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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon

5nd October 2005

Fr David Shepherd

Harvest Festival 2005

Harvest Festival in Oxhey always requires an exercise of imagination or memory of a more rural childhood living as we do in an urban area like Watford. There is a danger of a nostalgic rural romanticism but a greater danger is that we take everything for granted. We are unaware of God crowning the year with his goodness. No longer do we receive the fruits of the earth in their season. They are now available all the year round, flown in from around the world.

Yet if we do exercise our imagination and use our reason we soon realise that harvest is still vital and that we remain dependent on the complex yet fragile web of connections that supplies us with our daily bread. Harvest Festival remains important for albeit in different ways than in the past.

Our Harvest Collect gives us three ways to think about harvest. They embrace the material and the spiritual, the earthly and the heavenly. So let us look at those three things, three ways of using the harvest, to the glory of God, for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being.

  1. To the glory of God. The collect reverses our sinful order of looking at things - me first, God last. It's both foolish and spiritually dangerous as the man in the parable presumably discovered. He thought his future was secure yet his soul was required of him that night. The abundance of harvest reflects the glory of God, his provision and the beauty of his good creation. How can we use God's gifts to his glory? By giving him true worship, by being thankful, by not forgetting. That seems obvious enough. Jesus suggested a further way way, by not being anxious, by considering the birds and the flowers and by trusting in God's provision. In such ways do we give glory to God.
  2. For the relief of those in need. So preoccupied are we with the needs of number one that we forget the needs of others as well as forgetting God. It seems to be linked with having plenty. Hence that warning to Israel in Deuteronomy, not to forget when they came into plenty. Ours is a world of want and hunger. In the West fat is a preoccupation. Overseas starvation is the order of the day. There is enough for everyone given a commitment to sharing our resources more equitably and developing the means to overcome shortage.
  3. For our own well being. If we can get the order right, God, others, self, then we will serve our own well being. Our physical health will improve if greed gives way to sharing. We will be spiritually better off in a restored relationship with God expressed in thankful worship and lives of service.

We knew it already but harvest festival remains important. It reminds us of some fundamentals of human life. Those three ways of using the harvest, to God's glory, for the relief of those in need and for our own well being, are linked closely together in a kind of holy trinity. If we chew prayerfully over our readings later in the week we will receive God's gift of the harvest for ourselves.

Thanks be to God.


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