This is something that lies behind the food philosophy of Hugh Fearnley Whittinghall. His approach to animal welfare is not to not eat them, but to know what goes into the food that you eat, so that you appreciate what the cost is in terms of hens and pigs. He does this thing where he shows people round the River Cottage, and they get to see all the animals, and all the plants, and then at the end of the thing they eat it.
It’s like the difference between a meal that you know how it was cooked, and one that was just given to you- you appreciate the meal much more when you know what went into it.
It’s good to know where you came from.
You cannot enjoy what you have now unless you know where it came from.
Remember Where They Came From
This message that we read this morning comes to Israel when the country is not yet formed,
And they are refugees running away from Egypt.
And they know what it was like to be slaves, and what it was like to be oppressed, and have to work long days when they were not allowed to bake bricks with straws, and their male children were thrown into the Nile.
And the command comes from God,
When you get to the land which is numerous
And you have much fruit in your land
– And they are thinking, God let’s not count our chickens here, we are surrounded by desert, I don’t want to get my hopes up for this kind of land. But God is saying that much you yearn for now will in fact be yours
And when you get there you will do what successful people often do
They will forget,
Or they will not appreciate what it is that they have been given.
And so you will stand before the Lord with a basket of bread
And you will say
“My father was a wandering Aramean and he went down into Egypt and he stayed there few in number and the Lord made him big and numerous and the Egyptians treated us harshly and we cried out to God and God saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression, and God brought us out of Egypt.”
That is what you will say.
And these words “My father was a wandering Aramean”
Some of the oldest words in the Bible.
And you have to say this in the land
With your basket of the first of the fruit
And in the place that God chooses.
You have to do this.
It is about seeing the process that you brought you here,
But one thing that is sometimes missing
You have to see that God was part of that
And that something which to your fathers was distant and unachievable actually became real.
And it became real because of God.
That basket has bread in it because of God.
And so I ask you this morning,
What are the things that are in your basket, that at one point were uncertain,
What’s in your basket
The door that you go across
The couch that sit upon you
The children whose photos are upon your eyes
The ring that is on your finger
That wage packet that comes into your bank account
The fact that your hear beats and your lungs breath
What is there,
That one point in your past is uncertain
And going back even further
What is there that was uncertain for the people who came before you
And the claim is do not forget that this is got here because of God
Actually not just because God is there
But also because someone cried to God.
Do you notice the pattern of the story.
The Aramean goes down to Egypt and he is small and then he grows
And that is the pattern, things happen and they go well
But then the Egyptians oppressed us – reality kicked in
And at that point the people cried out to God.
There was a point at which you cried out to God
And the thing that is in that basket happened when someone cried out to God
Think how many answered prayers you are the result of.
Success Makes You Stale
How many of you have gone stale
How many have been blunted by where we are
Actually successful people never think about how successful they are
They worry about losing what they have
Have you forgotten that you are where you are because of answered prayer
Or does the goodness of God seem something that is far from you.
Then you have to remember the story,
Or rather your version of it
So what I want you to do is write down your own version of the wandering Aramean Story.
What was the thing that happened to you where you cried and cried and God heard your prayer.
I want us to write down these stories.
This week I was at Andy Fotheringham’s funeral
And you do wonder,
What’s it going to be for me
Which one of us will be at the top of the grave
And which one will be down in the coffin
And even more disturbingly was the Linn cemetery’s section for young children
A part that was full of toys and you think
Please never let me be there
But you never know that
You never know
And life is full of the “We just don’t know”
And how do you deal with the “We just don’t know”
And God says
You shall present yourself in the place and you shall have bread in a basket
And you shall say “A wandering Aramean was my Father”
You have to remember the story of God who got you where you are now.
The episode here is not just about the story
It’s also about the basket.
You notice what Wandering Aramean
God hears the cry of his people guy (at our Bible study this week we were talking about how long the crying of God’s people, in the case of Egypt it was close to 400 years)
But this God allows you to be generous
In that basket the people gave the first of what they are going to think about.
In doing this they remembered that life is a gift
And they don’t forget, the don’t forget the wandering Aramean cry-hearing God
When you are successful, every voice is around you is saying “forget” that God has heard
You will forget that life is a gift
And you have to do something else, you have to make yourself a little vulnerable
You have to reconnect with the ones who also cry
You have to give.
You have to fill the basket
Worship is always to be like this
It is to be the story part, and it is to be the gift part
It is why we use the word “Service”, this is where we serve
The word in Latin for worship, is Leitourgia, Liturgy, Work
It’s the same in Hebrew – Basar means work and worship
Here in Church we are thinking about doing one of these three things.
We would like to think about employing a youth and community worker
We would like to think about restarting our café
We would like to think about reshaping this sanctuary here
We might end up doing all three of these things
But we have to decide which order we are going to do these things
At the Board the other evening we discussed these and in April we are going to bring more refined proposals about the way forward
But in the Budget this year we are hoping to raise £17,000 which should hopefully enable one of these projects to be begun or started.
The basket is there in what we give
But it is also crucial that we reconnect our money with the people who are the people that are crying out.
These guys in Israel they forgot their Baskets
The prophets reminded the people
You have forgotten the basket
The firstfruit, the dangerous, risky offering that you give to God
You have forgotten that
You have become disconnected with God
And you have become disconnected with the ones who cry out
Amos says on God’s behalf
“I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,
And the houses of ivory shall perish
And the great houses shall come to an end, “ declares the Lord
Hear this word you cows of Bashan
Who are on the mountains of Samaria
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy
Who way to your husbands
“Bring, that we may drink.” (Amos 3:15-4:1)
This Lent we are invited into a time when we have less
When we connect more with the people around us
And we connect more with the God who hears our cry
It goes back to Jesus whose ministry began with forty days of going without
Of giving God the first of his time, in a way which was painful, and had no guarantee that he was getting anything back.
And that was the start.
And you are invited to join him
Remember God the wandering Aramean God, your story
And remember the basket, the thing that we offer to God.
That into your empty hearts, God will give you what you need.