This Sunday I will be speaking on Deuteronomy 26:1-11, the first confession of faith declared by the Jewish people as they began to settle in the Promised Land. Note, in the text below, that the first and last paragraphs describe human activity while the middle paragraph describes what was done to the people of God and then what God did for His people.
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 firstfruits 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 ancestors 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. Then you shall declare before the Lord your God:
“My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppressions. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and homey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.”
Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.
This text (story) provides a powerful lesson about how we are to experience the healing of our wounds, and well-being (shalom is the Hebrew word) in our lives. We are to come together as a faith community and acknowledge the sin, which has marred and scarred our lives. We are to offer the firstfruits of the resources we have as a testimony of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. The scripture tells us that rejoicing (celebrating) follows this time of remembrance and offering.
Whenever we gather to worship, this is what we do. We relive, reclaim and re-experience God’s redemptive acts. In so doing the presence of God lifts us in joy and we experience renewal and transformation as the Lord’s beloved children. My faith community is not just important; this is the community that Jesus uses to shape who I become and to give me the abundant life.