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.