SERMON TITLE: “Seek Ye First: First Fruits” SERMON TEXT: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, 16-19 PREACHER: Rev. Kim James OCCASION: October 17, 2021, at First UMC
I spent three days this past week doing jury duty in a United Methodist Church clergy trial. The process began on Monday morning, when the presiding bishop from a southeastern state called us to order. There were 35 of us clergy from our Mountain Sky Conference who had been summoned to the Zoom meeting. Some potential jurors were excused for various reasons. The names of the rest of us were put on slips of paper and drawn out. Thirteen jurors plus two alternates were needed. I was called as juror #12. Before and after the jury was narrowed down, the presiding bishop told us that what we were doing was a sacred duty that we must take very seriously. He emphasized that serving in the trial over the next few days had to be our first priority. He urged us to set aside all other distractions. Our calendars had to be cleared of congregational and personal concerns. We had to give our full attention to the matters at hand. We were not to spend time checking our email, answering phone calls, or writing our sermons. For most of three days, we had to keep our eyes on the computer screen and our ears listening to the words that were spoken. Other matters would have to take a back seat. Arriving at a just outcome for the clergyperson and for the United Methodist Church had to be our first priority. Even though we weren’t supposed to be planning our sermons, I couldn’t help but think how that fit into our stewardship theme of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness. As we heard last Sunday, Jesus taught that—if we seek God first, if we give God priority—then God will provide and help us manage the other needs of life. Today’s scripture lesson comes from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. There, in chapter 26, we read about God’s expectations for the Hebrew people to make an offering of the first fruits of their harvest. I invite you to look attentively at these verses with me. Let’s think about why we, even today, should offer to God our first fruits.