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Harvest Festival 2010
Just a week or so ago I took a look in my barns - and I decided that they were amply stocked and that I should not fill them any more. The examination was prompted by the plop on the doormat of a glossy brochure inviting me to renew my membership of a book club. By the way one of the things that Daphne, our churchwarden, and I have in common is that we are members of the same book club so she knows perfectly what I am talking about. Well in recent years and most especially during my training and curacy I have been much better at buying books than reading them so there are many beautiful volumes on the shelves on subjects that I want to learn about. And you know there is beginning to be a little worry that unless I start seriously reading then I may indeed turn up my toes with some key books unread! So I put the renewal slip into the recycling and have set about being richly content with the ones I already have.
“Consider the ravens, they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn and yet, God feeds them.”
Our modern world rather encourages us to behave with more foresight than this, from the children’s bond to the annuity there are systems from birth onwards to help us to be prudent. And I am not about to discourage us from this sort of care, but I would like to draw our attention to the verse that immediately precedes this parable: verse 15 says this:
“Take care, be on your guard against all kinds of greed for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
Our media would surely have us forget this advice - note especially the phrase “all kinds of greed.” This may not then simply be a problem for bankers with unimaginably impossible bonuses, it may include I am very sad to say my book addiction too - it may indeed afflict all of us and whatever it is it distracts us perhaps from seeing and discovering what it is that God is really saying and what might truly make us content. Our Gospel reading concluded by saying “Strive for his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.”
Paul writing to the Philippians tells us how we might change our focus: “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, commendable, worthy of praise think about these things … and the God of peace will be with you.”
This morning we thank God for the harvest, for the gifts of the soil, for the blessed fruits of agriculture and farming and as we do so we have brought some of our abundance, some of the stores from our amply filled barns to share with others. This is honourable and just. Justice is important, this map that I shall leave at the back of church for you to see more clearly at the end of the service shows the world according to the wetitle h of nations - the countries that we are familiar with have been proportionately resized according to GDP per capita. As you would expect, America Japan and Europe are amazingly fat whilst Africa and Latin America on this projection are impossibly thin.
The Bishop’s harvest appeal recognizes this injustice and too that climate change is making this picture even worse. The appeal is called “Fruits of Justice” and is in support of the Climate Justice Fund that is designed to support farmers in Uganda to grow crops that will better cope with the changing climate and that will give them a chance. Later this morning I shall be talking to the family service about the miracle of our planet and the need for us to be good stewards of the environment if this special balance is to be preserved. The Bishop’s appeal and our own harvest gifts blend the ideas we have been exploring: the ideas of our abundance, of the beauty of the earth, of our thanks for the good things we have, our recognition that God calls us to be true followers and that above all we are to be generous to others.