TIS 111: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation
TIS 107: Sing praise and thanksgiving, let all creatures living
TIS 159: God whose farm is all creation
TIS 168: For the fruits of all creation
TIS 130: We plough the fields and scatter
TIS 626: Lord of creation
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession
You are holy…yet you reach down to us.
You, the Creator of the Universe, cradle us in your loving arms.
May we be ever mindful of your goodness to us, and the many ways you continue to bless us.
Give us good and strong memories, so that we do not forget, so that we are not tempted to say that you do not care.
Remind us of your ways when we stray; through Scripture, through our faith families past and present, and through our own family and friends.
Help us to remember our daily blessings, through this prayer by Emerson:
‘For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.’
We thank you for the many gifts of the harvest; for our daily food.
As we eat our meals, at times we should just stop and be overwhelmed by the miracle of food.
Thank you for the variety that stops us being bored, and keeps us healthy.
We give thanks for those involved in food production, especially farmers, who often do it tough, reliant on the weather.
May we use their example, and be dependent on you.
As we marvel at your gifts to us, we recognise that we have not always been quick to give you thanks.
At times we have taken our daily food for granted, even complained about it, or wasted it, in a world where many go to bed hungry.
Forgive us when we overlook the miracle that exists in a seed, or in a bud, or in a person’s heart.
Make us grateful, thankful people, giving you the credit for life’s bounty and our life’s many blessings.
And in a time of silence we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness
God is love.
Through Christ, our sins are forgiven.
(Thanks be to God)
Take hold of this forgiveness and live your lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Deuteronomy 8: 1-18
Matthew 13: 1-9
A farmer brought a load of wheat to the grain elevator in a nearby town. He stopped at a café and sat down near a group of young men who were acting up, shouting at the cook, and annoying the waitress. When his meal was set before him, the old farmer bowed his head in prayer. One of the young upstarts thought he would have some fun with the farmer, so he shouted in a voice that could be heard by everyone: “Hey, does everyone do that where you’re from?” Calmly the farmer turned towards the young man and replied, in an equally loud voice, “No, the pigs don’t.”
“No, the pigs don’t.”
Deuteronomy 8: 17: ‘Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God…’
-remember the Lord your God.
To remember God, to give thanks to God for the harvest, is the most natural thing to do at the end of a good season.
I know it is not harvest time, but I thought my sermon and service could address this theme today. Indeed, during lockdown we have, I hope, been mindful of the many blessings we have received. To just consider a simple piece of bread-how it has got to you-a miracle in itself. There is a show on tv called Inside the Factory. Each episode explores a product from that factory-how the ingredients gets there, how the product is made/packaged etc over a 24 hour period. I watched the one on biscuits, which was interesting, and the one on bread. Each time we say grace before a meal, we are thanking God for the miracle of food.
Harvest time. When I was minister in a small country town, having a harvest festival service was expected. It was a time for the farmers to relax a bit; crops were in, or lambs/calves had been born. Harvest also applies to craft, to knitting or sewing…not only to crops and food production
there is always a danger attached to harvests, to any creative work, actually.
The danger is pride.
Pride in the human.
There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ person-other people have played a role in shaping that person’s life/standards/morals/view of the world.
-even birth-physical and spiritual birth.
There is a danger that we easily slip into the “I did this all by myself” mode when we see the fruits of the harvest.
Perhaps some farmers are rescued form this, because of having to rely on others for help: sowing, reaping, shearing, etc.
Yet, instead of the “I did it all by myself” cry, it could easily become
“We humans can do anything.”
“We humans can do anything.”
Too often we humans forget that we are in partnership.
God cooperates with us.
This is one of the beauties of a harvest festival-remembering that God’s hand is in all our work, indeed God’s hand touches and caresses every part of our lives, including our work.
So a harvest thanksgiving helps to stem the real danger of forgetting God.
The reading from Deuteronomy was addressing the same problem, warning the Israelites that prosperity can lead to forgetfulness, can turn them away from God.
Thanksgiving, to give thanks, is part of the equation: the other part is remembrance.
You need both: thanksgiving, and remembrance.
Let us pause for a moment and see how this is stressed in the reading from Deuteronomy.
The people are urged to obey the commandment which is declared to them, in order that they might prosper in the land promised by God to their forefathers. They are to obey and within this theme of obedience, two topics are interwoven:
- To remember, versus to forget,
- The wilderness, versus the promised land.
They are to be aware, and to live out, their history.
To remember prompts obedience to the covenant law, for it brings to the forefront of the mind the reality and faithfulness of God.
To forget is the same as to disobey.
-to forget is the same as to disobey, for the self and the human concerns have pushed into the background of the mind the reality and claims of God.
We tend to push ourselves away from such a story, saying we are living in very different times from that of the Old Testament
we need to imagine ourselves in between-when the promise of the future on the land had not been realized-dwelling between the wilderness, or desert, and the time of richness, of fulfilment.
Throughout the 40 year journey in the wilderness, from the Exodus from Egypt as slaves, to the promised land, God tested Israel’s loyalty, and showed Israel the full extent of her physical dependence on Him.
Seems harsh-but it was necessary-for they were going to enter the land of Canaan, a rich land where Israel might be tempted to forsake her God, and to rely solely on the new found wealth for protection.
