Harvest Festival 2008
sermons year A
Christopher Harrison home page
What do the following have in common? The Aral Sea; the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s; the current problems in the US financial system?
- The Aral Sea was once the world’s 4th largest inland sea
- It has been shrinking since the 1960s, as the rivers that fed it were diverted to irrigate the farmland of the region
- In 2007 it was only one tenth of its original size, and had become three separate lakes, two of which were too salty for fish
- It had become heavily polluted; its fishing industry had collapsed; there was an environmental catastrophe.
- A project to rejuvenate the sea which began in 2005 has resulted in the water level of one of the lake’s levels rising by more than 2 metres, however, and the number of fish is growing.
- The Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s resulted from many years of over-farming, without crop rotation or other techniques to prevent erosion. For years farmers had left the fields bare during winter, and burned the wheat stubble, which deprived the land of organic matter.
- It also marked the culmination of several years of drought, during which the soil over vast areas dried out and turned to dust; the grass dried and the top soil was blown away.
- 100 million acres of farmland were affected, and hundreds of thousands of people had to leave their homes.
- The current US financial crisis is the result of years of over-lending, often to people and organizations who were not creditworthy. Debts were accumulated by banks and other lenders beyond what was prudent. More money was created by the banking system and then lost, through bad loans, than could be sustained.
What is the connection between all these? In each case more was taken out than was put in. Water … the goodness of the earth … money.
Harvest festival is a time for giving thanks to God for the work of farmers here and around the world, for remembering God’s goodness in giving us the blessing of food in such abundance. It is also a time for praying for those farmers, both here and elsewhere, who are in difficulty, and for those who do not have enough food to eat. But it is also a time for remembering how important it is to get the balance right between what we take out and what we put back in. Farmers know this – as do gardeners. This is a principle, however, which goes beyond farming:
- God has given us blessings, so we should give back to God - our time, our skills, our money;
- We have received much from others, so we need to give back to others – by passing on our knowledge and experience of life to the next generation; giving support to those in need, whether in terms of our care and love, or money for those who do not have enough to live on, whether here or overseas;
- When we take too much from ourselves – in terms of the demands we place on ourselves – we can pay the price in terms of exhaustion and poor health. Now of course there are times for pushing ourselves – but if we get the balance wrong between work and rest we pay the price, as do those around us. So we need to put back in time to rest and recharge our reserves of strength and spirit.
In each of these cases, if we take out more than we put in someone pays a price. As St. Paul said, ‘sparse sowing, sparse reaping’.
- If we don’t spend enough time giving back to God in our prayers and in our worship, we begin to lose that sense of closeness to God which is there if we pray and worship regularly.
- If our lives are too focused on ourselves, then the love we receive from others begins to dwindle.
- If we don’t give something back from the blessings we have received in terms of wealth and prosperity, like the rich man with his barns, in today’s reading, then not only do our own hearts become hardened but we lose the true riches which come from being connected with others through mutual giving and receiving.
On this Harvest Festival Sunday, therefore, let us pray for God’s guidance in knowing how much he wants us to give back, of ourselves, so that those around us may benefit. It may be a time for remembering what we have received from others, and resolving to plant seeds so that others may reap. It may be a time for helping those around us to reap the harvest of their own talents and skills. And above all, let us not forget the supreme act of self-giving by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave nothing less than his very self on the cross, so that all who believe and trust in him should have eternal life. Amen.
sermons year A
Christopher Harrison home page