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Sermon by Revd Caroline Risdon

Harvest, Sunday 4 October 2020

You can hear an audio recording of the sermon here

Let us pray…
Loving God we give you thanks for the gift of your word, the grace of the sacrament and the fellowship of your people. Amen.
Over the past four weeks, I have been leading collective worship at our primary school on the theme of Hope. We've been thinking about each letter of the word HOPE and attaching a value or behaviour to it. We've looked at Honesty, being Open-hearted, Prayer, and Encouragement. Put together these four ways of being help to make us hopeful.
How? Well I think it starts with being honest with yourself. This is not an exercise in feeling rubbish about all that we are not. This is about being realistic. You are not perfect. And do you know what, God loves you anyway. In fact God created you just as you are. So we can have the courage to be honest about the things we are really good at, as well as the things that we don't like about ourselves and know that God accepts us for who we are.
Now, if God can love us for who we are, then surely we can try to love ourselves and those around us? This is where being open-hearted comes in. I believe God wants us to know that we are all part of God's family, even though we have different parents or come from different countries. We are part of one family. And when we share together and laugh and play together and take care of one another, we make God's dream of the whole human family living together equally come true.
How can we make sure we are living the way God wants us to live? How can we bring all our joys and pains to God? Through prayer. Prayer is vitally important, so important that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to do it. And in the Lord's prayer we have the key ingredients for our prayers- we start by giving thanks and praise to God for all the gifts around us; we ask for God's dream to come true; we bring before God all that we need; and we ask for God to help us forgive so that we may know what it is to be forgiven.
And if we can find a way of being these 3 things- honest and open-hearted and prayerful, then we will find encouragement. We are encouraged by knowing deep in our bones that God loves and accepts us (Honest); we are encouraged by the way in which the people we trust take care of us (Open); we are encouraged by being more and more aware of God's gifts to us through our Prayers.
Today we are celebrating the festival of Harvest and it strikes me that these four values or ways of behaving are especially relevant.
In our Old Testament reading, we hear that God intended to give good gifts to his people and wished them to enjoy life in the midst of his beautiful creation. But the trouble with a life of ease and prosperity is that it is easy to become accustomed to it. When this sense of entitlement creeps in, acknowledging that everything comes from God creeps out. We become proud and arrogant. We believe that we have our money, our status, our education, our very selves through our own effort. Rather than remembering it is the Lord our God who provides everything. Clearly, we are not being honest about who we are and where we come from. We are God's children and we are dependent on God for our very lives, not to mention all that fills them.
The example in the gospel makes this point. This farmer is so wealthy that he believes he is beyond worries about the weather, the harvest, financial difficulties. Instead of sharing his blessing with God and humanity, he stores it up for himself. He regards his life and his property not just as his own, but also as if he has somehow generated them. And in his selfishness, he fails to honour creation. The trees, rivers, mountains, forests, birds, night and day, everything within creation speaks a godlike language, it praises God and it should be used with awe and reverence.
So, our celebration of harvest today, and our readings, give us pause to have a reality check- have we become a bit like the wealthy farmer? Do we consider that whatever we have gathered is due to our own endeavour or can we be honest about our dependence on God? If we acknowledge our dependence on God, then what are we doing to share our resources with each other? And if we are praying for God's will to be done here on earth, then how are we standing for our brothers and sisters across the world who live with so little?
All this may feel a bit weighty and serious... and it is weighty and serious. Yet, there is room for encouragement. Each time we honour God, each time we honour God's creation; we enable God's will to be done here on earth. Each time we serve our neighbours, each time we are kind to ourselves; we embody our calling as a people of hope.
Revd Caroline Risdon, 04/10/2020
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