Sunday 4th October – Harvest Festival
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
you crown the year with your goodness
and you give us the fruits of the earth in their season:
grant that we may use them to your glory,
for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Deuteronomy 8. 7-18
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid waste-land with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.
Luke 12. 16-30
Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Post Communion Prayer
Lord of the harvest,
with joy we have offered thanksgiving for your love in creation
and have shared in the bread and the wine of the kingdom:
by your grace plant within us a reverence for all that you give us
and make us generous and wise stewards
of the good things we enjoy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reflection – Harvest
Harvest Thanksgiving is just that – remembering to give thanks. It all began in 1843, at Morwenstow in Cornwall, where the Rector, Robert Hawker, wanted to give thanks to God in a truly fitting way for providing the world’s plenty. This service took place on the first of October, when bread made from the first cut of corn was used at the Eucharist.
‘Parson Hawker’, as he was known to his parishioners, was something of an eccentric, both in his clothes and his habits. He loved bright colours and it seems the only black things he wore were his socks. He built a small hut from driftwood on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where he spent many hours writing his poems, smoking opium. Apparently he excommunicated his cat for mousing on Sundays. He dressed in a claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman’s jersey, long sea-boots, a pink brimless hat and a poncho made from a yellow horse blanket, which he claimed was the ancient habit of St Padarn. He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church and kept a huge pig as a pet.
I’ve often thought that maybe I should emulate him!
Eccentric he might have been, but he knew and was distressed that the Industrial Revolution was having the nation-wide effect of eroding the old seasonal celebrations by which an agricultural people acknowledged their dependence on the God of the seasons and of all creation. Plough Sunday, Rogation, Lammas: all these observances were disappearing fast. Very well, he thought, then let us at least have more than a great secular party – the ‘Harvest Home’ – when ‘all is safely gathered in’. Let us have a service of thanksgiving as well.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to Robert Stephen Hawker. Thanksgiving, thanking, expressing our gratitude, making known our appreciation – these are activities which are central to our humanity, to being made in the image and likeness of God. When we thank someone for what he or she has said or done, we are affirming that person, and encouraging, strengthening and cheering him or her. Of course there will always be some curmudgeonly souls who regard the sincerest expressions of thanks with suspicion, but frankly that is their problem. The French catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain said that Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy, but it was Isaak Walton who spotted something yet more important about a mind predisposed to express thanks: God has two dwellings: one in heaven and the other in a thankful heart.
So the festival of Harvest Thanksgiving bids us to remember to give thanks to God who created this world in love – a world capable of giving every man, woman and child enough and to spare. That so many go hungry in a world of plenty is a reminder that the spirit of genuine gratitude is very close to the spirit of generosity: as the old Irish proverb puts it, ‘When the hand ceases to scatter, the mouth ceases to praise.’ So we need to give thanks, too, to the farming communities of this area, of this county and of this land.
Today is the Festival of Harvest Thanksgiving, and I remain convinced that when we exercise the spirit of true gratitude, the rest will follow.
Each week, the Eucharist is celebrated here – it is simply an Anglicised version of the Greek for ‘thanksgiving’. God neatly turns the table on our selfishness and reminds us that when we come to the Eucharist, we will be betraying its spirit and its essence unless we come in a spirit of gratitude and generosity. For when we come to Holy Communion, we are not just here to receive: to receive grace and mercy and forgiveness and blessing. We are also here to give: to give thanks and praise and love and service.
This morning, I’d like to let the 17th century priest and poet George Herbert have the last word in a prayer of his which we would all do well at this Harvest-tide to make our own:
Lord, Thou hast given us so much; give us one more thing we pray: a grateful heart – for Jesus Christ’s sake.