2021 September 5 “First Fruits”

Scripture    James 1:17-27

         17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Message    ”First Fruits”         Rev. James R. Renfrew

Years ago, there was a circle game I enjoyed playing with children. We played it when some of our twenty-somethings here at our church were young children. It was an indoor “think-fast-so-you-don’t-get-tagged-it” kind of game. It began with each participant naming themselves as fruits: melon, apple, kiwi, etc.  To get started we just played “Fruits”, sometimes, for a change, we would play “Vegetables”, and when we were especially confident  we played both at once, “Fruits and Vegetables”.
But today, because of our scripture reading, we will just play “Fruits”.  To start the game each participant had to choose the name of a fruit. Simple right? But I noticed right away that each player would give a lot of thought to what fruit name he or she would carry during the game. Peach or a strawberry were popular choices because each has a particular delicious taste, but your choice of fruit also contains a hint of a deeper identity, so the fruit name was always selected with great care. If you were playing the game, what fruit name would you choose?  Anyone want to claim a fruit name right now?
“First Fruits” … that’s our Sunday worship theme. It comes from James 1:17-27. In fulfillment of his own purpose [God] gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
      “First fruits” … Does it refer to the name of a fruit whose taste you enjoy, so that at the buffet table you first give yourself a generous serving of pineapple, mandarin oranges, blueberries or grapes?
Does it refer to the first of hopefully many cantaloupes coming from your garden? I do hope you have found some delicious fruits in your garden this summer.  As for cantaloupes, so far we have only found one very scrawny-looking one.
Does “first fruits” refer to a particular style of generosity, that we give not from our left-overs, but from our best? In other words, “first fruits” is nothing like “last fruits”. Generosity may involve donating an old coat you no longer wear, but, even better, a new coat to someone who needs it?
“First fruits” might seem to refer to an essential principle of stewardship: give from the cream of your abundance, not the remaining dregs. Tithing is not the last tenth, the leftovers after you’ve taken care of yourself first, but the first and freshest. Art, our church treasurer, always insisted that giving for mission comes first in the church budget, not last. A wise man!
James’ letter takes a different approach in what it says about “first fruits”, because the Letter describes you and me as “first fruits” from God to the world. So, yes, YOU are the “first fruit”, not the “last fruit”, not a lime, not a nectarine, not a watermelon, but you! YOU are the first fruit that God shares with the world.
So when I ask you to think of your “fruit” name, I’m not really asking you to name yourself an orange or an apple, I’m asking you to consider what kind of fruitful treasure you are that God offers to the world? A vital congregation is one that has many treasures to offer to the surrounding community.  Who here will be the fruit of love, the fruit of caring, the fruit of generosity, the fruit of forgiveness, the fruit of healing, the fruit of joy, the fruit of peace, the fruit of justice, the fruit of listening and doing?
Is the fruit of you obvious to others, such that the love and care you offer to others is obvious to see? Or is the treasure of yourself mostly buried and difficult for others to see?  I like to think that in our Sunday gathering the “first fruits”, the treasures of who we are, are more easily seen and shared. Come, take in all the tastes and flavors, add yourself to the mix, and let’s share!
“First fruits” is used to describe the faithful as the first fruits of God’s creation. Think of ourselves as God’s offering to the world.

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