Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Luke 17;11-19
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen
What is thankfulness? My theological dictionary said thankfulness is gratitude for blessings, where as in wikipedia it said a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. Another way of putting it is the rather quaint ‘have an attitude of gratitude’ may sum it up. Robert Louis Stevenson said The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life. And Charles Dickens said Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some. My dad was a great Josef Lock fan and he sang a song called Count your blessings one by one (when dawn appears and day has just begun!)
Spiritually thankfulness to God is described in the Bible as both a duty and a sacrifice. And both unceasing and spontaneous – (this is an interesting challenge and rather conflicting but clearly important!) The Bible also says we should be thankful as part of God’s will for us in Christ’s name and that we should expect the songs of heaven to be packed to the gunnels with it!
There are examples of thankfulness in the Bible for food, wisdom, conversion, answered prayers, victories, being saved, the lord’s supper and changed lives. Our gospel story today is an example of an expression of thankfulness in person to Jesus. As the Samaritan leper went back to Jesus and gave thanks praising God. We need this kind of attitude of heart and mind to rank quite highly in our lives and hearts.
Of the 10 lepers Jesus healed int the story only one took the time to be thankful to Jesus. Jesus had changed all the lepers lives radically and powerfully (they were on the edge in every way with leprosy in Jesus day). It was probably the most unlikely one of the lepers who showed thankfulness in the eyes of the Israelite people as he was a Samaritan and foreigner and not of Jesus’ faith!
Thankfulness is at the heart of celebrations of the harvest and we are here today to give thanks for the abundance around us! and all that we have and take for granted. We have much to be thankful for not least for the hard work of those who farm the land around us and in all the varied ways that they do that.
Farming can be very varied these days. Some years ago I went to a farm where they had installed milking robots. (I had a vision of a robot walking to the cows and that is not it!). The cows in fact went to the robot! For me – not well versed in the ways of milking parlours, this was quite an eye opener and a startling revelation in places of the application of technology to farming! I was in awe of the creativity and ingenuity that had gone into the design of it all and how impressive the laser guided latching on to the teats for milking was. How the systems now knew in great detail quarter by quarter each cow’s milk yield. But not only was there creativity and ingenuity from the human designers. On display on that occasion was also happy cows who had quickly adapted to a significant change in their routine and were now more able to make choices for themselves, the farmer said this was having a very positive impact on their well being. I was particularly amused by the gate that could detect if the cows had been milked or not (to let them back out into the pasture or not!). It was all really inspiring!! It was all a very interesting use of IT (a previous passion of mine.
Harvest time also affords as an opportunity to show thankfulness for all the harvest we experience. We are going to use our fingers on one hand for this. This is a five finger prayer. We are going to be thankful for all we have and the good things of each finger focus, but also the challenges in these prayers.
Our thumbs represent God the giver of life. Point to you thumb and Say that with me – God the giver of life. It is always important in thankfulness to start with God – our creator and the creator of the beautiful world in which we live! And remember when tough times come along God is always with us.. Do that once more – point to your thumb and say – God the giver of life.
Point to the next finger and pray for The farmers of the land and the fishers of the sea. Point and say that with me – the farmers of the land and the fishers of the sea. Those who initially gathered the harvest, or nurtured the animals or fished them from the sea. For care of the natural world, and safe and sustaining practices – fair pricings for fisherfolk and farmers. Both these industries farming and fishing have been very badly impacted by recent times and fall out from recent political decisions. There is also the behaviour of our supermarkets and their purchasing power. The spiralling cost of living and fuel, food stuffs for animals etc. There are food miles to consider too (where a food has travelled half way round the world so we can have it out of season!)
So let’s pray from the top – Thumb – God the giver of life – 2nd – the farmers of the land and the fishers of the sea
Point to the third finger – Food processors – Point and say that with me Food processors – These processes bring us variety and longevity. There is often a lot of work between us and the people who gathered in the harvest. The people who on a huge scale produce processed things we enjoy eating… so they are preserved and kept fresh. Name me a few (Heinz baked beans, Tunnock’s tea cakes)
Some of what is done is good and wholesome, other aspects of food processing are less good for us. It is also not right that we have plenty and others are struggling!
So let’s pray from the top – Thumb – God the giver of life – 2nd – the farmers of the land and the fishers of the sea – 3rd Food processors
The next finger – 4 is Distributors and retailers. Point and say – Distributors and retailers
The people who made food available to us. Some of us from our gardens/farms but mainly those who drive the lorries and the supply chain. (There are issues we discovered in the spring with the just to market approach). There was a shortage of salad and tomatoes, because it was uneconomic for the farmers to grow crops that needed fuel! Also it is great to give thanks for the staff of Morrisons’, Asda, Waitrose, Lidl, the Coop, the butchers, the local farm shops, Cole’s yard And so on… But we need to ensure people are paid a fair wage for a fair days work (all the way down our food supply). And keep praying for the grain supply ships in Ukraine for safe passage to be agreed again!
Let’s take it from the top Thumb – God the giver of life – 2nd – the farmers of the land and the fishers of the sea – 3rd Food processors – 4th Retailers and distributors
And finally our little finger – 5th Us- the Shopper and cook. Say that with me Us, the shopper and cook. The person who gathered the food for us and prepared it for us to eat. We may be that person or we may live with a person or even employ a person that does most of that for us. Always great to be thankful for them. Also to be thankful for people who make it easy for us to have nutritious food the likes of Wiltshire farm foods, and parsley box.. (there are others). And to pray for those who find it extremely difficult to feed their children and rely on food banks like the lord’s larder…
As Nicky told us two week’s ago – it is NOT right on any front that we have more food banks than Macdonald’s fast food restaurants in our country!
So let’s do it from the top – remembering to be thankful, but also mindful of the challenges associated with each thing we pray about.
Thumb – God the giver of life – 2nd – the farmers of the land and the fishers of the sea – 3rd Food processors – 4th Retailers and distributors – Little finger – Us, the shopper and cook
We need to be thankful for all of this and the beautiful world God made for us and be good stewards of our part of it. To be mindful of the challenges in our world today and harvest time is the time to remember with thankfulness and generosity. For all kinds of things and all of God’s creation and our indebtedness to God
Thankfulness needs to be very much a part of what we do and how we do it and who we are in our lives. Then in our hearts we shall reflect the rejoicing that hymn bringing in the sheaves describes which we will now go onto sing!.