“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. 3 And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4 Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God.
5 “And you shall make response before the Lord your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. 7 Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. 9 And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. 11 And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.
She was a tough old gal; had been through a lot. A quick look at her face which was lined and weathered would tell you that. But it was her eyes which had seen too much and wept too much which really gave it away. When she spoke, her voice bore that unmistakable rasp of having been tortured with a lot of smoking and fair amount of yelling. I think I only knew a small part of what she had seen and probably done.
She was one of those people my parish counted on. I don’t know how or through whom, but sometime before I got there, the Lord Jesus got under this woman’s skin and took up residence in her heart in a powerful way. I don’t think her life was always a gentle or sweet thing now. More than a few old debts kept knocking on the doors of her life and sometimes we would have to navigate an old relationship or a memory which would not let go. But she was in a better place now. She knew that and she was grateful, ever so grateful that Jesus loved her despite her past.
Moses wrote these words for the people of Israel long ago. The little narrative he has them recite is a summary of a tale which you may know as well. They wandered a great deal, were harshly treated, humiliated, and labored hard. God rescued them with great deeds, terror, and miracles. Did you see how terror is at the center of those great deeds and miracles. It was not always fun to follow Moses. Of course, there was also that forty years spent in the wastelands of the Sinai peninsula. It is a harsh place. But now Moses envisions them home, finally in the promised land. And they are grateful. As you read these words, chances are you are somewhere in this story. Are you chewing another meal of manna, what you need to survive but not much more? Are you finally resting in a community which loves and cares for you? Does death approach with its terrors and our Lord’s promise of resurrection? We all fit somewhere into this story, in ways great and small. Christ our Lord is bringing us home. He does this. He is faithful.