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Juicy Fruit

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Deuteronomy 26:1-15) transports me to a place and time I always get excited about – the first pickings from the garden. I can’t think of many experiences sweeter than tasting those first juicy Silver Queen roasting ears. The boiling water is already on the stove when these first ears get picked, and after some quick shucking and silking, seven minutes in the water and a pat of butter melted over them, I can’t describe it any better than what the song says, that’s the glory of – that’s the story of love. I could go on and on about the similar experiences with the first ripe tomatoes sliced on fresh-baked biscuits, the first blackberries and wineberries in a bowl with milk and sugar, well, you get the picture. I can almost feel the juice rolling down my chin. It’s a nice fantasy to have on a cold snowy February day, especially after the balmy 50 degree day we had on Sunday that turned my thoughts toward the earth and plow.

My memory of this Deuteronomy passage has always placed it in context of the tried and true annual stewardship sermons I heard growing up. Bring your tithes to the storehouse. Support your local Levite. Don’t muzzle the ox when it’s treading the grain. When I re-read the Passage this morning, though, something leapt out at me so hard it almost put my eye out. God instructed the new inhabitants of the Promised Land to gather the first fruits from all their produce, and yes, some of it was to go to the Levites (the custodians of the sacred gathering places), but the law of Moses also instructed the faith community to redistribute the wealth; these first fruits were to go to support the widows, the fatherless, and the foreigners, those “resident aliens” sojourning in the community. Tithing, then, was not a simple fund-raising scheme to keep the lights on and the preacher paid; it was a social justice strategy, firmly rooted in God’s care for the most vulnerable and at risk in our midst.

Reflecting on our primary passage of the week and Jesus’ teaching about the spiritual fruits that we produce as people of faith, it occurred to me how incredibly timely this passage is for my own church. Fruit is such a great and healthy source of energy. So if our relationship with Jesus bears the sweet and juicy fruits of love, joy, peace, hope – all those positive, life-giving energies, then it follows that we are to give our first fruits – our best energies – to those people in our midst who most need those energies. I am grateful at how this is happening right now at Ecclesia. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of things that can be downright exhausting in the life of any church these days – budgeting, negotiating the shifting sands of denominational life, recruiting enough people to serve on various leadership teams, scheduling and coordinating all those meetings that seem to be necessary to sustaining the life of a faith community. But it is incredibly inspiring to be part of conversations with fellow members who really are giving their first fruits, both in resources and in their best energy, toward some of the most vulnerable populations of our world. It’s like a blast of warm weather in February! The challenges surrounding us are huge, but not nearly as huge as the Spirit who has been sowing seeds and watering and nurturing and is now harvesting some of these first fruits. Just get somebody talking about the relationships they are developing with homeless folks through the breakfast program at the Vet’s Shelter. Or about what’s going on with our sister church in Cuba. Or the workday for the Dream Build at Habitat. Or the Bible study at the jail. Or coaching and mentoring families from disadvantaged circumstances and watching them grow and mature. That’s the glory of – that’s the story of love. Something to chew on.


*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.

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Comments

  • February 8, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Just what church is supposed to be about. Proud to be a brother at Ecclesia.

    Comment by Jerry

  • February 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Loved It! Love what Ecclesia is doing! Really loved the way you linked the first fruits to the first fruits of our energy. Another lesson learned by me from you! Love you!

    Comment by Kelly Dotson

  • February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I found a prayer in my dad’s papers today that is a good match. Here is an excerpt: “eternal God, may we see the ethical connections between getting and giving, between labor and leisure, between being individuals and participants in community. May the fruits of our labor speak to the hunger of others and our own need to experience worthwhile satisfactions. Lord, never mind the why and wherefore. Through thy love, level all ranks, call us from safe harbors, blow wind into our sails, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. Ed Christman

    Comment by carolyn christman

  • February 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks Carolyn, what a beautiful prayer!

    Comment by admin

  • February 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I was most impressed with your revelation that tithing is not only the 10% we bring into the “storehouse,” but also the above and beyond offerings we give in service to our commuity and fellow man with actions and deeds to support and help those in timely need. I know you and Kim are such “tithers” and perhaps through this devotion, more of us will develop juicier fruit as well superceding Sunday morning financial offerings and tithes (although one should not replace the other)! Both our time and our acknowledgement of what belongs to God financially encompasses the real sweetness of our fruits.

    Comment by Michelle

  • February 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Thanks Michelle – what lovely thoughts!

    Comment by Stan


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