Thought for the Week 31 - 18th October by Mark Ellis

(31)   18th October                   Deuteronomy 8:7-18                                         Lest we forget

The land has yielded its harvest: God, our God has blessed us.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.

Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice .

A month ago, I was reflecting on a week of the Rule of Six, I started today’s reflection expecting another raft of restrictions as we attempt to halt this global pandemic, but fortunately we have been spared the majority here in the East. Today we want to put our worries to one side and thank God for the harvest, for his gifts to us.  When I was a boy, after every Christmas my mum would sit me down and ensure I wrote my Thank you letters, perhaps you did likewise?  They were such a chore to a child as I saw them and yet we should say thank you for every gift we receive, lest we forget that they are given as a gift out of love.

The reading for today is one set for Harvest and is Deuteronomy 8:7-18.  We’ll look into this reading later. 

But first today, let’s say this Thanksgiving

Father in heaven all good gifts come from you.  You send the sunshine and the rain, and it is through your love and care that we enjoy the harvest time. Thank you for providing so richly for our needs and help us to share the good things we have with those who have little or nothing.  Lord in your mercy     

Hear our prayer 

Lord we pray for your blessing on every kind of harvest that we enjoy.  Thank you for the harvest of the land and the sea.  Bless too the harvest of factory, mine and workshop.  Bless the harvest of research and of creative art.  May we work together with you in every area of life to produce what is worthwhile, good and fruitful.  May you be glorified in it all.  Lord in your mercy     

Hear our prayer

We confess to you our lack of care 

for the world you have given us. 

Lord, have mercy. 

Lord, have mercy. 

We confess to you our selfishness in not sharing 

the earth's bounty fairly. 

Christ, have mercy. 

 

Christ, have mercy. 

 

We confess to you 

our failure to protect resources for others. 

Lord, have mercy. 

Lord, have mercy.

 

Hymn: Come ye Thankful People Come

Come, ye thankful people, come,

Raise the song of harvest home!

fruit and crops are gathered in,

safe before the storms begin:

God our maker will provide

for our needs to be supplied;

come with all His people, come,

raise the song of harvest home.

 

All the world is God’s own field,

harvests for His praise to yield;

wheat and weeds together sown

here for joy or sorrow grown:

first the blade and then the ear,

then the full corn shall appear -

Lord of harvest, grant that we

wholesome grain and pure may be.

 

For the Lord our God shall come,

and shall bring His harvest home;

He Himself on that great day

worthless things shall take away,

give His angels charge at last

in the fire the weeds to cast,

but the fruitful ears to store

in His care for evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come -

bring Your final harvest home!

gather all your people in

free from sorrow, free from sin,

there, together purified,

ever thankful at Your side -

come, with all Your angels come,

bring that glorious harvest home.

The Old Testament reading for this Harvest Worship is Deuteronomy 8:7-18, take the time to read it well and then we’ll take some more time to think about this instruction.

Do not forget the LORD

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into 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.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 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. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 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.

15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ 

18 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 ancestors, as it is today.

This is the Word of the Lord: Thanks be to God

Hymn: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,

for the glory of the skies,

for the love which from our birth

over and around us lies.

Father, unto You we raise,

this our sacrifice of praise.

 

For the beauty of each hour,

of the day and of the night,

hill and vale, and tree and flower,

sun and moon, and stars of light.

Father, unto You we raise,

this our sacrifice of praise.

 

For the joy of love from God,

that we share on earth below,

for our friends and family,

and the love that they can show;

Father, unto You we raise,

this our sacrifice of praise.

 

For each perfect gift divine,

to our race so freely given,

thank You Lord that they are mine,

here on earth as gifts from heaven;

Father, unto You we raise,

this our sacrifice of praise.

 

So let’s now turn to reflect on those words found in Deuteronomy this morning:

Do not forget the Lord your God

Harvest Festival has always marked the culmination of the agricultural year, perhaps more in past years than current but it celebrates the yields of field and orchard, of river and ocean, of mine and forest.

In Deuteronomy, the children of Israel are poised to enter a land of fertile hills and valleys, a ‘land flowing with milk and honey.  But each year they were to remember the source of their prosperity: ‘Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’

For us too, it is good to ask again how we, in our society, with all its pressures, demands and opportunities, relate to the creation in which and out of which we live.

All is gift

Harvest is, first of all, a time of thanksgiving.  In our service at St Benedict’s this week, as at St Peter’s Carlton Colville last week we give thanks in prayer before seeking our confession and forgiveness.  To give thanks is to acknowledge a gift.  For the ancient Israelites this was to remember that they were utterly dependent on the bounty and faithfulness of God, given to them through the gifts of creation.  As Psalm 67 says:

The earth has yielded its increase;

God our God, has blessed us.

May God continue to bless us;

Let all the ends of the earth revere him.

