Traditionally August 1st is Lammas, the festival that celebrates the first fruits of harvest. This year I marked the occasion by attending the Lammas Festival in Eastbourne. Organised by the pagan community, I had been invited to lead a team of local Christians engaging in outreach to spiritual seekers for the first time. We had a fantastic time blessing people attending the event with free henna tattoos, Ruach and Jesus Deck card readings, as well as prayer for healing. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we had so many conversations where we were able to bring God’s love and encouragement to those who were in real need of it.
By the end of the weekend we had already been invited back by the organisers for next year’s festival and the team were planning to attend a similar event just a few short weeks away! As I was packing up my tent, I really felt that I should give it away to this new team. For me it was a symbol of the first fruits of my ministry that I was offering back to God. I bought it seven years ago when I did my first outreach to Kingston Green Fair. But now the season has changed, the Green Fair does not happen anymore and I believe God wants to use my experience to envision and equip other Christians to make the most of mission opportunities in their localities. So what we’ve done in Eastbourne marks the start of a new emphasis to my work. And I can honestly say it gives me far more joy and satisfaction to see others being excited and energised by what God is able to do through them in what is considered to be spiritually hostile environments than anything I could ever have done myself!
This acknowledgement of God’s goodness and faithfulness by offering the first fruits is an entirely biblical principle. In Exodus 23 verse 16 God instructs His people to “Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field.” But the book of James goes even further and likens us to the first fruits of the Harvest of God’s word, “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes down from above, from the father of lights…He became our father by the word of truth, that was his firm decision, and the result is that we are a kind of first fruits of his creatures (James 1:17-18).”
Tom Wright helpfully unpacks this concept in ‘Early Christian Letters for Everyone’, “You bring the ‘first fruits’, the beginning of the crop, as an offering to God, (not just to demonstrate gratitude, but) as a sign that there is much more to come. One day, God’s word will transform the whole creation, filling heaven and earth with his rich, wonderful light and life. Our lives, transformed by the gospel…are just the start of that larger project (p. 9).” Little did I know that in seeking to give the first fruits, I was also looking forward to God doing even greater things in me and through me for His glory and the sake of His Kingdom coming even more fully in the future! What a wonderfully inspiring hope to consider as I recover from the exertions of last year and begin to make plans for the new academic year that commences in September. This Lammas, it is almost as if I am offering myself afresh, “as a living sacrifice, to live and work to His praise and glory”.