Harvest Thanksgiving October 13, 2019

Revd Canon Claude Schroeder

So today is Harvest Thanksgiving, and it’s a signal to us of the importance the Church attaches to this celebration that the furnishings in the church and the clergy are vested in white, which of course is the color for Christmas and Easter. So what’s the connection between the coming in the flesh of the God/ Man Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, and Harvest Thanksgiving? I’ll come back to this a little later in the sermon.

In our first reading this morning, we had Moses preaching to the people, exhorting them not to forget God , after He brings them into this wonderful land and gives them prosperity, and they neglect His commandments. It’s why in the law which Moses gave the people, there were three major festivals which comprised the liturgical life of the Temple in Jerusalem, each of which was tied into one the land. The first and most festival was Passover, when the Jews celebrated their liberation from their slavery in Egypt. This took place in spring, and coincided with the barley harvest. Seven weeks later, in early summer, came Pentecost, and the celebration of the handing down of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai, which coincided with the wheat harvest. And then in the fall, there was the Feast of Booths, where the Jews celebrated how God led His people on their rather 40 year journey through the desert on way into the promised land. And this festival coincided with the closing out of the agricultural year, much like our Harvest Festival.

And so you see how these celebrations of the mighty acts of God in the history of God’s people was tied in organically (pardon the pun) with what was happening in the farm, which is where most people lived. When in obedience to the law, the people left their farms and went on pilgrimage to appear before the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem, they brought with them, some of the first fruits of the harvest, as an expression of their worship and thanksgiving to God. This explains why at Christmas, Easter, and Harvest we also take up special thank-offering in the church.

At the heart of the Jewish faith was the promise that God made to Abraham and his descendants. That promise involved three things: land, food, and family. When you think about it, what more does any of us really want from God, but to worship Him in peace and enjoy the blessing of land, food, and family? Why is Canada one of the go to destination for refugees? It is the prospect of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

But we live in a culture that [is] happy to take the land, eat the food, and have the children. Forget God…

What we have discovered is that through faith in Jesus Christ, and in the Church, we too are counted among Abraham’s children. God’s promises to Abraham find their fulfillment in us. And so, no promise? No faith. No faith? No church. No church? No Eucharist. No Eucharist? No thanksgiving. No thanksgiving? No blessing. No Blessing? No hope. No hope? No future…

Now I am conscious of the fact that on this Harvest Thanksgiving all is not well. Cool and wet weather in our province has hampered the harvest so that just over only half the crop is in. But this pales in comparison to what is commonly referred to as “climate change:” the claim that our industrial economy and our unbridled consumption of the fruits of the earth is producing a warming of the earth’s atmosphere that is having a catastrophic and seemingly irreversible impact on the eco-system and the future of the planet.

In the public square among politicians, scientists, journalists, activists, bloggers things are also really heating up as people protest, debate and argue with each other not only about the doctrine concerning climate change, but what, if anything can and should be done about it, before it’s too late! In June the government of our country declared a “climate emergency.” Back in September an estimated 7.6 million people around the world, many of them young people, took to the streets in a “Global Climate Strike.” And then in New York we had a young Swedish climate activist addressing the United Nations charging the current generation of leaders of the “unforgivable sin,” not of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but of inaction on the climate change issue. One hears of young people seemingly deciding not to have children on account of what is happening. So much for the promise of Abraham…

In the midst of all of this, we can discern another change in the climate, that the spiritual and emotional climate. The winds of panic, fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, despair, blaming and shaming are blowing strong, and have now become the air that we breathe.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Rector and congregation of St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Regina are happily singing away,

“We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand, He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain, And breezes and the sunshine and soft refreshing rain.”

Climate change? What climate change? What a thing. Are we that out of touch? Are we that naive? Or are we just burying our heads in the sand?

Shouldn’t we be at least be mourning and grieving the destruction of the good seed and land, and the disruption of the snow in water, the warmth to swell the grain, the breezes and the sunshine and soft refreshing rain?

As it turns out before we offer our Great Thanksgiving today, we are all going to have opportunity to do just that. It’s called the Confession. It’s where we bring to Christ all of our sins and all of griefs and all of our sorrows, believing that on the Cross He bore it all, and in bearing it, carried it away.

“0 Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.”

Might we not also pray for deliverance from the great evils that threaten us? Here is where in we might avail ourselves of the Great Litany in our Prayer Book where it says “From lightening and tempest, from earthquake, fire and flood, from plague, pestilence and famine, from battle and murder and from sudden death, Good Lord deliver us.” (BCP p. 31)

One also thinks of the special supplication at the end of the Litany where we ask God to ”turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved” and that “those evils which the craft and subtly of the devil or man worketh against us , be brought to not…” ( BCP. 36,37).

