April 18, 2022
On the first Sunday in February, the Rev. Daniel Mutidzawanda hauled a giant pumpkin into the sanctuary of Chisipiti United Methodist Church as part of a celebration lifting up the first harvest of the season to God.
The pumpkin was an offering from 86-year-old retired pastor the Rev. Zebediah Marewangepo, who proudly entered the sanctuary carrying bushels of rape and tsunga — a gift from another church member, 85-year-old Mavis Karuma.
Congregants celebrated wildly in appreciation and thanked God for protection against the wrath of COVID-19 and other challenges.
The Zimbabwe Episcopal Area has adopted the first fruits concept of offering in which church members bring the best portion of the initial harvest as an offering to God.
In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to present the first fruits to the Levitical priesthood, which then served as food in the house of the Lord in a ceremony called “the feast of the first fruits.”
The Rev. Alan Masimba Gurupira, administrative assistant to Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, said The United Methodist Church is founded on biblical principles and traditions. “The celebration of first fruits,” he noted, “is, indeed, biblical; hence, it is sound for the church to practice. Though there is no traditional practice in the UMC of the same, it means those who have begun the practice have broken new ground.”
Gurupira expressed hope that the spirit embodied in the celebration would “engulf the entire church.”
“First fruits,” Mushambi explained, “is a religious offering of the first agricultural produce of the harvest. In classical Greek, Roman and Hebrew religions, the first fruits were given to priests as an offering to the deity. In some Christian texts, Jesus Christ, through his Resurrection, is referred to as the first fruits of the dead. Beginning in 1966, a unique first fruits celebration brought the ancient African harvest festivals that became the African American holiday Kwanzaa.”
First fruits appear in the Old and New testaments and are mentioned in relation to both spiritual and physical offerings.