Our Union Street sign has been paving the way for First Fruits Sunday (December 6) for eight months. Ben Johnson and I have been watching in wonder the miracle in process, but it wasn’t until the first hard frost in November that it became clear God was teaching us a lesson from the soil of our sign.
All good gardeners know that you plant the tallest and sturdiest perennials in the back and work forward to the short, squatty pansies in front. Many bulbs were planted for Easter 2015 and on the morning of the Easter Vigil, we added to the bed a cache of blooming Easter lilies. As the months ticked by we spoke over RezCafe coffee, “Can you believe it? It’s July and the Easter lilies are still blooming!” Easter lilies don’t keep blooming through the summer due to the intense heat and sun, but Resurrection lilies are different.
Lilies are exceedingly fruitful. One root puts forth as many as fifty bulbs or scallions. They are tall, yet humble in the way they hang their pure white heads. The scent of the lily speaks Resurrection life to us from the altar. “Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29). So apt a description spoken by Jesus himself who is our “Lily of the Valley.”
“But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that sleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Out of gratitude, we have the privilege of giving our first fruits back to our first fruit. When we do we join with the ancient Israelites who celebrated this feast of first fruits by offering their first harvest to God. “And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 26:10).
This December our offering has even greater significance as it signals the completion of three years in our new building. The same passage in Deuteronomy describes “the third year, which is the year of tithing” as the right time to extend our generosity to “the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow that they may eat within thy gates and be filled.” As we give our First Fruit tithes and offerings, we are opening the gate of our beautiful building and giving to them, those the Lord desires us to equip for transformation.
As the first hard frost of November transformed our New Guinea Impatiens from preppy pink and green to dull charcoal brown, the lilies endured. Their eternal white faces radiant amidst the contrast of withered annuals. Even into December their stalks stand tall and green. Never seen before in my lifetime of gardening, this could only happen beneath a sign that calls out
First fruits are mentioned in all of the three main Jewish feasts. The first fruits referenced in Passover was called the
omer, and no one was allowed to eat from their crop until the omer was offered. Let us all bring our omer into the Resurrection house of God and partake of his Eucharistic feast together. Our eternal lily is waiting to bless his harvest.