Harvest Sermon for Ladock 2018



We were on holiday in Italy in September, staying close to Assisi.

Of course, you can’t but be aware of the city’s most famous son, St. Francis.

And he got me thinking again about our world, about life and death, and creation.


St Francis is famous for loving the world of creation

            Preaching to the birds (I haven’t – perhaps to cows at the open-air Evensong at Fenton Ladock!)

    nor Taming a wolf that was terrorising the town of Gubbio,

    Francis wrote the famous Canticle of the Creatures

    His was the first nativity with live animals in the church

   and he had a great desire for Peace – he wrote the hymn we now know as Make me a channel of your peace.


He didn’t always think this way.  He was born into a wealthy family, son of a prosperous silk merchant.

He was handsome, witty, gallant, and delighted in fine clothes. He spent money lavishly, and as a young man, lived a life filled with wine, women and song!


But a gradual disillusionment towards the world began to creep over him, as is shown by his act of generosity when confronted by a beggar:  Francis gave him his cloak and all the money he had in his pockets.

This sense of ‘there must be more to life’ began to take root during the year that he was ill and held prisoner after joining Assisi’s army.  And it was soon after his release that he joined a community of monks, and he fully responded to God’s call to ‘build the church’.


So reading Psalm 19 brings Francis to mind, especially on a Harvest Thanksgiving day. 

Francis could have written this Psalm!

It opens poetically in praise of majestic creation and the glorious Creator.

Our being here today acknowledges both the beauty and the bounty of harvest – all over the world;

for we know there is enough for everyone’s need, though not always distributed fairly because of our greed

And we acknowledge a Creator God who is generous in giving and sustaining life.

True, it is a partnership, as it was right from the beginning with Adam and Eve


STORY of the new vicar and the parishioner: 

A parishioner stopped to chat to the vicar who was busy in the garden

‘Pretty hard work, eh vicar?’ he said.

The vicar, keen to bring God into the conversation, said,

‘It’s amazing what God can achieve in a garden!’

To which the parishioner replied, ‘Maybe, but you should have seen this garden when he had it all to himself!’


A partnership, but with the ‘mystery of life’, in both crops and creatures.


In the second half of the Psalm, the Psalmist like St Francis discovers and declares more about God – as well as Creator, God is a Rock and a Redeemer, someone whose rule of life is tailor made for his creatures:  life-affirming, with our very best interests at heart, safe and sure.


No matter how prosperous a year has been, when all is safely gathered into our barns or bank accounts, there can be those disturbing doubts about life and about death, such as Francis experienced: unsatisfied longings that seem to suggest there is more to life than we are currently experiencing, kindness and forgiveness resonating at a deep level.

Whilst we may not have a past to compare with St Francis’s, most of us know that we need a Redeemer – someone to come to our rescue to forgive us all that is past, to free us from fears, to reassure us of the mystery of life, life that takes us on beyond the grave.


God is the Rock our lives need – to give us our reference point, to hold us firm, through the sunshine and the storms – the ups and downs of the farming years and the swings of the financial markets and political uncertainties.


(– or, as the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk puts it:

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will still rejoice in the Lord,
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength)

It’s a big step to stake our whole life on the Rock of Ages – and one we may never have taken.

But from recognising God as Creator, it is a natural next step, as it was for St Francis.


St. Francis when he wrote the song we know as ‘All creatures of our God and King’, went back to the poem to add two verses after he had written about creation and his Creator.  And the two verses are these: 

one speaks about forgiveness and cares;

and the other speaks about death, being ready to step onto the path that Jesus took, from the grave and through the gateway into eternal life. 

Francis’ experience was that his caring Creator was his forgiving Redeemer and his trustworthy Rock, in this life and the next.


This was the life-giving, life-changing, good news Francis shared with people and animals and birds.

We know that without our farming community, our environment would be bleak, our lives impoverished, we would starve; 

without St Francises the world is hungry and thirsty for goodness and mercy, and unable to find its way to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


So will you become a Saint Francis today, and as you do, take his advice:


Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible



Matthew 6: 25-33


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