Harvest Sermon 9th October 2022

Readings: Deuternonomy16, 13-17 and 24, 19-21,   Luke12, 13-32

Harvest. Celebrating the richness of God’s gifts to us, celebrating the results of the labours of those who produce our food, giving thanks for them, and for the produce. It’s a wonderful time, an annual celebration we all look forward to before the cold and dark days of winter.

But it’s rather sad that in today’s age of consumerism, of easy access (even in Sark) to foods both local and from all over the world, that the celebration of harvest in the western secular world has virtually disappeared as fewer and fewer people are involved in harvesting from our land.

In Sark, I’m sure there would have been a time when the churches would have been fairly full for Harvest Festival, when produce would have decorated every available surface as so many would be relying on the land for both food and income.

But things have changed greatly since the days of our Deuteronomy reading, when the celebrations would go on for a week, and then again when the Harvest had been processed, grain threshed, and wine pressed. The whole nation was instructed, by the law, to give thanks to God. And they would do it together. And everyone would be included, rich or poor, slave or free, native or foreigner- the importance of being grateful for plenty applied to all.

And not only that. Harvest was not to be just for the rich. In a society without income support or social security, in a society where families cared for each other, those outside of those circles of care were recognised as being in need, and able to partake of the harvest too.

Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless, the widow, the law said- and don’t forget to invite them to the celebrations too.

In stark contrast, we have the rich fool of Jesus’ parable.

With so much grain that he stores it all up in a bigger barn, saving it until there is famine perhaps, when it can be sold at inflated prices to those who can ill afford it, and looking only to material gain and pleasing himself, only to realise the pointlessness of all that when facing immediate death.

In our secular world today, when we think of Harvest, the picture of the rich fool is much more reminiscent of our western society as multinational companies and billionaires make excessive profits from those who can ill afford simple things like fuel, or food, and the whole world revolves around a stock market that gambles with the riches of the world’s harvests of food, fuel and minerals.

So what is different in our churches? How does our attitude to Harvest differ from the rest of the world- or indeed does it? What do we really learn from our study of scripture, what does the Holy Spirit prompt us to do in our lives which sets us apart from the secular world?

Of course, we give thanks to God, in this service, and in our prayers at other times. Of course, we recognise that others are in need, and we look out for the vulnerable, those outside of any care systems, in providing meals, and meeting places, foodbanks and in supporting charities.

But how much do we really listen to the parable of the rich fool, or the things Jesus went on to say in our reading from Luke? We do save up for our old age, we do pay into pension schemes, we do ensure we have more than enough, if we can afford it, to secure our future, and surely that is wise, that is good stewarding of our resources.

Does that fly in the face of the parable, or Jesus saying look at the lilies in the field, they neither labour or spin? Should we be selling our possessions and giving to the poor? Do we gather the Harvest in and then give it away?

It’s a tricky conundrum- at it’s core I suppose the question of how to be responsible, yet generous. The gospel is neither a prosperity gospel, nor one that says that wealth is bad. But it does say that what we do, and how we regard what we have been blessed with, has consequences

The core message in our Deuteronomy reading, as in Luke is not about what you have, but in recognising that it is a gift from God for which we should be thankful, and with which we should be ensuring that everyone, especially the vulnerable, has enough. Love your neighbour as you love yourself, Jesus says, time and again, and I often repeat, is the key. It’s that thinking that encouraged the church to introduce social care, leading ultimately in the UK to a social care system, income support and the NHS, education, and a sharing of resources through taxation. The law providing for the vulnerable, the homeless, the widows, the fatherless and (in the past at least) the foreigner. Those without voice, those without power or influence.

 In Sark, we do not have that, although as a society and as individuals generally we do support those we see in need and we have charities like Professor Saint, but on the whole we jealously protect a system that means we can keep more of what we have, and some people move and live here for that very reason- with the bonus that it is very beautiful.

 But there’s a reluctance to seek or press for a better system that would be fairer to the more vulnerable, those earning less, those struggling to make ends meet whilst still working every hour they can. We’re perhaps still busy filling, or keeping topped up, our barns with grain for our comfortable futures, and yet, like the rich fool we do not know what our futures will be. We still spend half our lives worrying instead of trusting God’s provision whilst responsibly managing his gifts to us. We spend less and less time seeking the treasures of God’s Kingdom, perhaps, as Christians, assuming they are ours by right.

Giving thanks to God for his gifts of Harvest is not just about celebration. Scripture tells us that it is also about responsibility. Even going right back to Genesis, humankind is given the earth, to be good stewards, not to plunder it.

So as we celebrate Harvest, may our thankfulness and our faith be strong enough to recognise that God asks a response from us to his generosity and grace- if we live and speak out for the truths Jesus taught us, we will be true followers seeking a treasure in heaven.

 A treasure where our hearts are, seeking his kingdom, because his promise is that all good things will be given to us for which we can give thanks if we seek first the kingdom of God.

I’d like to finish with some simple, yet profound words from Hosea chapter 10, verse 12

Sow with a view to righteousness,

Reap in accordance with kindness;

Break up your fallow ground,

For it is time to seek the Lord

Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.