Posts Tagged ‘firstfruits’

Christ has become firstfruits

April 19, 2017

The Verse of the Day for April 19, 2017 is found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 in the New Living Translation:

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

The expression “He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” is translated “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” in the King James Version. The reference to “firstfruits” brings to mind the Feast of the First Fruits, one of the feasts associated with Passover, one of the three feasts established by God for the Children of Israel to observe when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. It was instituted on Day 14 of Nisan (the first month); the Feast of the Unleaven Bread was to begin the next day, Nisan15, and the Feast of the First Fruits to begin three days following Passover on Nisan 17. They are referred to as one feast.

Jesus Christ appears as a type, a foreshadowing of events to come, throughout the Old Testament, as in the case of the Passover Lamb and other aspects of the Seder, the Passover meal, Jesus was recognized as “The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Those previous indications are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, whom Paul describes as “our Passover.” Indeed, Jesus died at the very time that the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple.

First Fruits was a feast of a thanksgiving offering of the first portion of the harvest to God for His goodness in providing food from the land for the Israelites, acknowledging that all good things come from God and that everything belongs to God. Giving the first fruits was also a way of expressing trust in God’s provision; just as He provided the first fruits, so He would provide the rest of the crops that were needed. A first fruits ceremony is described in detail in Deuteronomy 26:1-11.

In 1 Corinthians 15:23, Paul refers to Christ as the First Fruits. The real point of the feast was looking to the resurrection of the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah was our provision for spiritual welfare. Jesus was raised on the first day of the Feast of the First Fruits. Jesus said he was the Bread of Life. This was the last feast the Lord took part in while on earth.

The Feast of the First Fruits began the harvest. The offering to the Lord was the first of the grain that was harvested, and afterwards the harvest would continue. This is the symbolism of the First Fruit. Christ was the first as 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23 states. Those who have and will believe in Jesus Christ for salvation since that time are the harvest.

The reference to “firstfruits” was also the inspiration for this poetic work:

Firstfruits

Of His own will He brought us forth by the word
of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits
of his creatures.
James 1:18

Transform and then so fashion our visage
To be like Christ, the brightness of your glory.
Fashion us in your fire that we might be
Reformed and cast in His express image:
As boldface type printed upon the page,
As a new coin minted in your treasure,
Stamped with the essence of your character
To convey the power of your message.
So saturate our spirit, heart, soul and mind;
Flaws and failures the Lord heals and restores
To permeate our presence that we might find
Our true calling as Christ’s ambassadors.
More than vessel, vehicle, or instrument,
Like Christ, we are firstfruits of God’s intent.

Steve McConnell offers “Firstfruits” a musical rendition of this celebration:

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in His expressed image

December 2, 2015

Hebrews-1--1-2

The Verse of the Day for December 2, 2015 comes from Hebrews 1:1-2 but to apprehend more fully the essence of the message, let us take a look at Hebrews 1:1-3

The New Living Testament renders the passage this way:

Hebrews 1:1-3:

1Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.

2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.

3The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

As I considered deeply who Jesus Christ is and what he represents, I thought of the opening phrase of verse three “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God. . .” or as the King James states that Christ is “the express image of his [God’s] person.”

As believers our innermost desire should be that our lives become expressions of the character of Christ, just as Christ is the expression of the very character of God. References to our desire to be formed in the express image of Christ are found in this poem:

Firstfruits

Of His own will He brought us forth by the word
of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits
of his creatures.

James 1:18

Transform and then so fashion our very visage

To be like Christ, the full brightness of your glory.

In your refining fire so melt us so that we

Might be molded and cast in His express image:

As boldface type is stamped, printed upon the page,

As newly minted coins are placed in your treasure,

Precisely stamped with the essence of your character,

So that we convey the power of your message.

So saturate our spirit, heart, and soul and mind,

Every fiber of our being, your hand restores

To so permeate our presence that we might find

Our true calling as Christ’s faithful ambassadors.

More than any vessel, vehicle, or instrument,

Like Christ, the Lord, we are firstfruits of God’s intent.

“In Christ Alone” offered by Avalon is also an expression of where we take our stand as believers:

Spring is coming!

February 12, 2011

With the especially harsh winter weather this year, we must remember that "Spring is Coming!"

