Welcome to this morning's Harvest Festival service led by Rev. Christine Fox.
Unfortunately it was not possible to deliver the full sermon within the live service but it is given in text form at the bottom of this blog entry.
For copyright reasons a short YouTube video forming part of the children's address has been edited out of the online recording but is available separately here (double-click to follow the link or paste it into the address box of your browser):
Before the service itself, a series of administrative announcements was made primiarily relating to the superintendency of the circuit and the final service for one of the circuit churches. This section has no bearing on the content of the Harvest Festival service itself but a video of these announcements may be found here:
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Rev Christine Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to all those who have been part of arranging this week's service.
God Bless x
Message for Grangewood Harvest 25 September 2022
Comfort my people
The verse that struck me from those words of Paul to Timothy are ‘But Godliness with contentment is great gain’
The words comfort and contentment sound very similar don’t they? ‘comfort and contentment’ - together they paint a picture of someone wrapped up in a warm blanket sitting by the fire, with a mug of cocoa! But perhaps the difference comes in which of these two you are seeking – are you seeking comfort, or seeking to be content with what you have?
I’ve already spoken about the innate desire that overtakes some of us in the late summer to gather in the harvest be it apples or chestnuts, onions or runner beans, and fill our food cupboards and freezers, and maybe the temptation to take comfort from having it there. But contentment with what we have means that even if we have only enough for today we are happy. The letter to Timothy speaks of having contentment if we have food and clothes – not heaps of them but enough, and that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it’.
And if it were not enough for us to be asked to question if we put our hope in a full freezer, Paul also challenges us about our attitude to money. Often misquoted, it is not money per se but ‘the love of money’, that ‘is the root of all kinds of evil’ – we know that, really, for money is just a tool, and to survive in this world generally means having enough money.
But here it is those who have more than enough money who are challenged; I think that the people Timothy were ministering too were well off and this was a serious threat to their Christian character and community– and so those who have more than enough money are challenge on their use of money – perhaps challenged to not just choose the cheapest food we can get instead of deciding to spend a bit more to buy Fair trade or local, or organically grown options. It’s easy to go for the cheapest but rather harder when you’re in a rush at the shops to think of the person who grew the food and if they’re getting a fair price for their work, or to think how many miles the food has been transported, or remember to support the organic farmers who care for the soil and avoid using the chemicals that pollute our waterways and kill the bees and deplete the nutrients in the food that most people eat.
Maybe how hard you find it to think this way depends on whether you are a spender or a saver – We’ve been brought up to think that saving is better than spending – yes we need a balance – but I want to applaud the spenders among you who will spend a bit more money because you are using that money for the good of others.
If you don’t have enough money you won’t have the choice to do that, but happily you are less likely to put your hope in wealth, and your trust in God less likely to be threatened. Paul warns Timothy that the rich more easily put their hope in wealth – but that wealth is uncertain – so he says ‘put your hope in God who richly provides all we need for our enjoyment!’
Old Testament professor Donald Gowan reflects that it is far easier for the preacher to comfort the afflicted than to afflict the comfortable, as the latter can choose not to hear –they say ‘surely my comfort proves that my behaviour is right’. Spend or save?, surely a middle way is best – as it says in Proverbs 30 – ‘
give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.
At the beginning of the service we heard the wisdom of a Ghanaian farmer who simply stated that for the good of the farmer and the good of the environment we who have, must have less – a call to spend our money for the good of others, and a way to ensure there will be a harvest for all for years to come. One way we can do this is as we shop for our food, so that getting a fair wage our food producers across the world will be able to also protect the environment for they will no longer need to cut down the trees to survive. as we buy local or organic we reduce the destructive chemical impact as well, so protecting the next generation’s health. For those who have money, what a privilege to have this power to work with God to enable a harvest for all who will be content just to have some food and clothing, and to put their hope in God. For this we give thanks.
As we come with thanks to God for the harvest, this very act of gratitude and realisation of our dependence on God for all that we have will keep us close to our loving, generous Creator.