Harvest Thanksgiving

Collect of the Day

Eternal God,
you crown the year with your goodness
and you give us the fruits of the earth in their season:
grant that we may use them to your glory,
for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Deuteronomy 8. 7-18

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig-trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

 

2 Corinthians 9. 6-15

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

     “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
         his righteousness endures for ever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Luke 12.16-30

Jesus told the people a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.”

A reflection by Hilary

Life has changed considerably since Pastor Hawker introduced the first harvest festival service in that little fishing village of Morwenstow in Cornwall in the early part of the 19th century.  In those days Harvest Thanksgiving centred very much on the land, there was little automation, and farming was a very labour intensive industry.   In these parishes of Binstead, Havenstreet and Wootton, I can remember when farming was much more dominant with a substantial number of the population especially in the villages, and they were villages 50 years ago, working on the land.  In Binstead a whole farm was demolished when the Lodge Farm Estate was built behind Newnham Road.

It has been said that linking Harvest Thanksgiving to the land is no longer relevant for many people who live in towns and cities but whilst many changes have taken place which have automated much of the laborious work we still need to grow the crops and catch the fish from which so many of the supermarket products derive.  We should give thanks for the basic products without which we would not have the products that derive from them.

 

In the first reading this Sunday we hear the writer of the book of Deuteronomy giving the people of Israel their instructions as to how they were to show their thanks to God once they had settled into the land to which they were being led.  What prompted them to be grateful was an abundant harvest.  They were to take the first fruits of the crop and give them back to God.  These gifts were the symbols of their gratitude to God, thanking him for the food and crops he had given them.

 

God is bringing the People of Israel into a good land, a land with water, food, a land with both the basic needs and also the good things.  But they must guard against pride and forgetfulness.  There is a stern warning against the self- sufficiency, which easily emerges from wealth and abundance.  Israel must never forget God’s protection and care in the wilderness.  Moses reiterates the solemn warning about forgetting the Lord and serving other gods because such disobedience will only lead to destruction.  He again reminds them that they may have produced the wealth with their hands but it is the Lord their God who gives them the ability to do so and they should respond to God's goodness by obedience and thankfulness. 

And then the reading from the 12th chapter of Luke’s gospel helps to redress the balance as Jesus tells his disciples not to work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

If Jesus ever meant the petition in the Lord’s Prayer to be about ordinary bread, he also meant it to be about something else as well.  If we think only in material terms we miss the point.  Jesus wants us to see that there is a spiritual dimension to life, without which life is stunted and its final development placed in peril.  We need more than food, we need spiritual strength for this life and hope for the next.  It may seem amazing to us that people who had just been fed miraculously, this discourse following the feeding of the five thousand, still clamoured for a sign.  We human beings like the spectacular and although the multiplying of the bread and fishes was spectacular, it was not a grand conjuring trick prefaced by a fanfare and a roll of drums.  Just Jesus quietly breaking the food up and people finding they are getting enough to satisfy their hunger.  Moses had constantly reminded the people that it was God that looked after them so well and now Jesus has to remind them again.

Despite the fact that few people now reap the fields harvest remains an important festival.  For us divorced as so many of us are from the business of producing food to survive, the lives of subsistence farmers serve as a reminder of all our dependence on the riches God gives us through his creation and just how much we all depend on these riches for our very survival.

So as we join together to give thanks at this Harvest tide let not forget the spiritual dimension of harvest but let us also be truly thankful for all the blessings we receive which are far in excess of our needs.

 

Post Communion Prayer

Lord of the harvest,
with joy we have offered thanksgiving for your love in creation
and have shared in the bread and wine of the kingdom:
by your grace plant within us a reverence for all that you give us
and make us generous and wise stewards
                   of the good things we enjoy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

2 Corinthians 9.6-15 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Deuteronomy 8.7-18 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Luke 12.16-30 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Collect (Harvest Thanksgiving) ©  1989 Church of the Province of Southern Africa: An Anglican Prayer Book
Post Communion (Harvest Thanksgiving) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000