Summary: A Stewardship sermon
One of the things I like about living in the Greater Atlanta area is that there are no hurricanes. Or if they do come this far inland, they are worn out when they get here.
When I lived in Miami, we would watch with great interest the weather reports, especially this time of year. Hurricane season!
As hurricanes developed you would watch these storms very carefully so you could prepare for the storm.
Because of the danger, you would stock up on water. Make sure you had lots of batteries. Put up hurricane shutters.
After Hurricane Katrina hit, one of my friends from Miami emailed me and said she was tired of living on the coast. She hated living in fear of the danger of hurricanes.
I’m not sure if she was serious or not, but this is one of the things she said, “I’m going back to California! I’ll take earthquakes any day of the week. Earthquakes come without warning and you can live your life as if there is no danger. Ignorant bliss.”
Well, no matter where you live, there are dangers.
Life is never completely safe.
Besides natural disasters, there are dangers from traffic accidents, health issues, crime – danger is all around us.
Even in the worship service, there is a moment each week when we face grave danger.
Most of us probably don’t think that there is a dangerous time in the worship service, but take my word for it, it’s there!
We think worship is danger-free because we do not live in a dictatorship where Christians are persecuted.
But don’t be fooled.
There is one moment in the worship service that is filled with danger and hazards!
No, it’s not the Children’s Devotional! – although there have been times when I did find it somewhat unpredictably hazardous.
And no, it’s not during the hymns when we might find ourselves next to someone who sings loudly but can’t carry a tune.
Nor is it during the sermon when you are afraid you might fall asleep – and start snoring.
The time of danger? It’s the offering.
In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, we read about a very ancient order of worship. Like any moment of worship, there is an opportunity for an offering.
In our reading from Deuteronomy, the people of God are about to enter the land God has promised to them. It has been a long time in coming – some 40 years to be exact. And now, after a generation has come and gone, the people are about to enter the land.
And Moses speaks to them and gives them some instructions for worship.
He says, “When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, "I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us." The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.” (Take a basket from the pulpit and put it in front of the Lord’s Table)
And that, my friends, is the crucial moment. The danger filled moment. It was at that moment that person worshipping God could come to his or her senses.
“Wait a minute. What am I doing giving God my first fruits? I’ll be back later when I have second or third fruits.”
Or it is at this moment that a person might say, “Wait, I think I’ll keep that nice yellow banana. Here’s a slightly bruised one instead.” (Remove the good banana and take a brown, nasty banana, held at arms length, and put it in the basket).
It is here that a person might even rethink the offering completely. “Give me back my basket. God gave me this to enjoy, I think He wants me to keep it all to myself. I’m not about to share my first fruits. I’m not about to share anything God has given me!”
The offering is a dangerous time in the worship service, because it is here that one might forget where our hearts need to be.
It is here that you might forget that everything you put in this basket, and everything you keep both come from the generosity of God himself.
Our Old Testament lesson for today comes from the book of Deuteronomy, toward the end of the book. But near the beginning, there is a wonderful passage.