Prepare to listen. Quietly pause and prepare to receive the Word, believing God’s words, When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. (Psalm 91:15)
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11
When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.’ 4When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, 5you shall make this response before the LORD your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, 7we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8The 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; 9and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10So 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. 11Then 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.
The phrase, The LORD your God is used nine times in these verses. It was critical that Israel, as a new nation, remember and own that they belonged to the LORD (that is, Yahweh) and were to remain active participants in God’s saving acts. To help them do this, they were commanded to pray, using liturgical prayers such as this one when they offered their first fruits (vv 5-10). The prayer re-members the past. They didn’t come from a great descendent who did amazing deeds, but from a ‘wandering Aramean.’ This wasn’t a descendent to brag about and not one who could have ‘created’ a great nation. The ‘wandering Aramean’ story reminded Israel that they were not a ‘self-made’ nation but were formed by the LORD their God. Their history had another impossible and even desperate stage they were to remember, as noted in the middle section of the prayer—slavery and oppression in Egypt that ended in a miraculous deliverance that only the LORD their God could enact. The heart of Israel’s faith was to be rooted in this amazing transformative and redemptive event.
The pray-er was to rehearse this prayer, not merely as a present-day character remembering an ancient event and saying a perfunctory ‘thank you’ to Yahweh. No. They were to pray in such a way that they became present-day participants in that ancient event, experiencing anew God’s transformative and redemptive action. This is still something that we need to do today. Lent is an opportunity to live into the work of Jesus so that we experience it as active participants, not mere passive remember-ers; so that Christ’s work comes alive in our lives each day.
The defining moment for Christians is Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. How can you re-member that today in such a way that you experience it as an active participant? What offering can you bring to help you re-member?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
I come from humble roots, O Lord, but through your work on the cross I’ve become one with you, transformed, a new creation. May I keep the memory alive so that I experience your work as an active participant and not a mere passive observer. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, an active participant with Jesus.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.