Go on, be honest... what are you worrying about?

St Mary’s Church, Thorpe

Sermon Notes - Harvest Festival Year B, Sunday 3rd September 2021

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.

Today’s Readings

First Reading Joel 2: 21-27

God promises to restore in profusion all that has been destroyed (by Locusts in Chapter 1 and early chapter 2) and God will rid the land of all enemies.

Second Reading 1 Timothy 6: 6-10

Some see Christianity as a road to riches; indeed, Christians are spiritually rich, not necessarily in monetary terms. Money must always be put to good and generous use. But a craving for wealth leads to evil. To be a man of God we must crave a Christian character.

Gospel Matthew 6: 25-33

We can choose what to set our hearts on. Money and material things or the values of God’s Kingdom and love of others; but not both! Each must decide their priority.

Homily “…strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

I have no doubt that a good number of us here today are worrying about something. Go on, be honest in the silence of your own heart and in the presence of God in this beautiful place of prayer. What is worrying you today? As we celebrate harvest Festival again, still in a time of international pandemic, there is a lot we may be worried about. For starters, you may be watching this online because you were worried you wouldn’t have enough petrol to get to church and back again today. You may be worried about the cost of living and your energy bills, you may even be worried that you won’t be able to find a turkey this coming Christmas, which by the way, in case you worry about these things, is a quarter of a year away… Yes, take a deep breath. Friends, the wholeness of life that God desires for each of us as Christians, is that we walk free of anxiety, just as God longs for us to be healthy in our bodies, and wholesome in our minds. In the first letter to timothy, we hear this ring true, “… we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Timothy 6: 7)

That may seem like a startling realisation, but it is true. 21st century Brittain is quite a stressful, and pressurised place to be, and I would suggest that very few of us are immune from worrying about something at some point; Climate Change, the Economy, our children or grandchildren’s future, the challenges of education, Covid and so much more. But fundamental to our Christian faith, is the belief that, whatever we may face, individually or corporately as one family of faith, we need not face challenges alone. For we believe that God knows us and loves us and wants to have a relationship with us – with everyone.

This is not trivialising the challenges humanity faces right now. There has never been a more precarious time than the one we are entering, when the rate of warming caused by the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) is literally changing our world around us. We are beyond denial of the facts, that climate change is leading to higher sea levels and new weather patterns that are impacting the survival of species, communities, whole nations and yes us here in the UK too. The world, with a growing population needs feeding. Harvest is essential for the survival of humanity, and the change to our climate is impacting our ability to feed ourselves. We don’t notice it so much here in the UK where weather conditions are, on the whole, moderate and the land fertile. But you don’t need to travel far south into Europe to hear a very different story. And some of the poorest nations on earth and seeing the greatest and most catastrophic changes already – from flood to fire.

Our relationship to God’s creation matters and we must start, as always in prayer – and ask the Lord of life to assist with issues which concerns, rather that just worrying. In the New Testament letter of Paul to the Philippians we read, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7). God longs to reveal his plan, through the Holy Spirit to us, but the creator is not a cosmic slot machine offering instant solutions upon demand. Being a Christian does not make worries disappear. But our faith challenges us to approach Climate Change, Covid and all matters of struggle with a different perspective a kingdom mindset. Our faith teaches us that God always hears our prayers – but he may not answer them in the way that we expect! And he will use us to be the answer.

Here in the UK, we are several steps removed from how our food is made and the true cost to our world as a result of our desire and consumption. Today, this celebration of Harvest Festival must be as much about reflecting upon the impact of humanity upon the world which God declares is “Good” (See Genesis 1:31) as it is thanking God for the bounty of the Harvest. And there is so much to be thankful for, and it is a joy that we are able to offers some of our food to White Lodge to support local families with and children with various disabilities and needs – a time of giving, not just giving thanks.

So, how can we bring our Harvest gifts before the altar, without first seeking reconciliation with God who created all things, and recognising our part? Or to put it another way, how can we own our worries, before God in penitence for our failure to care for all God has made and entrusted to us? Matthew writes about Jesus’ teaching about worrying. “Do not worry about your life and what you will eat,” (6: 25) Jesus says rather provocatively to those listening. In contrast our Lord reminds us to worry about the values of the Kingdom and what God wants you to do! “Strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (6: 33)

Here at St Mary’s, we are passionate about the challenge of Climate Change. Petra Hudson our new champion, is working hard to provide us with new resources and a whole section of our website is now dedicated to Eco Church. We have already achieved a bronze award, but there is so much more to do, not just here at Church but in our own homes and daily lives. Yes, it is easy to worry about our children’s future, but it is even more tempting then to do nothing. It is Christian to act, to recognise our part in what has gone wrong and seek to put that right, to correct our mistakes, to strive for a better way of living – God’s kingdom values which are always inclusive, always just and always loving.

So, this Harvest Festival, may we commit ourselves to reduce our consumption and share our resources, as we seek to care for the world over which we have been given dominion. This is the will of the creator, who knows all our needs in the first place and requires us to strive for His Kingdom values rather than earthly money or material things. Amen.

Fr Damian Harrison-Miles, Harvest 2021

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