Harvest Festival 2016
Introduction and Call to Worship
Let us rejoice today in the good news that God is with us, and blesses us with many gifts in creation that we may raise a rich harvest.
First Reading Deuteronomy 8.7-18
Moses addresses the people, and foretelling the glories that are to come min the Promised Land. But there is a challenge, as the people must not lose sight of God’s hand at work.
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 9.6-15
Christian giving is a loving response to the self-giving of the Lord Jesus, for Christians should need no urging to give cheerfully and generously. Those with more should offer on behalf of those with less.
Gospel Luke 17. 11-19
The ten lepers are sent to the priests in order to be declared fit to return to normal society. By going, they demonstrate their faith in Jesus word. All ten are cured, but only one takes the trouble to say thank you. He offers worship to the Lord in thankfulness.
HOMILY “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9: 8)
Today we give thanks and praise to God, the creator of all things, for the many blessing of the harvest. And there are so many things that we need to give thanks to God for. Harvest Tide often marks the change in the seasons and this year has been no exception with a drop in temperature as we have moved from September into the start of October!
Traditionally Harvest is the time when crops were gathered in before winter and the celebration of Harvest Festival took place to mark the end of that season. This is a time to give thanks to God from whom all good things come and to rejoice in the many and varied gifts we have to share. These include our foods and clean water to drink. So what could be more fitting than giving thanks to God by sharing some of our gifts with others, and it is a joy that we are able to support White Lodge as they provide care for disabled people and their families, and Runnymede Food bank as they work within our local community to support those on low incomes and families in need. Our gifts of food and other essential items offered today are just one way in which we, as individuals, families and the Christian Church can show our thanks for all that we enjoy and receive ourselves.
Saying thank you is so important – perhaps never more than today when it is so easy for us to take for granted the peace and prosperity that many of us enjoy. In the parable of the 10 Lepers we are reminded of the generosity of God as Jesus pours out his healing love upon those who need his help. The healing miracle is an example of the divine power of Jesus Christ and a witness of gratitude as a condemned man is brought out of the shadows of death to new life. All who encounter Jesus experience transformation and also challenge, but in this miracle one individual offers worship in response, returning to the Lord to say ‘thank you’. In this way, he is an example to each of us, demonstrating how we ought to live each day in gratitude for God’s redeeming love and all the gifts that we receive of his bounty. And that’s what I’d like for us to think about today – how do we say thank you to God? As Paul reminds us, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:8) We start with our worship in this beautiful place – a church with such a spiritual warmth and family of faith with a great depth of welcome, embrace and friendship. There is so much here to give thanks for and in our worship, the Eucharist and our other services we do just that. The largest part of our prayer in worship, as in every aspect of our lives should always be to thank God. We do this honestly and generously. This giving includes our time and money as well as our gifts of the harvest and special offerings for charitable causes.
We come here to worship, to praise and thank the Lord for the blessings of each and every day, for the very gift of life and for the fruits of the harvest. And here in Thorpe there is so much for us to give thanks for, not least this autumn. Many of us have had a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables this year. I know my apple trees were very early this year, full of rich and beautiful fruit and I’m still picking them and making crumbles! But how easy it is for us to go on with life and forget to say thank you to God for the gifts and blessings of our own lives. Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Christians living in Corinth that we ourselves are blessed if we sow in thankfulness.
Generosity is also a marker of thankfulness. It is an Anglican Tradition that at this time of year we present offerings – in the past the fruit and vegetables of our gardens and allotments, but these days produce of various kinds – and after giving thanks to God for them, we pass them onto those in real need. Our generosity is a sign of our gratitude to God who provides so much to us in so many ways – and the scriptures call us to sacrificial giving, which is not easy and requires faithfulness.
Then there is healing, because worship is intrinsically about being made whole as we allow the very presence of the Lord to fill our hearts and transform us, taking his presence into the world around us. Now, we may not have experienced the miracle of personal healing, or the transformation of renewal and we may be struggling with all sorts of pressures and commitments out there in, what someone yesterday called ‘the real world’ – work, family, caring for others, sickness, vulnerability, financial worries, commitments, responsibilities and so much more. Yet just pausing for a moment, perhaps we too can turn back and thank the Lord for all that he has done in our lives and allow his very presence to heal us, renew us, fill us with the gifts of the harvest.
So this festival we worship the Lord of the harvest, giving thanks for our food and so much more and with a generous heart we recognise our part in his kingdom, in the tangible sign of sharing what we have with others. But friends, may we be generous every Sunday, every day as we give thanks to god for our blessings and share with gratitude, sacrificially. In all we do, whoever we are, wherever we may be, God is calling us to bring healing by faith that others may have and share in the joys of knowing Jesus. And in return for the many gifts feely given unto us, we should be open, and willing to say thank you as our praise rises like incense, in the worship of the one God of all creation who offers us so much of his bounty. Amen.
Harvest is a time for giving thanks and sharing the gifts we have received. Our gifts of food offer an example of giving something back within this community of Thorpe – sharing of what God has given us.
The healing of the 10 Lepers reminds us that we have a responsibility to recognise God’s work in our loves and say thank you, in regular worship and prayer for the ways in which we are blessed.
Not everyone in the world is as blessed as we are, and at this time we should reflect upon our call to sacrificial giving. Is there some way in which we can share our resources with others, with the Church, helping sustain others?
Giving thanks also means taking action. As Paul reminds us, each of us must give generously for God loves a cheerful giver. We must sow in thankfulness!