Harvest 2020

Revd. Heather
Sunday, October 4, 2020 - 9:30am

Today, Harvest, is for us a particular day of gratitude. It’s a day when we give thanks to God for creation, for its bounty, for the food and drink we enjoy. We give thanks to God for the farmers, the fishermen and women, and this year at the forefront of our minds are all those who work in the supply and delivery of food, and of shopkeepers – of all who kept working during lockdown to ensure that there was food to restock the empty supermarket shelves, to ensure that we were able to eat. And more broadly, harvest is a day when we say thank you to God for all the blessings that we enjoy.

In today’s Gospel reading we hear of ten lepers, ten people who find themselves the most reviled in society – untouchable for fear that they will spread disease. When the group sees Jesus, they hope that he will be able to help them and call out to him. And he tells these people to go and show themselves to the priests, for in Jewish society they have the authority to declare that someone is healed. The nine, I think we can assume, were obedient and went to the priest and were declared healed. They had followed the law, and perhaps they hurried to see their families, and were caught up in the excitement of a future where they were no longer outcast due to illness. 

Yet there was one in the ten, the Samaritan – the one who was doubly outcast because not only did he have leprosy, but was also a foreigner - who went back first to Jesus, to thank him. Jesus had been instrumental in his healing, and for that this man had gratitude, gratitude enough to take the time to come back to Jesus and thank him. Jesus tells him: ‘his faith has made him well’; making us aware that he is a believer in Christ. This story, placed here in the Gospel of Luke, serves as a reminder to the disciples that they too have been forgiven, cleansed, healed, by their faith in Christ. They are people who were once outsiders and have been gifted the love of God, and responded to it. They too are ones who are to give thanks, to give thanks to God for their life with Jesus. 

Yet too often, it can be easy to forget to say thank you – like the nine lepers who never returned to Jesus – caught up in the joy of what has just happened and moving quickly on. Yet saying ‘thank you’ is powerful, it shows gratitude and respect to others. When we come to say thank you to God, it is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude and respect for all that God has done for us. The mediaeval mystic, Meister Eckhart, once said, ‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough’.’  Thank you. It’s one of the shortest and simplest prayers imaginable, yet it helps to keep us aware of all that God has done for us, and all the blessings God has poured out upon us. 

But what do we do with our thankfulness? This week I saw a question posed, in relation to thankfulness, and it is a wonderful illustration. It asks: are you a bucket or a tap? 

Think of a bucket. A bucket collects water. In relation to thankfulness, a bucket may collect blessings. We store up in our bucket all the things that we are thankful for, and you enjoy seeing them add up. Perhaps at harvest we’re able to put a fair bit in our bucket as we give thanks to God for the bounty of creation, for food, for shelter, for human love and friendship, for the opportunity to gather for worship, for God’s love for us and for coming to earth to live amongst us. Perhaps we can start filling our bucket nicely. So much to be thankful for. So much to hold on to.   

Now think of a tap. Whereas a bucket collects water, a tap receives water and passes it on. Perhaps you are someone who receives the blessings of God, but instead of holding on to them, and keeping them for yourself, you share them with others, allowing that stream of blessings to continue. Perhaps as we give thanks to God for the blessings we have received, we find ourselves prompted to share our good fortune with others. We know that we cannot simply thank God for the blessings we have received in life when we know that vast numbers of people around the world struggle to survive, and die each day from hunger, thirst, inequality and injustice. And so, we bring our harvest offerings to church today. We give thanks for the food that we have, and we bring some to church to donate to the Foodbank. We seek to bless others through sharing what we have received. We may give thanks for the monetary blessings we have received through tithing, giving away 5% of our income to the church and 5% to other charities. As a church we may give thanks for all that we are and have by supporting our charitable partners – this month our charity of the month is the Foodbank. Perhaps we are thankful for the faith we have received and seek to share the Good News of Jesus with others; for the talents and time we have, and so seek to serve. Perhaps we pay forward blessings we have received in terms of acts of kindness, in sharing that kindness with others. 

This notion of passing our blessings on is very much at the heart of our reading from St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians this morning. St Paul reminds us that God has generously blessed us and calls us to glorify God by our willingness to share with others. God calls us to give thanks, to give cheerfully, and to share the abundance of God’s blessings that we enjoy with others. Like a tap God calls us to pass on the blessings we have received, rather than storing them up for ourselves themselves. 

As, like the tenth leper, we give thanks to God today, where will our thanksgiving lead us this harvest? As we give thanks to God, in our worship and in our lives, will we be like buckets or taps? Amen.