I have enjoyed this year’s harvest season by attending 3 harvest suppers, each with different food and of course a different group of people, and 5 harvest festivals.
The festivals were at various schools and churches. I only preached my full sermon at one of them, the last. But I used the first part as an introduction at one service where our youth group and leaders put on their annual harvest play. The season drew to a close with a café style church service which instead of a traditional sermon we will had a variety of questions to ask the congregation. It went well as we considered creation and our care of it.
This is the text of my harvest sermon. As usual I read around the subject and got things from various sources. I am sorry I haven’t referenced my sources. I have, however, inserted some photos from our holiday.
Harvest Festival sermon 2021
It’s good to be back from our holidays. Terry and I had a lovely 2 week stay in a cottage on a farm – the Holystone Estate in Northumberland. We enjoyed watching the Aberdeen Angus cows and the bulls plus their offspring.
There was a variety of sheep too. Plus, on my morning walk around the lanes I was delighted with the scenes in the fields.
One of them at the beginning of our stay had just started to bale up the hay. By the end of the 2 weeks, it was all safely gathered into the barn.
Signs of autumn were there all around, with the leaves starting to change colour and fall.
As I walked it was easy to praise God for the wonders of his creation. The fields, the animals, the sunshine and fortunately not much rain. Upon my return I was reminded of the current concern over the environment. The changes in temperature of the globe may mean that I can enjoy paddling in the North Sea in September, but it is not good for others where there are serious consequences.
Little did I know that on Friday as we were travelling home, young climate activists from around the world would be marching once again to call on governments to cut carbon emissions and tackle the climate crisis. The organisers, Fridays for Future had registered over 1,300 climate strikes for that day. While the majority were planned in Europe, marches also happened in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The young protesters say loud and clear that climate action is more urgent than ever; illustrated by this year’s forest fires, heat, floods, and other extreme weather events linked to a warming planet.
The youth climate activists call upon today’s leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 C° by drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Often people criticise Christianity for being part of the making of this problem. In the past there was the idea of God giving people dominion over the earth and to subdue it, as we read in the creation account in Genesis. For years, people acted as though the world was a store cupboard that would never empty.
The thinking these days, for most Christians, has however moved to that of us being part of creation and have a responsibility to look after it. To care for creation, to nurture it and to not treat it as a never-ending source of fuel and food. As we gather once again to celebrate the harvest, to thank God for his provision, I want to briefly look at the 2 bible readings we have been given for today to see what they may say about climate change and the challenges we face today.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 – is part of a letter written to a church leader addressing how they should live as Christians. It contains the famous line: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. Money is a man-made invention. It was initially invented to enable an easier exchange of goods and services. The barter system has many short comings. As life got more complicated, the need for money grew.
But as years progressed, money became further and further away from the goods themselves, until it became something which people pursued for itself. Much of western society values wealth for its own sake. It is the love of money that has led us to want more and more manufactured things, for shops like Ikea to offer the things we didn’t even know we wanted till we saw them.
We want comfortable homes, holidays abroad, cars etc. We are all caught up in this and of course it is very difficult for us to change – either as individuals or society. Big business is involved in so much of life and big money influences politicians.
But the politicians have committed in Paris in 2015 to cut carbon emissions. And they are meeting again this October in Glasgow, hence the activity of protestors.
Many of the main faith leaders in this country – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and others – have made a declaration of their belief in a hopeful future, as well as an obligation to be responsible in caring for the earth. Much of the burden of loss and damage falls on the weakest and poorest of the world, especially women and children.
They seek to strengthen the commitment to respond to this challenge by:
- Prayer to discern how to care for the earth and encourage their communities to do the same
- Making transformational changes in their own lives and those of their communities through individual and collective action.
- Being advocates for justice by calling on governments, businesses and others who exercise power and influence to put into effect the Paris agreement, to make the transition to a just and green economy and to commit to science-based targets.
You and I can join our prayers with theirs.
You and I can continue to try to be more aware of our actions on the environment. Many small actions can make a difference.
You and I can sign petitions and be active in other ways as we come across them. Here’s a link to one I signed
Matthew 6:25-33 – Flip back a bit earlier in the bible and you read Jesus saying you cannot serve God and money. But we do often worry about our finances. Will there be enough for this or that? Jesus often taught that we should make God our No.1 priority in life. God is the creator of this wonderful world. As it says in Psalm 24
‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Ps 24:1) ‘The land is mine … you are but tenants’ says the Law of Moses in Leviticus (25:23) which says: ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field.’ Why? because it is only our land as a tenant, not as an owner and we have a moral responsibility to treat it as the owner requires. That is a condition of our tenancy. The world is not our property.
But for Christians there is more. The world is not ours, But we are Christ’s.
We are a redeemed people. We belong to the one through whom and for whom everything was created. (Colossians 1:16) ‘You are not your own’ wrote St Paul ‘For you were bought with a price.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Through Christ we are a forgiven people.
Until recently our contribution to climate change was through ignorance. The early industrialists burnt fossil fuels and some industrial agriculturists cut down rainforests – and they didn’t know that this would change the climate. Our grandparents did not know this, nor did our parents. But we do.
“Every individual who has driven a car, or flown in an aeroplane, lived in an energy hungry modern house, bought clothes or computers made 10,000 miles away, or bought shares in a large corporation, is fractionally involved in global warming.” Says a leading Anglican expert on Climate Change (the Revd Professor Michael Northcott).
I am guilty as charged! But what can we do? We take it to the cross of Jesus, leave it there, and find through the Holy Spirit, the grace to live differently. For we are more than a forgiven people. We are people restored to our proper place as the stewards of the earth, sharing in the news creation. This is what seeking first God’s kingdom means.
Care of Creation is at the heart of Christian discipleship because care of creation means more than growing or raising food, doing the gardening or farming. Care of Creation means caring for the environment, caring for the people and the animals we share this planet with. We are restored through Christ to what we were created for.
Our consumer culture must change. It must become a culture of self-sacrifice for the common good. That is at the heart of Christian spirituality
If our society is to change it will need strength from beyond ourselves. We cannot do it alone.
We are empowered by Jesus, through prayer, scripture, worship, and the sacraments to love God, and our neighbour, and to care for creation with all that we have.
As the Pope says ‘God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue.’ Our world view and spirituality as Christians is crucial for our involvement with the climate crisis.
And we do so because we are people of hope. We believe that the kingdom that will finally come at the climax of history, when God makes everything new, has broken into the world in Jesus Christ, to whom we belong.
And our calling is to bring that kingdom to bear on every crisis we face today. From the small day to day things through to the global issues. So however great the climate crisis, and it is the greatest threat the world has known in this human era, we engage it with faith and not with fatalism because we are Christians.
If year after year we hope to celebrate the harvest here, we must attend to creation care and to the climate crisis. We can do so, if we will acknowledge that the world does not belong to us, but we belong to Christ. Amen