Christ Church + St Ninian’s
Deut 26: 1 – 11
What are you good at? I don’t mean better than anyone else good. I mean something that you are comfortable doing, confident that you can do it.
Here’s something that I used to do very well – demonstrate juggling with 2 bean bags – as a child I would spend hours with my friends playing ball games like this but I’m not so good now and if you were to add in a 3rd ball I would be struggling.
Once upon a time though there was a young man who was very good at juggling, he could juggle almost anything and he could do tricks as well. He wasn’t a rich man and he couldn’t do very much else except juggle so he travelled around entertaining people with his tricks and clever juggling. The thing he loved best was to hear the children laughing as he performed for them juggling fruit and vegetables. As he grew older though he began to drop things more often and his tricks didn’t work as well. Eventually he arrived at a monastery and asked if he could join the brothers there. Father Abbot accepted him into the community and because he didn’t have much skill in anything but juggling he was put to work in the kitchen peeling the vegetables that he used to juggle with. At first he wasn’t very happy because he had always looked after himself and he knew that he had only been accepted into the monastery out of the kindness of the brothers not because he was useful to them. Then one day the cook noticed that he was looking happier and as the days went on he continued getting happier.
There was another monk who also noticed this and he was a bit nosy so he decided to follow the old juggler to see what was causing his happiness.
He followed the juggler into the chapel and saw him take out some vegetables, stand in front of the altar and begin to juggle. He was very shocked and ran immediately to tell Father Abbot. Father Abbot went quietly to the chapel and watched, he saw the juggler facing a statue of Mary and her infant Son and as he juggled the infant Jesus laughed and clapped his hands. When the juggler dropped a turnip Jesus slid from Mary’s lap and ran to pick it up, as he accepted the turnip from Jesus the juggler looked up to see Mary standing in front of him. She smiled and said “Dear One, the laughter of all the children you have amused over the years is music to my son’s ears and you are much loved by many. Would you like to juggle for my Son forever?”
The juggler nodded, bowed his head and his soul went straight to heaven. Mary and Jesus became a statue once again and Father Abbot was left to tell what he had seen.
That’s a very abridged version of an old medieval story. The juggler used his gift to entertain others and although he seems not to realise it, he was serving God. (A full version of the story can be found at https://www.thefreelibrary.com/THE+%22JUGGLER+OF+GOD%22.-a076560101)
The reading that we heard from Deuteronomy is a small part of the instructions God gave for how the Israelites were to live when they entered the land he would give them. You may not feel that it has much relevance for us today but I think that it does because it sets out the principle of putting God first in our lives, of giving to him the best of what we are. The instruction is
…you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground… Deut 26 v 2
and it is to be offered to God. The first fruit is usually the best, we are to give God our best, the main course not the left-overs. That’s what the juggler did, he gave his best and that’s what God asks of us.
So, to return to the question I asked at the start – what are you good at? My next question then would be – are you using that gift to serve God? Are you giving him your best or are you holding back?
The juggler served God as a young man and throughout his life, then in his old age when he thought he’d become useless he was still serving God. There are no age barriers to serving God, to offering him our first fruits.
If you have read the notices over the last two weeks you will know that you were asked to think about what your personal harvest is this year, do you have something that you would like to thank God for? Maybe you have something you want to offer as first fruit.
In your pew-sheet there was a small hexagon shape and there are pens/pencils at the end of the rows. Now is the time to write down your personal harvest on that hexagon. These will be collected on a separate plate when we take up the offertory.