Church of England Diocese of Leeds Barningham

Sermon from Rev Antony for Harvest, 10th October 2021

The tradition of thanksgiving for harvest follows from this Old Testament scenario that we have no right to a good harvest, instead the outcome of the harvest is in the hands of God.

So today we give thanks to God for our harvest, and we thank God for blessing us with abundance, variety and richness.

Our thanksgiving though is for more than just food, it is for peace and happiness, it is for contentment and hope.

Many people, have lost sight of hope and thanksgiving. In losing sight of these things people have lost sight of God.

In our Gospel reading Jesus sees worry as a concern of the disciples that is drawing them away from God. Worry erodes our trust in God. If we are busy worrying then we inevitably lose sight of God. Of course, the problem with this statement is that we all worry from time to time.

We are told do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. “Can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothes? Therefore, do not worry saying what will we eat or what will we drink or what will we wear, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.

The Greek word for worry means to be preoccupied or be absorbed by. To be preoccupied by food and appearance is to view life too narrowly and yet how often do we do it.

Birds are sited as having a proper attitude to food, they work hard to find it but they do not store it for possible future shortages. Rather the birds rely on God to provide.

King Solomon was known for his wealth and splendour, he accumulated wealth because it was possible to accumulate it, just as some people do today, but for all his wealth nature has more beauty than anything Solomon might wear.

As God cares for creation how much more will he care for and clothe those who are faithful to him.

So, it is we must stop being preoccupied about our physical needs.

Jesus tellingly says that those who do not believe in God, not knowing of God’s love, seek security in possessions.

He starts his teaching by saying that man cannot serve both God and money.

Jesus also tells us that God knows our needs, so worrying about those needs is to suspect God of forgetting or neglecting us.

Our prime objective must be to put God first, and to love others as ourself.

In reality Jesus is not saying that posessions don’t matter, what he’s saying is our lives should not be taken over by worry or by posessions.

Our priority is rather to enjoyed the good things of life, but not at the expense of others.

Jesus, himself, had plenty to worry about, he knew that death on the Cross lay in wait for him but he practiced what he preached. He was not a worrier, rather when he was in doubt, we read of him praying to his heavenly Father.

Jesus tried to teach his followers to do likewise. Jesus teaches that prayer is essential and not optional but how good are we in our prayer lives?

From time to time we read that Jesus was sad. Usually, he was sad because of events around him. There is nothing wrong with being sad about the world.

The current exodus of people from Afghanistan and the surrounding areas is an example of where it is right for us to cry about world events just as Jesus would have done.

The need for our local food banks are further examples. Our lack of regard for the planet and resulting climate change is another example.

Jesus had a positive approach to life. It is said that this Gospel passage reflects Jesus’s experience of life in demonstrating the three underlying attitudes of joy, trust and focus on God the father.

Jesus appreciated creation, the joy of the birds in the sky, the joy of the flowers in the field. He trusted God, he prayed regularly, he saw God as approachable, loving and kind.

Jesus teaches us to have joy in God and in all the good things he has made, to have trust in God’s goodness and in his daily provision of our needs and to focus, not on accumulating wealth for ourselves, but rather on doing what God wants us to do. This is about our priority in how we lead our life.

Do we follow what Jesus is asking of us? There are distractions along the way. There were distractions 2000 years ago and those distractions have not diminished.

But today there is joy in how people respond to the issues referred to. Refugees have found a welcome when they have reached foreign lands, the Churches have responded to homeless people providing food banks etc.

Does poverty arise because there are not enough resources in the world or is it because some of us hoard what there is? Is the gap between the wealthy and the poor getting ever greater as we are told because the world’s priorities are wrong?

Surely the world would be a better place if everyone started out by seeking the kingdom of God and were guided by that search.

Righteousness, Jesus teaches, means being in solidarity with those who suffer.

As we give thanks for our harvest, we need to remember how blessed we are. and we need to share that blessing with others and care for all those in need. We need to campaign for real justice in the world. If we do that then we can really give thanks for the harvest.

Today then we thank God for his love and we pray that we may put God first on our agenda.