Category Archives: 30 Mins 30 Days

First fruits and offerings

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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. (Deut. 26:8-10)

Tithes and offerings are two different things.

The tithe, or “tenth,” is the giving of one’s first fruits back to God in gratitude. It is an objective giving — that is to say, tithing is meant to be done deliberately and first. Some people make their tithe the first check they write each month. Others set up an automatic payment. In either case, tithing is a deliberate, routine practice.

Offerings, on the other hand, are more subjective. Paul spends a fair amount of time in his letters talking about the offering he is taking up for the benefit of the church in Jerusalem, and we will read one such appeal tomorrow:

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:7-8)

Offerings are free gifts, given generously as specific needs arise, and given out of our abundance.

Like most Americans, I’m pretty good at offerings. I’m ready to contribute when asked, whether it’s through a neighbor’s foundation or through Episcopal Relief and Development, or by donating to Goodwill or spending time to help with a fundraising event. When asked, I tend to rise to the occasion, and I think most people do, too.

Where I do not do well at all is in tithing —┬áthe objective offering of my money to God.

I have only tithed for brief periods in my life, and while I can easily offer the first fruits of my time (rising early for the last 20 years to say Morning Prayer, for example), I struggle to make the same routine offering of my money.

Let the lessons today sit with you as you think about your own relationship with money and with God.

How do you make routine giving a habit? How do you respond with offerings for specific needs? How might God’s generosity draw from your abundance in a new way?

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The pilgrims’ way

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I’ve done a lot of driving this week in Indiana, where the landscape on an overcast day like today looks an awful lot like this painting.

One of the Psalms appointed for this evening struck me particularly:

Happy are the people whose strength is in you!
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way. (Ps. 84:4)

And the Collect for the Presence of Christ, customarily prayed on Thursday evenings, asks:

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen. (BCP 124)

How does Scripture nourish your heart along the pilgrims’ way?

How might you break bread with fellow pilgrims and share in Jesus’ companionship?

Our heart is wide open to you

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All glorious is the princess as she enters;
her gown is cloth-of-gold.

In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;
after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

With joy and gladness they are brought,
and enter into the palace of the king.
(Psalm 45:14-16)

It’s a little hard to place ourselves in this picture.

To the Psalmist, we are the singer describing the scene at a royal wedding. To the Deuteronomist, we are God’s chosen people, set apart and soon to worship in a Temple in our own land.

To Paul, we are that Temple ourselves:

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will live in them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people”
(2 Cor. 6:16)

The Church has also understood itself to be the bride in mystic union with Christ the Bridegroom.

Open your heart wide today to these images of glory and beauty and worship and relationship. What is your place in this picture?

An eternal weight of glory

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So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

Silence is so accurate

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A Boston Globe article on the value of paying close, sustained attention to art as a way to combat digital distraction really struck me today, so I have decided to try a project during the month of June.

For 30 minutes each day, after I say Morning Prayer, I will look closely at a painting by Mark Rothko, whose abstract color paintings have always intrigued me.

According to the National Gallery of Art, Rothko largely abandoned conventional titles in 1947, sometimes resorting to numbers or colors in order to distinguish one work from another. The artist also … resisted explaining the meaning of his work. “Silence is so accurate,” he said, fearing that words would only paralyze the viewer’s mind and imagination.

I’m looking forward to both the seeing and the silence.

Photo by coco of cococozy.