Deuteronomy 26:8-11

The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”

You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house. Deuteronomy 26:8-11

So what ultimately happens with the gifts that are offered to God? The people have a party! I’ll bet you didn’t expect that!!!

Now, I suppose a skeptic could point out how selfish those people are for taking what has been offered to God and using it for their own pleasure. In the same way, skeptics freely criticize Christians today for asking people to give their money. Who can forget – click here if you haven’t seen it before, just know the language will be harsh – George Carlin making fun of the idea that God needs our money? That ALL God wants from us in our money.

How about let’s put that one to rest forever? God doesn’t want or need our money, God wants US, our whole lives, to flourish in healthy relationships with God and the world around us. And, in this world, EVERYTHING except love costs money. Why? Because money is a means of exchange. It is a symbolic representation of the good that people do in the world for one another. Certainly we twist money into evil just like we twist everything else but that isn’t money’s fault. EVERYTHING costs SOMEONE SOMETHING. That is just the way it is and the way it will always be….unless we return to the days of our hunter/gatherer ancestors and live off the land. (Not for me. I like running water that isn’t in a river.)

So yes, the church needs money just like the grocery store, the gas station, the cable service, the government, and your local barber. So how about we quit with the guilt about the church asking for money?

Back now to the party….

Look carefully at who gets invited: “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you…” You, I imagine, refers to those bringing their first fruit gifts to the place where they worship God. They get to stay for the party. The “Levites” are the priestly order whose job it is to oversee all things “worship.” No surprise there. That’s what we would expect. But then look at the next names on the guest list – the aliens who reside among you. The ALIENS who reside among you? Yes, the ALIENS who RESIDE among YOU!

There is no secretive Bible vocabulary going on here. We all know what “aliens” means. No, aliens doesn’t mean “little green men.” Aliens means “outsiders”, “strangers”, “foreigners.” God’s people are supposed to set a place at the table for aliens. This is basic Christianity 101.

The truth is, God has ALWAYS wanted a place at God’s table for EVERYONE. WE are the ones who are picky about our guest lists. WE are the ones who are threatened by differences, terrified that some stranger is going to show up and steal our stuff. God has ALWAYS called God’s people to share their stuff, to make a place at the table, for aliens, for strangers, for foreigners, for outsiders, for “them”, and not just for us.

(Because, and I throw this in lest we forget, all stuff is God’s stuff, all tables are God’s tables, all people are created, and loved, by God. Period. Unless you choose to quit believing this. At that point, you can no longer rightly call yourself a Christian. You actually become an insult to the faith. This isn’t my opinion. Jesus, not me, said “you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 1 John 4:20 says, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

How do we then rightly use the gifts that are presented to God by God’s people? Simple, we pay whatever it costs to throw a party to which everyone is invited.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you continue to give us everything we need, always inviting us to share what we have with others. You invite us, each and every week, to practice what you teach. To gather around a table. To eat bread. To drink wine. That in those gatherings we might see all of our lives, and the people with whom we share our lives, with a renewed sense of solidarity and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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