled down in the Promised Land, they adopted some of the ceremonies proper to such an economy, ceremonies they found in place among the indigenous Canaanites. Only the Canaanites worshipped Baal as god of the rain and offered the first fruits of any harvest, be it grain or grape, to him. So, besides adopting these ceremonies, the Israelites adapted them to fit their own religion and their own God, Yahweh. This text records the first instance of the ceremony of offering the fist fruits, the best of the harvest, to Yahweh, its “first cause.” It was Yahweh who provided the rain, not Baal, and Yahweh who provided the sun, the soil and saw to the germination and growth. So, it was only right that Yahweh receive his share of the produce, the results, the fruits. The Israelites knew that, strictly speaking, the whole harvest belonged to Yahweh, but that just as he shared it with them, they would dedicate some of it to him, to be used by the priests for holy purposes, namely, the support of the priests who had no land of their own. That did not mean that their responsibility to share what was theirs with others, especially the poor, was fulfilled thereby, but only that they recognized that such sharing without a token offering, a “tithe,” a tenth of their first harvest, back to Yahweh would not make “holy” what they did with the rest of their fruits. This initial ceremony is recorded so that later Israelites might know how to do it and why they do it, so that they might “remember” for themselves and ‘recite” for future generations, especially the young and foreigners, the great deeds Yahweh has done and continues to do.
Related to that “remembering” is the notion of “beginning anew.” Every harvest is a new beginning for the Israelites, a time to get back to the basics, to correct errors and “wanderings” from the center of life as Yahweh has revealed it through his word and his works. To connect the past and the present the Israelites to a “that was then, this is now” approach. They recited, in the briefest summary form, their common past, their history, their history with the mystery who is Yahweh, to express aloud to themselves and explain to their children and any other nations why they were doing what they were doing. They were making the past present and changing their behavior in its light. They remembered and formally recited how they came from hard bondage in Egypt, through the Exodus, to freedom and abundance. They knew they owed it all to God, who gave his word and kept it. They moved from slaves in a foreign land to landholders in their own. To keep faithful to the faithful God they must recall, keep their memory green, the way it was then and give thanks for the way it is now by offering a prime portion of the fruits of their labor back to the God who favored them.
In verse four, “the priest shall then receive the basket”: After the exile the role of the priest was enhanced because of the absence of a king and his court. The focus shifts to the court of the Temple. These “first-fruits,” promises of more to come, represented the best of the crop. They were to give back to God from the “top” not the bottom or worst of the crop.
In verse five, “then you shall declare before the Lord”: The giver explains the action of giving by reciting a kind of creed, a series of belief-statements, which make sense of the tithe.
My father was a wandering Aramean: No matter how many centuries might pass, every Jew saw the patriarchs as their fathers. Within the notion of “corporate personality” there was really no time factor. They knew their ancestors were dead, yet they felt their presence within and among them. From this consciousness they derived their heightened sense of Jewish identity and purpose. The Arameans are first mentioned in records of the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser I about 1112-1074BC. The word probably means “nomad,” hence the “wandering” may be redundant or really mean “mortal, in danger of perishing.” They first appeared as a nomadic tribe of the Syrian Desert who attacked the settled country and finally settled there in the regions of northern Syria and southern Babylonia, merging with the Chaldeans. The Hebrews were chiefly, though not exclusively, Aramean in origin. In the table of nations Genesis 10:22; Aram is listed as a son of Shem from which we get “Semite”. Aramaic, the language of the Arameans and possibly the Hebrews before their settlement in Canaan is a NW Semitic language. The commerce of the Arameans carried their language far and wide, becoming the language of commerce and trade throughout the Near East and beyond. In fact, it was the common language of the Persian Empire until replaced in the West by Greek. Similar to Hebrew, though simpler, it remained the language of the common folk in the east until Arabic replaced it in the seventh century AD under the influence of Islam.