We are totally dependent and must receive all that sustains us as gift.  Especially is this true of our natural world.  The mysteries of our environment are now being revealed in ways hitherto hardly imagined.  We look into space and vast eons of time, probing the origins of the universe.  We attempt to discern the very structure of matter and even try to determine the very origins of life itself.  Increasingly we are masters of our world, or at least we think we are!  But all these must be received as gift, gifts of God’s wisdom, grace and love.  So then, we with St Francis can say: ‘Praised be Lord God with all his creatures.  Praise and bless the Lord and give thanks to him and serve him with great humility.’

Receiving and responsibility

There is, however, also that which we receive from each other.  Humanity’s privilege and responsibility has been to create a social existence.  Our collection of gifts for others via the Food Bank is an example.  If we were to all behave more socially and share more equally of course then the Food Bank would not be required, but for now let’s consider our part, our responsibility to care for others who share this planet.  As Deuteronomy reminds us: the land and its resources enabled the Israelites to eat, to be housed, to possess flocks and to draw riches out of the earth.

A country vicar, greeting a parishoner who was tending his garden, said, ‘You and God have brought forth a beautiful display.’ ‘You should have seen it when God had it to himself,’ came the reply.  Indeed the skill and care of the farmer are to be received with thanksgiving, as are those that make things out of the resources of the earth, with all who contribute to the common life, in industry and commerce, in health (Thank you NHS) and public service (Thank you carers, Police, Firemen…..), as family or in friendship.  All this, too, is gift, which we offer to God with thanksgiving.  This is reflected in the Eucharist, Holy Communion when Bread and Wine are brought to the table as God’s gift.  In alternative words from Common Worship:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation.  Through your goodness we have this bread to set before you, which earth has given, and human hands have made.  It will become the bread of life…. we have this wine to set before you, fruit of the vine and work of human hands.  It will become for us the cup of salvation.

Thanksgiving as Responsibility

Harvest though comes more and more with a health warning.  The words of Deuteronomy ‘Do not say to yourself “My power and might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”’

All too often, creation is thought of as being there simply to exploit or to absorb our waste.  We consume the earth’s resources faster than can be sustained, through pollution, deforestation, desertification, endangering species, global warming.  In the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Generation have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is smeared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge, and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bar now, no feet can foot feel, being shod.

It is true that, slowly, a more responsible use of the natural environment is emerging.  For this too, it is proper to give thanks.

But ecological sustainability cannot happen without a huge cultural change, a ‘paradigm shift’ in our perspectives on human existence, that includes at its heart not only our own welfare but that of the whole of creation, which limits our demands to what the planet can supply.  This is a tall order.

‘Do not forget’ means recovering a sense of belonging to and responsibility for each other and the natural world, remembering that all is gift.

Jesus often tells his disciples, ‘Do not worry.’ Jesus does not mean ‘Do not care’, or, ‘Simply assume it will all come right.’ He is saying ‘trust’; get things into perspective; put God first.  ‘Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.’

The fundamental question is, ‘Do we trust God? Do we trust Jesus?’ Can we follow in the path of grateful thanksgiving? The future of the planet demands it.

Adapted from a Sermon by Paul Ballard, The Canterbury Preacher’s Companion 2020

Let us pray:

A Harvest Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, we offer you our grateful thanks for your fatherly goodness and care in giving us your gifts and the fruits of the earth through the seasons. Give us grace to use them rightly, to your glory, for our own wellbeing, and for the relief of those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

A Prayer for Healing:

Loving God, Source of all healing and comfort, fill us with your grace that the sick may be made whole, that those who care for us may be strengthened, that the anxious may be calmed, and those most vulnerable may be protected. In the power of the Spirit and in the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A Prayer for our Parishes:

Lord God, help us all to use this time of change within your churches to re-examine our faith in you, our service to you and our worship of you. Be with the congregations of St Peter’s Carlton Colville and St Andrew’s Mutford as they look forward to the arrival of Rev Sarah and Mike at the end of November. We pray also for the congregations at St Benedict’s and St Peter’s in Gunton, St Bartholomew’s Corton and St Margaret’s Hopton as they go forward together as a new enlarged benefice.  Bless each officer and Minister that supports them during this time of vacancy and bless them with a Minister that will take this benefice further in its life in due course.  In the name of Jesus, our Christ.  Amen.

Let us join together in the Lord’s Prayer, in whatever version or language is best for you today.

Hymn: We plough the fields and scatter

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.

 

He only is the Maker

of all things near and far;

He paints the wayside flower,

He lights the evening star;

the wind and waves obey Him,

by Him the birds are fed;

much more to us His children,

He gives our daily bread.

We thank You then, O Father,

for all things 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;

we come now, Lord, to give You our humble, thankful hearts.

 

 

All good gifts around us

are sent from heaven above,

then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,

for all His love.

 

May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you and be thankful unto you, and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always.  Amen

Let Us Bless the God: Thanks be to God.


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