Sermon – St Marys – Harvest
Readings: Joel 2:21-27, Matthew 6:25-33
Have you noticed this wonderful water pump? Restored and renovated by Rob Hemmin to be part of our display today, it represents clean water for all and enough rain to water our crops; as we explore the theme of water. Our superb flower arranging team have put lots of thought into all of these windowsills to reflect our focus on Eco church: the areas where wild flowers were planted or encouraged to grow, to help our wildlife; the pollution of our seas, oceans and rivers; and the importance of our trees and woodlands.
I want to talk about our own use of water, and to take us beyond ourselves to the Bishops Harvest appeal “Water is Life”.
Bishop Alan writes: “Jesus chose the image of water to illustrate that through him, Gods inexhaustible love flows further, from our lives to the lives of others in need as we pray, care and give.”
The Bishop’s appeal this year supports local churches in the Democratic republic of Congo to provide clean safe water to rural communities. Currently those communities encounter preventable diseases like cholera, as more than 70% of the population use unsafe water. Sources of clean water are a long walk for many, a walk often undertaken by women and children.
The project, “Water is Life” supports the charity Tearfund in its work through local churches, to equip and train local men and women to be agents of change in their community. Their roles include overseeing the work to provide clean water and sanitation, and teaching the members of their community about good hygiene. Each community is equipped with tap stands near to their homes, and a greater awareness of how to improve hygiene in their homes and community. Our retiring collection today will go to this appeal.
What about our own use of water? One of the things our Eco church group is looking into is toilet twinning – did you know that it’s estimated that 30% of domestic water usage in the UK, goes to flushing toilets. The toilet twinning initiative aims to raise funds for health education, building links between health and good sanitation, so that a church like us which has good toilets, raises money for a community that doesn’t. We will talk more about this project in November.
There are other tips around water usage too: water butts to collect rain water for use in the garden, are a good way to put freely provided rain water to use, so we’re looking into that too. Our son, Will was not impressed when a small egg timer appeared near the shower, but it does make you think about how long you spend in the shower, and the water that uses! Water companies are happy to provide timers like this as part of their advice on saving water.
Our readings remind us of the beauty and abundance of our created world, and God’s provision for our needs. I want to reflect also on the words of the post communion prayer for Harvest:
“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”.
We come to our harvest services, bringing gifts of the fruits of the earth, the produce of our land, and we focus on thanking God for the gifts of food and the work of those who produce that food. So it is good to be drawn back in this prayer to offer thanks for God’s love in creation. God loved all that he had made, we are told, at the end of each day of the creation story God reflected on his work and saw that it was good. Humankind was made in God’s image. Created in love, and blessed.
In acknowledgment of the gifts we enjoy, the prayer asks for grace. Grace to plant within us “a reverence” for all that we have been given. Reverence: “to very much respect and admire” , to “honour”. Harvest is a good and timely reminder to us that we are to take notice of all that we have, to show gratitude, and not to take things for granted.
I was reminded this week of a notice I saw outside a church some years ago now, which read: “suppose you woke up tomorrow morning with only the things you said thank you for today”. It is too easy in our culture of abundance and plenty, to forget how fortunate we are.
Its been interesting this week, that some of the goods in our shops, and the petrol, on our forecourts have been affected by issues of distribution and shortage of drivers. There has been some panic buying once again. The abundance that we see week by week in our shops and supermarkets, is the result of a huge process of supply, transportation and delivery, which we so easily take for granted. The farmer’s markets bring us a little closer to the production of our food. For some, our own cultivating and gathering of fruit and vegetables, brings us closer still. When you can see crops or vegetables growing, it is much easier to feel that respect and admiration for the produce of our land. Our prayer asks that we may be “generous and wise stewards, of the good things we enjoy”.
The current crisis of refugees and migrants fleeing their own lands and journeying often with very few possessions, has made me consider how much they have left behind. Not just their homes, but their land, their livelihoods, all that they have been given. Our harvest collection of dried goods will benefit those in our local community who need support.
So as we gather here, with so much evidence of the abundance of creation all around us, we pray for that grace, to be planted and to grow within each of us, that we may revere and honour all that we have, and all that we enjoy, that we may care wisely for our land, and go out into the world in humility, gratitude and generosity.