Sunday 6th September 2020

Celebrating a Harvest Thanksgiving

 

There is something wonderful about harvest time, it is a favourite service for many, when we can share in a sense of achievement and celebrate that a crop has been gathered in safely, but of course harvest happens all year round, not just in the autumn. As soon as the first seeds were planted, I am sure that when they began to sprout, grow and multiply, people were overjoyed with their achievement and I’m sure a harvest celebration, in some form, soon followed. Before the luxury of large supermarkets people gathered up food and stored it to get them through times when food was scarce – their food was seasonal. There are other harvests to consider such as the harvest of the sea or the sale of animals that provide meat to sustain us. Harvest is still a popular festival and can be celebrated in different ways. Usually we have celebrated by bringing food items in tins and packets to church, and then sharing them with the local food bank. In some churches the celebration of harvest continues the following evening with an auction, when all the produce is sold and lots of fun had when bidding for the different lots. Some churches may have a harvest supper to celebrate. Whatever we have and however we share it with others, we give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and the way in which he provides for us day after day.

 

Hymn

CH4 229

1.      We plough the fields and scatter

The good seed on the land,

But it is fed and watered by God’s

Almighty hand.

He sends the snow in winter,

The warmth to swell the grain,

The breezes and the sunshine

And soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us

Are sent from heaven above,

Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,

For all his love.

 

2.      He only is the Maker

of all things near and fa:

he paints the wayside flower,

he lights the evening star;

the winds and waves obey him,

by him the birds are fed,;

much more to us, his children,

he gives our daily bread.

All good gifts around us …

 

3.      We thank you then, O Father,

For all tings bright and good,

The seed-time and the harvest,

Our life, our health, our food.

Accept the gifts we offer,

For all your love imparts,

With what we know you long for,

Our humble, thankful hearts.

All good gifts around us…

 

Prayer

Together we come to worship,

Individuals gathered as one.

O Lord our God,

Sometimes your greatness makes us afraid,

Bring us now, in this moment, to know you.

Lord, we pray that you would see us as we are,

And see how we desire to be more like you.  

May we lay aside now,

anything that hinders our journey with you,

and with our friends and neighbours.

In this strange and changing times Lord,

We find ourselves pulled this way and that,

We find it difficult to follow your way

Instead of going our own.

Forgive us our failings and wrongdoings.

Forgive our insensitivities to the ways of others.

Forgive anything that separates us from you,

And from each other.

Forgive us and help us to begin again.

We continue our prayer by praying the words of the Lord’s Prayer…

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

On earth, as it is in heaven,

Give us this day our daily bread,

And for give us our debts,

as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

The power and the glory,

For ever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings

Psalm 65: 9 – 13

Matthew 18: 15 – 20

 

Reflection

Psalm 65: 9 – 13

Every year for the people of Israel was ‘crowned’ with the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles – the removal of sin (Leviticus 16) and Harvest Thanksgiving (Leviticus 23:39 and Deuteronomy 16: 13 – 15). This psalm reflects a year that has been notably special. There has been a notable answer to prayer and God has done some awesome deeds (verse 5). Verses 1 – 4 deal with prayer, atonement and reconciliation, whilst verses 5 – 8 cover deliverance, domination and revelation. The verses we have read today are full of care, lavishness and provision. At a time when the occupation of the Assyrians made agriculture impossible, there was still an abundance. This was God’s care whereby he lavishes good things on his people - the year ends in a bountiful harvest. We can praise God in the same way as we give thanks for another harvest and many good things in a year that has been challenging in ways that we could never have imagined.  

 

Matthew 18: 15 – 20  

There are times when the Bible gets approached as an instruction book: we find the bit we want, the verses that resonate with our prejudice or political aims, and with a triumphant “Aha!” feel vindicated. Perhaps we should take a more nuanced approach, including allowing for the development of understanding within the Bible; seeing verses in the wider context of revelation in the whole Bible; alertness to the context when a text was written and, allowing the Spirit to speak through the Bible into our own contexts. As we look at this passage following these tracks, a warning light is perhaps flashing This passage itself says that true wisdom comes in the gathered community, and discernment comes with the presence of Christ where two or more are together. It is then that the community can discern what is destructive or creative; the latter discernment leading into their prayer and other actions.

Verses 18 – 20 put this in context. The community that we are part if is not just a club, it is the kingdom of God; Jesus is at the heart of it – so how we live matters. Jesus’ words echo the language previously used of Peter (16: 19): every disciple is able to discern the mind of God in Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 15). Here the passage comes full circle and picks up the question about status: we are all equal. Jesus says that we are able to discern right and wrong behaviour (because we have heard his teaching: Matthew 28:20) and have a duty to point it out. Through prayer and reading the Scriptures we discern God’s mind and communicate with each other, and with God, asking him what he want’s us to ask him (v19). Tis is possible because we are the community of Christ (v 20). Jesus looks beyond the resurrection to when he will truly be our Immanuel, God with us all the time, at the heart of our gathering, however small (1: 23, 28:20).

 

Prayer

We bring to God our prayers for the Church and for the world.

Loving and gracious Lord,

We pray for the world, and all your children,

We give thanks for all the good things

That you continue to give us,

Especially at this time we thank you for the harvest

Of the land and the sea, and for those who work to nurture it and gather it in.

We pray for those who are in places where the harvest has not been plentiful,

For those who are hungry,

Those who do not have access to clean water or medical supplies,

Those who risk their lives in order to try and find a place of safety for their families,

We remember those who are sick,

And those who care for them, whether in hospital, at home,

Hospice or care home.

We pray for those who mourn,   

Those who are lonely,

Those who are afraid,

May they know the peace and the calm of your presence. Lord,

In their daily lives.

We pray for the members of our congregational community,

That, although we are still not able to worship together,

We will continue to support and encourage each other

As we journey together to spread the good news of the gospel.

We pray for our families and friends

and those in the communities around us,

that they may see in us, your love

and come to know you for themselves.

All this we ask and pray in and through the name

Of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Amen.

 

Hymn

CH4 225

1.      Summer suns are glowing

over land and sea;

happy light is flowing

bountiful and free.

Everything rejoices

In the mellow rays,

All earth’s thousand voices

Swell the psalm of praise.

 

2.      See God’s mercy streaming

Over all the world,

And his banner gleaming,

Everywhere unfurled.

Broad and deep and glorious,

As the heaven above,

Shines in might victorious

His eternal love.

 

3.      Lord, upon our blindness,

Your pure radiance pour;

For your loving kindness

Make us love you more.

And, when clouds are drifting

Dark across the sky,

Then, the veil uplifting,

Father still be nigh.

 

4.      We will never doubt you

though you veil our light;

life is dark without you,

death with you is bright.

Light of life shine o’er us

On our pilgrim way;

Still go on before us

To the endless day.

 

Blessing

Lord, as we leave our worship time,

Help us to see those we meet beyond our door

In the way you see them.

Help us to offer support from what we know of you,

Send us out to be a shining light for you,

A guiding light for those in confusion and darkness.

We pray that you will bless us as we go,

And give us strength to walk in your way,

Through Jesus’ name we pray

Amen.