February 2 was Groundhog Day, and in recognition of the celebrated day, I posted an article on my Examiner.com page:

http://www.examiner.com/christian-spirituality-in-columbus/groundhog-day-spring-is-coming

On Saturday of the preceding weekend, I noticed a couple of robins skittering across the crusted snow, as I entered a building. That is a sure sign that Spring is on the way, I thought.  When I see robins returning after a brief absence, I recall that I made my acting debut in the second or third grade when I played “Robin Redbreast,” with my red sweater and brown paper wings that I flapped vigorously as I ran across the stage proclaiming, “Spring is coming! . . . Spring is coming! . . . Spring is coming!”

Robins are generally thought to be a sign that "Spring is coming!"

A few years ago my daughter, Melissa , sent me a card with the “Easter Legend of the Robin” on the cover:

A little grey robin, as he was flying to the Holy Land, saw Christ hanging on the cross. His heart filled with sadness. He noticed the crown of thorns the soldiers placed on the crucified Savior. The small bird, forgetting his timidity, flew down to remove a thorn from the brow of Christ. As he did so, a drop of Christ’s blood stained the little bird’s breast. The robin, through his act of love, earned the red badge of courage.

From this time forth, all robins have had red breasts as reminder that one of them was kind to the Lord. Thus, the robin is truly the harbinger of spring. He welcomes Easter with his cheerful note of hope, reminding us that from death comes life.

In reflecting upon my acting debut, I composed a new song that I sing when I see robins returning in winter:

Red Robin, Red Robin—Harbinger of Spring,

Rear back with your red breast

And sing, sing, sing.

From the collection of poems that I have written, here are three works, “A Spring Trilogy” written in anticipation of one of my favorite seasons : 

Until Spring

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption,

and this mortal has put on immortality,

then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.  O Death,

where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?

 I Corinthians 15:54-55

Whether on earth or shuttled in the sky,

Death snuffs out our candles in devious ways,

For each man must learn to number his days,

Although the soul still probes to fathom why.

The mind made numb with pain can only try

To make sense of the immense ache that stays.

The answer sounds since Adam but still dismays:

It is appointed unto man once to die.

Though grief surrounds us, comfort can be shown.

The sun melts frost with new life as surely

As blossoms will flourish from seeds once sown.

Until Spring, on tip-toe I yearn to see

The day when I shall know as I am known,

When death is swallowed up in victory.

The following poem was also featured in the Groundhog Day piece, offering a reminder that growth takes place even in the severest weather:

 Even in Winter 

 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

 That brings forth its fruit in its season,

 Whose leaf also shall not wither;

 And whatever he does shall prosper.

 Psalm 1:3

Mournful dark notes of the wind’s contralto solo

 Pierce the heart and chill the soul with its somber tones.

 Shrouded in widow’s weeds all of creation groans,

 Bemoans winter’s wilderness, lifeless and hollow.

Tall stark naked trees where nothing appears to grow                                                                                                                                 

Bend in the wind, vacant lodges closed for the season.

To find life in this dead time seems beyond reason,

Yet tender buds sleep in blankets of ice and snow.

Though leaves once green have faded, fallen to frostbite,

Leaf buds cluster in secret places to keep warm;

Buds wrapped in snow are stronger than before the storm.

Soon the voice of the bridegroom will ring in the night.

The time nears when the turtledove returns to sing,                                              

When ice-covered buds will blossom: firstfruits of spring.

Even in winter, ice-covered buds are growing and waiting to burst forth with new life in the coming Spring.

 A year ago during a poetry reading in celebration of Black History Month, I read several original works along with poetry by other African American poets who had influenced my writing. I had a similar kind of revelation regarding Winter and Spring, after reciting “Harlem: A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, resulting in this poem:

 Winter is a dream deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

              Langston Hughes

 

Covered in ice,

winter is a dream deferred.

Like frozen vistas

unfolding before us

in the pre-dawn morning chill,

we look up

with our faces toward the rising sun.
 

Suspended in freeze frame,

 dormant hope waits,

as a cold-blooded vertebrate

 withdraws to hibernate.

Here death confronts us

and smacks the face.

Though we reel and feel the sting,

we know that someday

ice-covered buds shall blossom

and explode into Spring.

If winter comes. . . can spring?

In actuality a dream could be seen as an investment that will someday yield dividends when that dream becomes a reality. In “Autumn Sestina,” a poem celebrating the beauty of another of my favorite seasons, one of the stanzas expresses this idea:

                        Those who invest precious dreams will be rich

                        When they look into the gray winter sky.

