Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and John 6:25-35
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Part of this and any harvest festival marks the gathering in the harvest from the fields around us in whatever form that may take, and being thankful for those who work on the land, and those who in many different ways provide our daily bread or sustenance. Harvest thankfulness is a good proper wholesome thing to do. No harvest festival would be complete without the singing of the most traditional rousing harvest hymn – We plough the fields and scatter. And indeed this service ends with it…
I want to tell you a bit about that hymn and who brought it to us (and in what circumstances). Anyway, We plough the fields was written in 1782 in Germany and in German by a man named Mathias Claudius. He began life training to be a priest, but gave it up. He then decided to change to a study of law and languages. He became a newspaper editor, and then an auditor and he gave up on his faith for a while. But when stricken with a serious illness at the age of 39, Mathias reached out to God and returned to his Christian faith, committing his life to Christ. His humble reliance on God from then on is reflected in his many volumes of poetry and prose. Of which We plough the fields is just one example
In its own way – This hymn is an example of this man’s harvest in 1782. Though he appears never to have worked the land directly himself. This hymn we love came about because in 1782, Mathias wrote a sketch picturing the harvest festival on a typical farm in northern Germany. As part of the sketch, the people gathered round and sang the German version of the hymn entitled the Peasant’s Song
We also sing this hymn today due to the work and therefore the harvest in 1861, of the skilled hymn translator called Jane Campbell. She was the daughter of the Rector of St James’ Church in London (Piccadilly). She lived most of her adult life as a spinster in Bovey Tracy in Devon. The hymn translation of We plough the fields she did was first published in 1861, and could readily be described as her harvest for 1861.
Now as you can see – I am talking in terms of harvest and what might represent harvest for these people from history, whose work of their hands and whose harvest has come to be so special to us. Our first Bible reading from Deuteronomy advises us to put the first fruits of our harvest into a basket, and bring it to the priest to set before God. This is really all about encouraging our thankfulness habit to God.
I am hoping that at least some of us have brought something that symbolizes harvest for you in 2022 with a spirit of thankfulness. As I wrote – the more imaginative and linked to your life or experiences of this year the better! 2022 – like all the years of the twenty twenties so far has not been without significant challenges.
I am going to come round the church – so we can see what you have brought – but don’t worry if you haven’t brought anything. If you wish you can tell us what you might have brought or would have brought and why that’s fine too? My suspicion is that some of these things will surprise and not be something we thought we might be thankful for, but let’s be thankful all the more.
After all for Mathias Claudius and Jane Campbell would probably not be expecting us in 2022 to still be being thankful for their harvest from 1782 and 1861 respectively, and we shall see what we’ve got or what people think of on this side of the church and then the other. What have you got – or would have brought to symbolise harvest for 2022 and why?
Pause and do the responsory now on page 6 of the order of service.
Excellent all kinds of different things from 2022, for me I know I showed several things it could be a few weeks ago in church, but also things have radically changed since then..
My item for thankfulness is that I got to participate and pray at a very historic event – At the proclamation of our new monarch in Wincanton town hall. Something I never imagined I would ever do, but I am thankful. I was able to give thanks for the long reign of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the town hall on that historic occasion and several other occasions in this church and in Wincanton church too.
As well as praying in thankfulness I have been praying for the time ahead under the reign of His Majesty King Charles III. The phrase in the prayer for him includes – Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us. That is something that we really need in these difficult times, with the financial crisis, concerns for our food supply as a world, and our need for peace. Let’s keep praying for them. Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us.
To finish, our next hymn speaks into all this with resonant words and a stirring tune. It has a nod to our marking St Michael’s day with harvest– with the fourth verse reminding us, that angels help us to adore God and worship. It is also a hymn we know to be one of the late Queen’s favourites. It being No 422 Praise my soul the King of heaven. But I think the words of the third verse sum up our need for thankfulness and dependence on God at this time. I would like us to say the third verse together before we sing it to conclude these thoughts
Please turn to hymn 422 – And the third verse
Father-like, he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him! Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows.
All songs reproduced under CCL license numbers: 1618191 and 217043, Some material included in this sermon is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2022, Photo from Wincanton Town Council Facebook.