Pastor John Mason “First Fruits”
Pastor John Mason
Poca United Methodist Church
January 21, 2018
Title: First Fruits
Text: Leviticus 23:9-14
The third book of the Bible – the Old Testament Book of Leviticus – tells the story of a people whose concept of religion was that God must be honored in every part of human life.
Leviticus is filled with religious rituals and laws of morality. There were laws for the purification of women after childbirth and for the diagnosing and treatment of leprosy. There were laws about which animal’s people may use for meat and more laws about how to slaughter animals. There are in this book laws about how to deal with clothing or other items which mildew. And, there are laws for when and how to take a bath and wash your clothes. Have any of you heard that if a person older than you comes into the room where you are seated, you should rise and offer your seat out of respect for their age? That comes from Leviticus also. – Chapter 20, verse 32. The beauty of this book is that it contains the story of a people who believed every part of life must be religious.
Some may argue that the rules and regulations concerning clean and unclean animals are done away in the coming of Christ, but the principle remains the same – that our Christianity is concerned with the whole of life – with our eating and drinking – with our coming and going – with relationships and jobs – as well as with prayer and witness and service. Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
It should not surprise us then in today’s Bible Lesson in Leviticus that we find laws for giving gifts to God for the mission and ministry and the service and worship – related to God’s House. That is something that has been on the minds of Poca Church leaders for several years, because we have been behind on the budget. The good news is that this is 2018 – and we have the wonderful opportunity to keep God’s work going here at Poca United Methodist Church by making a decision that on every payday, we will set aside God’s portion first – so that God’s House on Silver St. may be thoroughly furnished for every good work in Jesus’ name.
That kind of commitment says, “I want God’s House to be the best kept house in town.” I want my children, and my neighbors’ children and youth to have the benefit of a Sunday school where every child has a lesson book and a chair that fits him or her, and a room that is bright and cheerful. I want the teachers in our Sunday school and Kids for Christ to have all the most up-to-date teaching aids for telling the wonderful story of God’s love and God’s gift of salvation freely offered through the death and resurrection of God’s own well-beloved Son –our Savior, Jesus Christ.
When you place your offerings in the plate each Sunday you are saying, “I want the utility bills to be paid, I want a place for worship and praise, for learning and fellowship and fun, I want to learn of God and God’s will for my life, to hear a prophetic word, and I want to draw closer to God and have God draw closer to me.” Yes! And, I want my church to win for Christ those who now neglect Him. I want us to minister to the kids, the lonely, the bereaved, the troubled – and all the rest, too.
When our offering goes in the plate it says, “I want Poca United Methodist Church to be on the front lines ministering in my name and in the name of my Lord Jesus.” By my gifts I want to be where devastating floods in these West Virginia hollows and valleys wipe out people’s homes and hopes and livelihood – I want to be in Puerto Rico when Hurricanes destroy lives, property, and power. I want to be with missionaries who are not only helping people to have a more healthful, prosperous life, but are bringing them to Christ also. I want to be in Burlington, WV, over in the Eastern Panhandle where someone once gave and old farmhouse to the Methodist Church, if they would use it to house an orphanage, and where now children and youth with no one else to love them – find a warm bed, good food, and house parents who teach them how to love one another and to love the God who made them.
That is the message of our Bible Lesson from Leviticus 23! The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “Tell my children they are to bring the first fruits of their harvest to my House as an offering. The fact that most of us get paychecks or pension checks instead of harvesting grain or raising sheep does not exempt us from the law of the “First Fruits”. Some folks spend their income first on what they need and desire – pay their bills and then give God some part of what is left for God’s work through the Church. If I did it that way, personally, God would never get anything from me, because I manage to spend my full income almost every month – usually down to where I wish the fourth Wednesday in the month would hurry and get here, because that’s the day my Social Security gets into the bank (LOL) and, I would miss the joy of being a contributor to God’s mission and ministry for Poca United Methodist Church.
Those who have been obedient to God have received joy and happiness as they have learned to share their money, possessions, time, homes, indeed their whole lives – with God and others. I heard a grandmother say that granddaughter and great-granddaughter would give anything they had to help someone else. That is an attitude taught and caught – it does not come naturally. I was at the hospital one day and this patient started telling me why he could not give anything to the Lord – I don’t know why he was explaining to me, because I had not said a word about money – and, then his wife came in and the first thing he said to her was, “Honey, run down and get me a sack of chewing tobacco.” He was going to have his chew whether the Lord got any “First Fruit” or not. I know a man who enjoys giving to the Lord so much that when a question arose in the Administrative Board one night about whether the Church could raise the money needed for its work, he said, “I’ll see that the church has the money needed – even if I have to sell my golf clubs.”
As you meditate today and through the week upon our Bible Lesson for today, remember that the only acceptable gift in God’s sight is the gift of yourself in perfect love and obedience. Jesus was not selfish! He gave himself for us and died on the cross, so we may be saved by His shed blood. There is no magic formula for our salvation. God doesn’t need you money! He needs you – God wants fellowship with all of you.
Salvation is the gift of God to us, made possible by Jesus’ self-giving death on the cross. It is a free gift, but it must be accepted. We can receive the gift only by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus – faith that he loves us and that his death was for our sake.
When we come before Jesus, it should be with an earnest desire please him. One day someone came by the church and saw a man on hands and knees scrubbing part of the floor – a part of the floor which no one save the organist ever saw. He was asked why he was working so hard on something no one would see or appreciate. He responded: “this is God’s House, and I am not working for the praise of men and women.”
Our task is not to please women or men, but God. Likewise, our task is never to do our “fair-share” among the 102 members of Poca United Methodist Church – our task is to do all we can for God and the Church. This very day there is someone in this House of God – someone that needs to walk boldly down one of these aisles – down to the alter of prayer – to offer to God the real “first fruits” – your life, your service, your heart, your time and talent, your all!
And, God is calling you right now. Maybe you don’t feel anything – but, you know in your heart of hearts you need God. You also know you have been giving some real serious thought to becoming a Christian. That’s good! The love of God is more a matter of decision involving mind and will – than it is a matter of feeling. Many is the youth, many is the man or woman who has wasted precious opportunities because the feeling was not just right. Let me tell you, “Feeling is a poor compass to steer by.” If you know in mind and heart that Jesus loves you and died for you – if you desire to be a Christian – but you have been waiting for a certain feeling – Wait no more! Come to this alter now!
Because you know God loves you, and you are beginning to love God, and because you believe in God’s Son, Jesus – come forward now.