Revd Joachim Foot's Harvest Sermon

In the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Although we are talking about harvest this morning, I would like to start by drawing your attention to a line we heard in our Gospel ‘As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached him….. Keeping their distance….. they called out…. social distancing, it would appear is nothing new. This is quite extraordinary if we think about it. the lepers purposely kept themselves away from our Lord and others in much the same way we are being forced to keep ourselves away from one another at the moment. The lepers notably don’t ask for healing, they ask for mercy ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ is the cry that comes from them. Of the nine who are healed, the one who returns to thank Christ is a Samaritan, a ‘foreigner’ as Jesus call him.

 

God is merciful, God is gracious, and we in turn should be able to show our gratitude.

 

This year we have seen the fragility of our food network up first hand. The stockpiling of food before the start of lockdown that turned shopping trips into a rather fraught experience was unpleasant to say the least. I remember going into one supermarket that looked like it had been robbed, the staff seemed to have more or less given up trying to keep the shop tidy, probably due to complete exhaustion. Thank fully those scenes have not been repeated again. It was noticeable that the messages coming out of the supermarkets of ‘don’t worry, there is plenty of food’ didn’t seem to calm the crowds. The scenes of chaos and the frenzy in supermarkets led perfectly sane normal people loopy. The threat of there not being enough food to eat induced panic. Although as Scott Hall from Probus pointed out to me, people seemed to stockpile the wrong things, loo roll and flour was definitely the wrong choice for self-isolation, Scott though that beer and curry would have been a better option. I can’t say I disagree!

What I think our eyes were opened to, once the frenzy cleared from our collective imagination, was the fragility of our food networks. We live in a society that relies pretty well entirely on having food available to buy pretty well 24/7. There is an unbelievably vast array of choice which is pretty well seasonless. There are ‘fresh’ tomatoes available year round. Pickling tomatoes (show) is now a rather niche and peculiar pastime rather than a matter of life and death.

If I may talk a little about my favourite subject, eggs (show). Modern hybrid chickens are a bit of a genetic miracle. For one, they do not go broody, which is a bit of a disaster for the continuation of the species without human help, but secondly they lay at extraordinary rates, over 300 eggs a year. Some of the heritage breeds only lay around 40 eggs a year. So instead of an egg a day, it would have been more like an egg a week.  So our food processes are streamlined in the extreme.

And what is our response to this? how do we respond to the abundance of food and produce we have? Well, we seem to live in a world where farming is a bit marginalised to say the least. Think of the endless battles farmers have with supermarkets and their famously dodgy price negotiations. But also think of our throwaway culture. Food is cheap enough to be something we can happily waste without much thought.

 

What I think is at issue here, is not our wastefulness, or our abundance but rather one of attitude and response. Our food comes not from the kitchen, the supermarket, or even the farmer, it comes from God. As St Paul, in our reading this morning reminds us that it is God who provides seed to the sower. We are able to feed ourselves and our families because of the generosity of God’s good provision. We should therefore be on our knees in thankfulness and praise of God’s generosity to us. We too easily lose sight of this, I think. It is too easy to forget that we are here due to the generosity and mercy of God. I have never been in a position where I have been unable to feed my children, and that is a gift from God too invaluable to be forgotten. I pray that I never find myself in that position and am ever mindful of those who are.

The Lord is merciful, the Lord is generous, the Lord is an abundant giver. What harvest reminds us of, first and foremost is that we should first of all be thankful, but secondly we should respond to God’s goodness appropriately, we should be generous in our response. As St Paul reminds us

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

We are called I think, to be thankful and generous. Thankful for what we have received and generous with it. As 1 Chronicles 29:14 reminds us  For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. All that we have is only because God has been generous to us. And it is out of his abundant generosity that we should respond generously. The old English public school phrase ‘those who have the most have the most to give’ is entirely right I think. The more we are blessed with the more we have to bless others with.

The leper in our story this morning who responded to the Lord’s generosity with gratefulness is a reminder to us therefore of how we should respond to God today and everyday

In the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit


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