Joel 2:21-27, Matt 6:25-34
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, now thank the lord, o thank the lord for all his love. Amen
As I was reading the readings set for today – the line – what’s the use of worrying it never was worthwhile came to mind. Anyone know where that comes from? It is from the world war song – Pack up your troubles! The gospel wants us to move away from worry about stuff to reliance on God and the reading from Joel talks of days of restoration ahead in the sight of God and moving away from fearfulness. Both of these are key messages as we move forward hopefully in our current circumstances. Both use illustrations from our natural world as a means to prompt us to thankfulness to God. Weaving together in Joel images of the coming harvest with praise of God and in a way we do the same thing each year when we come to our annual harvest thanksgiving. Taking the stuff we have grown, and have made and bringing them alongside our hearts filled with thankfulness to God is really the stuff of occasions like this one!
We do particularly need to give thanks for those who work the land and are part of our complicated and interrelated food chain, and all its component parts. Beginning with the good earth on which it all relies. Here is a picture from my knitted farm to help us reflect on this. The different squares represent stages of the fields, pastures and crops. The brown ones are the bare earth (preparations done to prepare the ground!). The green one represent the pastures, and fields of vegetables and legumes. The yellow ones maybe are our arable crops, wheat, barley and oats, and maybe even a touch of oil seed rape in one corner.
As well as the fields, the farm may have a variety of animals, which can produce things we need like eggs and milk, or become the meat many eat. I have a few animals like sheep, pigs and piglets! There are others of course! We need to give thanks for all these things especially at harvest time, and those who work the land – this is and can be very challenging work! Times of late have been difficult. It is not a coincidence that the auction at Pen Selwood that follows our harvest festival service as part of our BBQ will raise funds for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. An organisation helping those in difficult times!
But harvest affords us more opportunities to turn to thankfulness to God, and knowing that God is in the midst of our todays too. For the things we have made and the things we rely on for our day to day needs – This is very much the theme of Matthew’s gospel. To concentrate on today and not let other worries engulf us or being distracted by ‘stuff’. Each day brings an opportunity for thankfulness that we have what we need and that our harvests, whatever they are – come from God’s amazing love for us. But harvest thanksgiving also helps us to reflect on where these things come from and how we get hold of them. There are big Questions over supply at the moment, things as they have been for so long in many aspect of our life are not very certain. Acknowledging our need to be thankful for all we have (and at times take for granted) is really important, alongside the creativity and skill that has brought these things to our homes
To increase the scope of what we are giving thanks for in both our harvest festivals we are going to sing a modern harvest hymn. It goes to the tune of an ‘English country garden’. It points out that for everything we need to give thanks to God for the harvest. The words are as follows:-
We eat the plants that grow from the seed, but it’s God who gives the harvest.
Cures can be made from herbs and from weeds,
but it’s God who gives the harvest.
Ev’rything beneath the sun, All the things we claim we’ve done,
all are part of God’s creation: we can meet people’s needs
with things we grow from seed, but it’s God who gives the harvest.
We find the iron and turn it to steel, but it’s God who gives the harvest.
We pull the levers, we turn the wheels,
but it’s God who gives the harvest.
Ev’rything we say we’ve made, plastic toys to metal spades,
all are part of God’s creation: we can make lots of things
from microchips to springs, but it’s God who gives the harvest.
To help us reflect, we are going to create a unique harvest thanksgiving prayer now for ourselves. Work through the alphabet answering the question as to what at harvest time we thank God for. Take each letter of the alphabet and think of something to be thankful for – it could be from the natural world and traditionally part of harvest or nearer the microchips and metal springs side of things. And it is possible that one of them should be for the harvest of our vaccinations against covid….
Take time on this – and when you have completed it – read it out starting with At harvest we thank God for and ending with a firm amen!
At harvest we thank God for
Song reproduced under CCLI for St Peter and St Paul Wincanton, 217043
Bible readings from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995