CCC Blog

An Unlikely Pairing

What do Moses and Jimmy Stewart have in common?  More than we might think.  This past weekend we focused on Deuteronomy 26 in which God, through Moses, reminds the people of God to bring the “first fruits” of their harvests as an offering to the Lord.  This was to ensure they would not forget that it was God who provided them the land in which to live; that it was God who was the source of their bounty.  But it wasn’t enough simply to bring the first fruits as an offering for Moses.  As the people presented these offerings to the priest, they were to recite a litany.  These words essentially traced their history from their journey into Egypt; their rise in number over time; their subsequent enslavement by the Egyptians; the harsh treatment they suffered; how God heard their cries and delivered them, and ultimately led them to a promised land.  The litany was an acknowledgement of what God had done for them and it was because of their recognition of this, that they were inspired to give first fruits back to God.  

 

 

It was almost as though, for Moses, the reciting of the litany was just as important – if not more – than the actual gift given.  In fact, there are just three verses dedicated to the giving of the gift.  Yet there are twice as many (six total) verses devoted to the explanation of the litany of God’s provision.  Giving the first fruits of the harvest is what they are to do.  But the how and the why they do it is clearly revealed by the words of remembrance of God’s saving activity in their lives.

 

 

Which brings us to Jimmy Stewart.  He plays George Bailey in the uber famous Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  In depression era upstate New York, George perpetually sacrifices his own dreams and hoped-for adventures for the sake of others.  As the director of the family-run savings and loan, he uses his bank to help countless people in town through their tough times.  Toward the end of the movie, it is discovered the money is missing and if it is not found, the savings and loan will go under and George himself will be sent to jail.  Yet in the climactic scene the townspeople rush to George’s aid, bringing their spare cash to more than make up for the missing money.  One of the townspeople, as he marches to table full of piled high with money and surrounded by a throng of his neighbors singing “Auld Lang Syne” slaps down his monetary contribution and says, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I wouldn’t have a roof over my head, George, if it weren’t for you!”  And it is though his saying those words is just as important as the gift he’s given.  It is his own litany and recitation of what was done for him.  And that recognition of what was done for him is the motivation for the generosity he expresses in the moment. 

 

How many times, when we give anything – a favor to a friend; a gift to someone in need; an offering to the church – do we recite a litany of our own?  And what would our own litany sound like?  How often do we bring to our consciousness the acts of grace that have delivered us to where we are today?  We can be forced to undertake any action.  We can become accustomed, through habit, to do anything.  But to grow into spiritually mature people of faith, we must be intentional about confessing our dependence on the grace of God in our past for wherever it is that we stand today.  I believe that is why Moses went to the trouble of describing the litany of remembrance the people were to recite as they gave their offerings to God.  And I believe it’s what that townsperson from Bedford Falls understood as he gave his gift to George Bailey.  May we likewise learn from both as we seek to cultivate our own hearts of generosity.      

Posted by Michael Karunas with

The First and the Worst

My family eats a lot of fresh fruit.  Year round, month by month.  Not necessarily locally grown fresh fruit (obviously) but bowls on our kitchen counter and shelves in the refrigerator are regularly filled with 9-10 varieties of fresh fruit.  Having purchased said fruit and having approached said bowls and shelves on a daily basis, I can attest to this truism: It is easy to identify, in a collection of anything, the “best” from the “worst.”  Take a box of blueberries.  It doesn’t require too much browsing time to determine which are plumpest and juiciest, and which are more shriveled, dry and wrinkled.  The temptation, of course, is to eat the plump and juicy ones first.  Who, after all, chooses to eat the mealiest of the bunch when there are better alternatives at hand?  So it is in our family.  The best of everything disappears first, while the “worst” are ignored, bypassed, forgotten.  Yet even they serve a purpose.  Their blemishes can be hidden when mixed into pancakes or smoothies.  They are the perfect sources for my blueberry compote which serves as the basis of my homemade blueberry and toasted almond ice cream, or for Amy’s blueberry buckle – a family favorite.  While the “first” are easily relished most, the “worst” also serve a tremendous purpose for our family’s welfare and fulfillment. 

 

This month at Central Christian we are looking at scripture passages that deal with the theme of “harvest” and examining them for what we can learn from them about growing as believers toward spiritual maturity. 

 

This week in worship we will focus on Deuteronomy 26 which encourages us to identify the “first fruits” from our harvest and bring them before the Lord.  It is true that when we survey the field of our lives and all that has grown within it – all that we have encountered and experienced – it is easy to identify those things that bring us the most joy.  Yet DT 26 reminds us how important it is to take time intentionally in order to give thanks to God for them.  And not only for them, but for all that made those joys possible.  For everything we receive and experience is a gift from God.  And being intentional about practicing gratitude and thankfulness helps to cultivate truly grateful and thankful hearts.

 

And we will also take a look at Matthew 13, in which Jesus tells a story about weeds growing in a field alongside wheat.  When servants want to eliminate the weeds, their master forbids it.  As though there is some long-term benefit for the wheat to exist alongside the weeds.  Or… that the presence of weeds serves some purpose to the health and welfare of the wheat.  I believe the same can be said for the lives we lead.  While it is easy to identify that “worst” experiences we have encountered, even they can be sources of our long-term health and growth as people of God.  When we are able to look back on our lives and identify things that, at the time, we wanted desperately to avoid or eliminate, but which turned out to be things from which we learned and grew as God’s chosen, then we have seen first-hand the truth that the first and the worst are both presented for our benefit. 

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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