19 Bring the best of your land’s early produce to the Lord your God’s temple.
5 As soon as the order was issued, the Israelites generously gave the best of their grain, new wine, oil, honey, and all their crops—a tenth of everything, a huge amount. 6 The people of Israel and Judah, living in the cities of Judah, also brought in a tenth of their herds and flocks and a tenth of the items that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, stacking it up in piles.
Today’s readings stated another consistent theme in Israel’s approach to giving to God—they were to give God “the best.” (The laws about sacrifices also reflected that—worshippers were not to offer God damaged animals they could more easily spare; cf. Deuteronomy 15:21, 17:1). Those of us who do not offer produce or livestock need to reflect on what the principle of offering God “the best” means for our giving.
Lord Jesus, sometimes I’m tempted to give you only the equivalent of unused junk from the back of my closet or my garage. Teach me how to give you my “best,” however that works in my life. Amen.
To what can I compare God’s kingdom? It’s like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through the whole. - Luke 13:20-21
It’s a simple recipe--flour, sugar, milk, and yeast. It sits in a glass jar in my kitchen, contentedly and quietly bubbling away. And every few days something borderline miraculous happens as choice ingredients, heat, and time all come together to make something delicious.
My first “Friendship Bread” starter began as an attempt to start a new hobby during the pandemic. Part nostalgia and part necessity, it was a welcome and filling distraction. I quickly learned just how finicky bread starters can be, as mine turned suspiciously stinky. I resolved to start again, this time using the best ingredients I could afford.
The starter requires a daily practice of stirring and a weekly feeding of milk, sugar, and flour to keep it happy. It grows exponentially, allowing me to be generous, but also ever mindful of my responsibility. It’s worth it for the end results--a beautiful loaf of apple-orange bread delivered to our socially distanced friends, scones sneakily snuck and safely set on our neighbor’s porch, a weird pie crust experiment, and half a loaf of warm lemon blueberry goodness eaten right off the cooling rack with my husband.
The individual ingredients aren’t quite as delicious as what they can do together. The unbaked batter (while fun to scrape out of the bowl) just doesn’t satisfy. Instead, when I combine the starter with good ingredients and add in a little effort, some patience, and creativity, amazing things happen.
What delicious feast will we as a church make, together?
Who are the hungry people we will feed?
And most importantly, what are the best ingredients each of us can bring to the table?
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