by Christine Sine
This week I have done an orgy of cooking from our garden produce – chocolate zucchini bread; pear and raspberry bread; Thai basil, cashew and coconut pesto, and much more. It has been fun to cook and eat from the abundant bounty of the garden. What is not abundant yet is the harvest of tomatoes. In fact I have just picked the first few, and much as I am tempted to eat them all myself, I know that I need to share these “first fruits” and plan to use them in a salad for our community meal tonight.
I could not help but think of this Sunday’s reading from The Revised Common Lectionary was read. First we heard 2 Kings 4:42-44
a man from Baal-shalishah brought some food from the firstfruits of the harvest to the man of God: in his sack were 20 barley loaves and fresh produce still in the husk.
Elisha: Distribute this food to the people so that they may fill their hungry bellies.
Servant: Do you really think this will be enough for 100 hungry men?
Elisha:Yes, do as I said, and distribute this food to the people. The Eternal One says, “They will fill their bellies and still have some food left over.”
He handed out the food to them; and exactly as the Eternal One said, they ate and had food to spare.
Then from the gospel of John 6:1-21 – the story of the little boy with five loaves and two fish.
Sharing the first fruits of any harvest is always challenging. In agrarian cultures first fruits came at a time when everyone was lean and hungry, wondering whether their stored goods would last until abundance once more filled the earth. Today first fruits may not mean the difference between hunger and a full stomach but there is still something wonderful about them. The first tomato of the season excites taste buds that have not been stimulated since last season and we want more! Surely there is only enough for me (and maybe for Tom.)
Yet now we are being asked to share – a paltry amount – nowhere near enough to feed 100 hungry men, an even smaller amount to feed a crowd of more than 5,000 hungry men, women and children. It is impossible to believe we can hand it out, feed everyone and still have some left over.
The servant and the disciples do the maths, and know it is impossible. They act like hired hands or slaves, not believing in the impossible but obeying begrudgingly, without much joy or hope. They were probably filled with anxiety and the rumbling of their stomachs probably made them resent the crowds around them.
Contrast the little boy, a child – probably surrounded by a flock of friends, all laughing, excited egging him on, like flocks of kids that used to follow us in African villages. They alone believe in the possibility that Jesus can and will perform a miracle. In many ways this little boy’s offering is a first fruits offering too. He doesn’t have much but what he has he is willing to give. This is the first time as far as we know that he has given anything to Jesus, something small that Jesus could make big.
I wonder today as I reflect on these stories “how often do we get caught in an attitude of scarcity because we react as servants rather than as children of God? We look at what we have to offer be it food, or talent, or money and don’t think there is enough for our own needs let alone an abundance to share. We don’t get excited about the possibilities of what God can do and resent God’s invitation to be generous with the first fruits of our labours. We have done the maths and know that there is just not enough for everyone.
Kids are not great mathematicians but they are great sharers and they are great believers in the awe and wonder of miracles. When they see someone with a need they are right there wanting to help and they believe what they have in their hands can make a difference.
What will it take for us to become like children again – excited, expectant and eager to share because we know that in the hands of Jesus the little we have can always be transformed into enough for everyone? The really exciting and awe inspiring thing is that when we begin to share we do see our first fruits multiplied, our excitement grows and we become generous with everything that God places in our hands.
Can you imagine how that kid and his friends must have felt after they watched the huge crowd eat from their little offering? I am sure they talked about it for days if not years afterwards.
So I find myself wondering again: Were some of these kids amongst the early believers in Acts 2:42-47 once more filled with awe and wonder as they now shared meals and possessions together? Did they remember that first time of sharing when they saw Jesus perform a miracle of provision for a great crowd and so believed that he could still multiply their possessions to provide for everyone?
What Is Your Response?
Romans 8:15 tells us that we are not slaves or servants but children of God yet we rarely act as children. We don’t play, get excited or gasp in awe and wonder at the world and its abundance.
Sit prayerfully for a few minutes and think back to your childhood. What is one occasion you remember when you got excited about sharing with others/ How did you feel? What further responses did it stir in you?
What would it take for you to act as a child today? What “first fruit” do you think God might be prompting you to share? How can you respond.
For more reflections one “first fruits” you might like to check outOffer Your First Fruits to God