How about just praying for the good weather, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times?

Every Sunday.

I like to think that here at St. Mary’s we are all quite keen on the Holy Spirit, who is the presence and power of God in our midst, and as the Nicene Creed declares is, “The Lord the Giver of Life.” In Psalm 104, v.31 we read, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” So when did God send forth His Spirit? God poured out His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, after Jesus died and rose again, and as a result is recreating out of the dust and renewing the face of the earth.

Somebody asked me recently,” What should the Church’s response he to climate change?

I hope it is clear from what I have said so far that the Church’s principle response to climate change consists in worshipping God, in repenting not only of our own sins, but also repenting on behalf of those who believe they have nothing to repent of. To pray for deliverance from evil, for God’s blessing on the earth, for the sending of the Holy Spirit and finally, and most importantly to give thanks to God in and for all things.

Anybody can protest, scream and shout. It takes a Christian to worship God.

So for us to come to church this morning, and sing, “We Plough the Fields and Scatter” isn’t as stupid as it sounds. In and through our prayer and worship, we are changing the climate, both spiritual and the physical climate, unless of course you believe the Universe is a closed system in which the supernatural God is not active… In and through our prayer and worship we are proclaiming the Good News of the Kingship of Jesus Christ over the whole earth, and that “the earth is the Lords and everything in it belongs to Him.” (Psalm 24.1)

And as far as I know, the covenant that God made with Noah and his sons and every living creature on the earth still stands, ”Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9.8-11)

And not only that, but through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we believe that God has not only recreated and is renewing the earth, filling it with His Spirit, but has set us free from our bondage to sin and death to tend and work for the healing of the earth. Do you remember how in John’s Gospel when Mary encountered the Risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday she thought He was the gardener. Interesting, no? In the Resurrection we become the gardener’s in God’s new creation, and not simply consumers in a throw away society. In a saying attributed to Martin Luther, “If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today!

That’s what I call hope.

So you see that for the Church, the central issue of our times is not climate change, and what to do about it, and how to respond. The central issue is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and what to do about that, and how respond to that!

The fundamental crisis of out times is not ecological, it is not economic, it is not political. The crisis is spiritual. This is where instead of taking what has been given to us, things like bread and wine, which is the stuff of creation and the stuff of our lives, and offering it to God for a blessing, who then returns to us as the Body and Blood of His Son, we take what has been given to us, and offer it to ourselves for our own consumption, which knows no end.

The crisis consists in our refusal to celebrate the Eucharist, and to live a eucharistic life, after the pattern laid down by Jesus, where always and everywhere we take what has been given to us: not only bread and wine, but potatoes and chili, as in our lunch today, but also our health and our wealth, our sickness and our poverty, our joy and our sorrow, our knowledge and our strength, our weakness and our ignorance, in short, our life and our death, and we offer up it all up, unto God with praise and thanksgiving, asking for His blessing, who then returns it to as communion in the Body and Blood of His Son, to share with others. So that we not only celebrate the Eucharist, but live the Eucharist, offering “ ourselves and souls and bodies as a reasonable, holy, living sacrifice unto God“ in thanksgiving for all that He has done for us in the life, death, resurrection and sending of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This is what our life with God consist of.

How we spend our money and our time is important in all of this. In our epistle reading for today Paul underlines the basic spiritual practice of giving away your money, and being generous. We who have way more that we need or want need to take this practice seriously, but also cheerfully, and joyfully. Then from our Gospel lesson today, we have the healing practice of giving thanks. As Father Stephen Freeman writes, It’s about how we do the “little things” of the day. Living with awareness and gratitude — not as an afterthought, but as a way of life. Modernity teaches us to avoid suffering and to maximize pleasure. The Cross teaches us that there is no goodness that is not somehow marked by suffering. We rightly reject the path of least resistance and the lure of an easy life. Our path should be marked by love (laying down our life for others) as we seek to unite ourselves to Christ in all things.

Finally, since it’s election time, he writes, rather provocatively, “We cannot change the world, we will not make the world a better place. I do not suggest this out of hopelessness, but out of a reasonable facing of the facts. Our culture of democracy lures us into thinking that we not only can change things, but that we must…make the world a better place .The result is a great deal of frustration or delusion. In both cases, attending to changing things tends to ignore the importance of actually living, and living simply.” (1)


(1) https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2019/10/07/the-best-place-the-worst-place-orthodoxy-in-location/