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Sermon for Lammas Day

June 30, 2015

LammasSome people say that Lammas Day started as some sort of deal: you offer God the first bit of the harvest; you cut a first sheaf of corn or pour out a libation of the first wine from the vineyard; offer the first fruits of the harvest to God – a God who governs how all the crops grow. Then you have a big party. The theory is that God will be so pleased and delighted by the offer, that you get a bumper crop and get to keep the rest all to yourself.

Good economics! But bad spirituality! Jesus didn’t seem impressed by the rich man who built bigger barns to store his crops. Nor with a spirituality which recognised wealth as a sign of being blessed by God.

Three times a year the ancient Israelites had to keep a feast in Jerusalem. Passover, Ingathering and the firstfruits of the harvest with the consecration of the firstborn.

In our first reading, a man brought Elisha a prophet’s tithe, but Elisha decided to share it with the poor. When the man objected, Elisha assured him: “There will be some left over.”

Elisha crusaded against the worship of Baal, the god of storm and fertility. The man who bought the tithe came from Ba’al shalishah. In Hebrew “the Lord who multiplies.”

So here a man was coming to the true prophet of God to demonstrate that He alone was the true God who would meet their needs and multiply their crops. God takes the faith of this one unknown man as a demonstration of His steadfast love. What this man brought was not a great amount; he simply brought what he had. The amount is never what is important, for God is able to multiply our gifts and talents.

In our Gospel, Jesus turned to Philip and said, “Where are we to buy bread to feed these people?” Philip’s first reaction was, “How on earth could we feed all these people? There are too many of them. It would cost six months wages to buy food for all of them. According to Judas’ last treasurer’s report we don’t have the money. Feeding the multitudes is not in the budget.”

But Andrew said, “Look Jesus, here is a child with five rolls and two fish. It isn’t much. It couldn’t possibly feed all these people, but it’s a start, and the people are awfully hungry.” John reminds us that it wasn’t Philip’s excuses that fed the hungry. It was the child’s offering that made the difference. God accepts our meagre offerings of time, energy and material resources, and multiplies them.

Maybe our wealth can be better measured by what we give than by what we retain. Possessions and security, saving for a rainy day are OK. But maybe God calls us to think about what we do with what we have; to offer everything we have in life and not the just the first-fruits of the harvest. As well as a pension fund of cash to see us through old age, we need to invest in that which will lighten us up on dark days and bring light to those around us. Into that pension pot, we need to store up the wisdom we have learned, the kindness we give and the kindliness we have received, those snatches of beauty and courage that we encounter and those glimpses we sometimes get of God’s love and intimacy and delight.

St Paul says that offering the firstfruits consecrates the whole crop. If we dedicate to God the first and the best in our lives, the rest follows. And the New Testament extends the idea of firstfruits. Jesus is the firstfruits of the Resurrection. His life is an offering made holy to God. But the consecration of the firstfruits consecrates the whole crop. So if our lives are offered to God, we too share in the Resurrection.

St James goes further. Those who are Christians now are a kind of firstfruits of the whole creation. We have a mission to proclaim the Gospel to the universe, to sow, tend and reap a rich harvest for God.

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From → My Sermons

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