Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - The Blessing of the First Kernel of Corn: God Loves Us

As the Pilgrims faced harsh winters and very poor harvests, they were reduced to rationing their remaining food. Each person would receive five kernels of corn daily. These meager rations, along with their faith, sustained them. Because of their faithfulness, God blessed them with an abundant harvest of food. While they prepared for their first Thanksgiving, five kernels of corn were placed on each plate. The kernels served as a reminder of their blessings from the Lord. Even in the midst of their horrible struggles, they remained faithful and knew that God would continue to provide for them.

The first kernel of corn reminded them, and reminds us today, that God loves us unconditionally and provided an atonement sacrifice. As Paul tells the Romans in his epistle to them in chapter 6, “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” What was meant for each one of us, death, in order to repay that debt, Christ Jesus repaid on the cross, once and for all time, to erase that debt. It is our responsibility to receive that wonderful gift of salvation and enjoy life eternal with our Heavenly Father.

After receiving that gift from our living, loving Lord, we are to live a righteous life and show the world that we have died to its old ways. The love we have for one another as Christians is not of this world and this world does not understand it. When we were sinners, we did not even understand His love for us. Even now we struggle to fully understand or imagine it. There is no way we can truly understand the depth and breadth of His love for each one of us. We are His children and He provides for us daily. 

John, in chapter 4 of the first of the Johannine epistles of the New Testament, provides us with the best description of God and what we are to do, “7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 

By loving one another without condition or any pretext, we exclaim to the world, “God is love and we should love one another just as God loves us.” When we do those things, God lives in us and His love manifests itself in us. The early Pilgrims, when they suffered dreadful illness and poor crop failures, loved one another and looked out for one another. Even when it came time to ration the food, each took their portion and gave thanks to the Lord not only for the five kernels of corn but also for their love for their fellow Pilgrims. Because they loved one another, they worked together to survive the harsh winter months. Through the help of their new friends, the Native Americans, they were able to sow the right crops at the right time correctly. Their new friends showed them where to find food. After all of the sowing and reaping, they set aside a day to celebrate not only the bounty of their harvest but to also praise God for His blessings and love.

Let us look at some natural disasters and how people responded. We witnessed complete strangers coming to the aid of those in the path of hurricanes Michael and Harvey. People with boats, who later became known as the “Cajun Navy”, volunteered their time and boats while risking their own lives to save total strangers. I remember watching grateful people hugging their rescuers and thanking them for their help. Many were stranded with no hope left. Everything they owned was swept away by the tidal swells of the hurricanes. Most only had the clothes on their backs. However, as soon as they were rescued, people began an outpouring of donations in clothing, food, shelter and money to help those they did not even know.

Throughout history, we see wonderful examples of how people, when faced with tragedy, respond to those in need. Charlie Chaplin, I believe, said it best in his last speech from his movie, “The Great Dictator, “You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural!”

Since we are God’s creation and made in His image, we have God’s love already as a part of our very soul. In Genesis 2, we read a wonderful story of our creation, “7 Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person.” It is through His breath that we received not only our first breath but also our souls and love for Him and for each other. John, in chapter 4 of his first epistle, writes, “7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” True love can only come from God. The love of this world and the things in it are temporary and born out of lust, greed and unrighteousness. We are not to love things. We are to love one another. 

In the Gospel of John Chapter 13, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment for them to follow, “34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” By loving one another, we fulfill that new commandment. It is not done out of duty or the adherence to a law. We love one another because we are God’s children and He lives within us. 

After being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God will come, Jesus responds, in Luke 17, “21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” God has manifested Himself in us and we are to show the world that His love is truly for all and is available to them. All they have to do is accept that gift of salvation and know a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holidays, let us remember the blessing of the first kernel of corn and what it really means to us. It is a reminder of God’s love for us as demonstrated through the gift of salvation provided through His one and only son, Christ Jesus. Jesus took upon himself not only the punishment meant for us but also our sins. He gave up his place at God’s throne and bore the whip, the crown of thorns and the cross for us because he loved us and continues to love us to this day and for eternity. He took away the sting and victory of the grave and death to give us eternal life with the Father. It is through his sacrifice that we have a glimpse of our Heavenly Father’s love for us and a better understanding of its depth and breadth.

 When we love one another, we give those in this world a glimpse of God’s love and can share it with them. God lives within us and knowing this we can stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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