                        Those who hold tokens from Fall’s gold leaf day,

                        Though they long for life in a greener stage,

                        Even in snow will be warmed by their wealth

                        And find full return in the Spring’s new gold.

The term “firstfruits” could be used to describe the return on the investments of dreams deferred. References to firstfruits abound in some of my poetry, such as “Even in Winter” and “Accoucheur to Spring.” The term “accoucheur” is the French equivalent of  a male “mid-wife” or male attendant at a birthing. 

Accoucheur to Spring

For we know that the whole creation groans

and labors with birth pangs together until now.

 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the                                                                                                                

Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,

eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Romans 8:23-24

For years I have yearned to be accoucheur to spring,

 To observe, to assist with the birthing process,

The fruitful flowering as part of God’s offspring

That reveals the Father’s deep desire to bless.

As a mother whose hour has come will travail,

Wailing, waiting for the fruit of love to be seen,

So barren land trembles that new life might prevail

To transform the gray terrain to emerald green.

 I follow the gardener wherever He takes me                         

 And seek to know His plans and make them my pursuits.                          

 To move beyond tokens to fullness of glory

 The Lord of the harvest gathers precious firstfruits.

 The whole creation groans–all of heaven and earth

 Yearns to experience the wonder of childbirth.

Another reminder that Spring is coming!

The concept of “firstfruits” I have personalize and internalized in recognizing who I am, as I strive to find my true identity:

Firstfruits

Of His own will He brought us forth by the word

of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits

of his creatures.

James 1:18 

 

 Transform and then so fashion my visage

 To be like Christ, the brightness of your glory.

In your refiner’s fire melt and mold me,

Cast my being in His express image:

As boldface type printed upon the page,

As a new coin minted in your treasure,

Stamped with the essence of your character

To convey the power of your message.

So saturate my spirit, heart, soul and mind,

Every fiber of my being, each pore;

So permeate my presence that I might find

My true calling as Christ’s ambassador.

More than vessel, vehicle, or instrument,

Like Christ, I am firstfruits of God’s intent.

 

“Firstfruits” is connected to some of the Hebrew feasts of the Bible, such as the “feast of weeks” or “ingathering” or most notably the Feast of Pentecost, discussed in Exodus 23 and elsewhere. The ultimate revelation of firstfruits, however,  will occur during the great and final harvest or ingathering after Christ returns, depicted in this poem of anticipation of that reality. “Immortality” was written on my mother’s birthday, three years after her passing:

Immortality

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep,

but we shall all be changed—

52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,

at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound,

and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.     

54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption,

and this mortal has put on immortality,

then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

I Corinthians 15:51-54 

 

When the dazzling sun of righteousness shall arise

With healing wings to banish all infirmity,

I shall know as I am fully known and my eyes

Shall see the glory of His presence before me,

As the Lord Himself shall wipe away every tear.

The shofar sounds, gathering of firstfruits of His love:         

Called, chosen, faithful pioneers on the last frontier,

 Who like Christ, set their affection on things above,                    

Who left behind earthly joys to follow the Lamb.

I stand clothed in the fullness of His righteousness

Before Alpha and Omega, the Great I AM

And drink from the fountain of endless blessedness.

I am changed from mortal to immortality,

Portal to the graceful curve of infinity.

The daffodil is often “The First Flower” to signal Spring’s arrival.

With the arrival of Spring, come an array of flowers that usher in the new season, when we shall see “The First Flower.” This poem was inspired by an experience occurring more than 30 years ago when I noticed that the daffodils were just beginning to bud and open up into vibrant yellow flowers. As I entered the dining hall for lunch, I notice one particular flower was on the verge of opening up. When I returned after about an hour, the one daffodil had blossomed during that brief period of time, reminding me of another Spring that shall likewise occur even more rapidly.

The First Flower

Behold, I tell you a mystery;

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,

at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound,

and the dead will be raised incorruptible,

and we shall be changed.

I Corinthians 15:51-52

As the trumpet,

the first daffodil

 heralds the birth of Spring

today,

             so

shall the shofar

sound golden notes

to take us unawares

someday.

Despite the harshest winter weather, when seemingly endless ice and snow accumulate and aggrevate, remember the words of Robin Redbreast,  and enjoy this magnificent rendering of Steven Curtis Chapman’s exquisite musical composition, a reminder that, indeed,“Spring is coming!