Good Morning! Welcome to this mornings service.
Worship today is led by Morag Walder and Jessica Bullett
Click below on the red play button to start the video. You can also find the service on YouTube here if it isn’t working on the blog.
God Bless x
Thank you to all those who have been part of putting together this weeks service.
Message - Morag Walder
My journey to work, a couple of years ago, took me through farmland. Through the seasons I saw the fields ploughed, then the young plants emerging. And then on sunny summer days the harvest taking place, the farmers often working late into the evening. And there is a reassuring rhythm in this rural cycle.
It may be that we now take harvests for granted: we don’t have to wait til June to buy strawberries. We don’t necessarily spend autumn days pickling and preserving harvest fruits and vegetables for the winter days.
Perhaps we take for granted that a trip down to the local supermarket or an online order will fill our shopping baskets with the food, the harvest, that we need.
That is until a pandemic arrives, and a lockdown is announced. And we find that pasta, rice, flour and icing sugar are in short supply.
But even through lockdown most of us had enough to eat. Those of us who were shielding were even provided with boxes of basic foodstuffs - including some fresh fruit and vegetables.
And we were appreciative of all those key workers - the farmers, the factory staff, the shop workers, the delivery staff.... all those who have kept working through these past 6 months.
Many of us were not hungry.
Many of us found time to bake and tryout new recipes.
Many of us found time to spend in our gardens, planting our own fruit and vegetables.
Despite the pandemic, despite lockdown, there has been a harvest.
And so we come with our thanks.
As the harvest hymn invites us:
Come, ye thankful people, come
Raise the song of harvest home
Come ye thankful people come.
And so we give thanks.
Thanks for the cycle of the seasons.
Thanks for that reassuring rhythm of sewing and growing that culminates in harvest, captured in the beautiful and poetic words of psalm 65, where the year is crowned with a bounty and carts overflow with abundance.
Come ye thankful people, come.
Sing songs of joy.
Sing choruses of thanks.
But Harvest is not only a time for celebration.
It brings a call for consideration.
Consideration of our responsibilities towards others for whom the harvest has not been so good.
Whether that is because their fields have been flooded by relentless tropical storm, ravaged by plagues of locusts, or burnt up by wild fires.
Or because the pandemic has caused businesses to collapse, work forces to be rationalised and redundancies to bring significant hardship.
And we are called to consider: so what?
So what are we going to do?
This year Bible Month focussed on the book of Ruth.
We read that Naomi and her family moved to Moab, another country, during a time of famine in their own land.
And there they stay for some while.
Our reading today tells us of the time that the famine is over. Naomi returns to Bethlehem, from Moab, with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Both women are widows and have experienced heart-breaking times.
Imagine you were there, maybe too as a migrant - like Ruth.
These would have been tough times for these two widows, and not least for Ruth - who comes to Bethlehem as a foreigner, an outsider. Naomi refers to these as bitter times.
It was the time of the Barley harvest in Bethlehem, and the law - as laid down in Leviticus - provides for those who are experiencing hard times. Farmers leave the corners of the fields so that they can be gleaned by others.
And so Ruth goes out to glean in the fields, to collect the barley that has been purposely missed by the harvesters.
Here there is provision. Food to take home.
We also read of the protection that Boaz, the landowner, provides for Ruth.
Provision and protection.
These are tough times for many in our world, at this time of harvest
And we are called to consider what we are going to do.
There are the very practical things that we can do.
People have shared the plants and produce from their gardens and allotments.
People have sold plants and produce, donating the proceeds to help others.
And we can support the work of Hope - in food donations today - and in the future.
And the work of Framework by donation.
Harvest time encourages us to consider our provision for others.
But there is also, I think, something in the reading about protection.
The young people presented the stories of 3 hardworking farmers in different places.
Each farmer diligent and dedicated. They represent farmers in different contexts.
As I read around the issues there was a common theme shouting out.
It was seen as responsible for the locust plagues.
It was suggested as being significant in the tropical storms.
It has been cited as influential in the wild fires that have been burning in different parts of the world.
It is being recognised by the young, it is being highlighted by the experts and elders.
It is discussed by scientists. It is already having an impact on the environment.
In a stark speech in the past week Prince Charles said that it “is rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.
And we need to continue to consider what we are going to do about it.
As individuals and families.
As a church.
Interestingly this week is the annual UK wide Recycling Week.. And the council has produced information on how we can improve our recycling and waste reduction.
But it is about more than just recycling.
And it needs our response - not least because it impacts on harvest for so many, food insecurity for so many.
Harvest: a time for celebration and thanksgiving.
Harvest: a time for consideration - of provision for others , of protection of the environment.
The young people brought us a story of three farmers .... and their harvests.
Of John - who saw a harvest,
of Raj - whose harvest was washed away in the storms, and is now in debt,
and Elizabeth - who, despite the locusts, is hoping that she may still get some harvest. But the threat of food insecurity hovers.
“And that is the end of the story.....
Or is it?” they asked.