But this possession of land was due to God’s grace alone.
It is the covenantal relationship with God which sustains Israel, and gives her life, NOT the material wealth of Canaan.
Deuteronomy 8: 3: ‘He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’
40 years- a very long time for testing, for disciplining. It probably isn’t exactly 40 years in length; rather, ‘40 years’ means ‘a long time.’
Why the wilderness? The desert?
The wilderness or desert is a good testing ground:
- Here the natural props and supports which people by nature depend on are removed-water, animals, and crops.
- It cast the people back on God, who alone could provide strength to survive the wilderness
- The severity of the wilderness period undermined the confidence of those who were not truly grounded in God.
We all know that hardship makes or breaks a person.
Haven’t we been through that during the past 10 months?
But the strength provided by the wilderness was not the strength of self-sufficiency
BUT the strength that comes from a knowledge of the living God.
-the strength that comes from a knowledge of the living God.
This time of testing and discipline, of instruction and teaching, conjures up a picture of God as a parent, and Israel as the child.
This time of discipline is for Israel’s own good.
Earlier in Deuteronomy we hear of God’s tenderness and protectiveness:
Deuteronomy 1: 31: ‘and in the wilderness, where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child…’
-just as one carries a child.
But this time of testing is probably more like being the parent of a teenager (remember those times?) Limits are set, discipline is stricter, testing is needed.
The danger of forgetfulness, feeling you have achieved everything on your own.
Discipline from God-is prompted by the love of God for his people-as is the discipline of our own children.
V 5: ‘Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you.’
Israel’s teenage years-hardships, trials, testing, BUT
beyond the growing pains, the struggles, there is the good land promised by God.
The teenager usually reaches maturity.
Israel will reach the promised land, knowing she cannot rely on her own efforts. As a result, Israel is strengthened by the trials and testing, more mature.
(hopefully our teenagers remember that we parents were there to help them through the muckiness of life, those rough teenage years).
Israel learns that God does provide; manna and water in the desert, clothing and physical strength. Verse 4 is beautiful, dealing with God’s provision. This tradition of divine care does not appear in any of the stories told about the wilderness, except in Nehemiah 9:21.
Vs 4: ‘The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years.’
-wouldn’t that be handy during lockdown! My track suit bottoms are wearing thin!
Israel learns, through the wilderness experience, that they cannot survive on their own.
They were given nourishment and LIFE by God.
A lesson from the past.
The past-a lesson.
It is interesting to remember that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, he quoted from Deuteronomy Chapter 8. Jesus, through his temptation, learnt to rely on God for the provision of life.
His testing about which was better: spiritual or material nourishment, was secondary; the primary goal was how to rely totally on God.
-how to rely totally on God.
We experience the blessings of God
but do we sometimes forget this, need to be reminded of them?
Harvest festivals are a way to do this, to make sure we do not give ourselves credit –but give credit where credit is due-to God.
So, the lesson for us today, is to remember God’s blessings, to rely on God, knowing that God is the source of life, and of our well being.
If we doubt God’s trustworthiness, God’s record-we can look back through our faith history, through Scripture, and examine our own lives and the lives of others.
Remember: our shoulders are only so wide; God’s shoulders are without end.
What comfort that is!
We do not need to take the weight of the world on our shoulders, indeed, we cannot.
Harvest thanksgivings remind us that we are stewards of the earth; that we are to use resources wisely and with care.
We can pray for the people who work on the land, those involved in transport of the goods, and those involved in the processing/manufacturing of the products.
It is a shame that, among all our public holidays, we do not have a Thanksgiving Day.
In the United States, Thanksgiving Day was instituted to express gratitude to God for his blessings.
The earliest Thanksgiving was celebrated in mid-October, 1621 ten months after the Pilgrim Fathers had landed in New England. They gathered to give thanks to God for their first harvest after a time of great hardship, which included illness and many deaths. In 1863 President Lincoln made it an annual holiday, and he invited all to set it apart and to observe it ‘as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Couldn’t we use one of our designated public holidays as a day of Thanksgiving? I know some say that Australia Day is that day, but it has its own marred history. Couldn’t we substitute the Grand Final holiday, or the holiday set aside for a horse race for Thanksgiving instead? Yes, I know it won’t happen, but we can at least observe it in our own homes and hearts.
I opened the sermon with a story about saying grace; let me close it with a grace:
‘Back of the bread is the flour
Back of the flour is the mill,
Back of the mill is the wind and the rain
And the Father’s will.’
Prayers of the People
We thank you that you have invited us to pray for the world, and for others.
We give thanks that some of our covid-19 restrictions have been eased, yet we are mindful of the millions world-wide who are suffering, and dying, and who need our prayers.
We pray for the people in France, and this week those in Vienna. We ask for your peace as they navigate their way through terrorist attacks and uncertainty about more attacks in the future.
We pray for world leaders, that they will be endowed with wisdom and compassion.
We pray for the ill and the grieving in our own church family, and in our own families and among our friends.
Be with them, especially in the quiet hours of the night and early morning, when sleep can evade and the thoughts and ‘what ifs’ hammer at their brains and shatter all hope of returning to sleep. Help them to rest in your arms.
We pray for farmers, agricultural workers, factory workers, those involved in transporting produce so that it reaches the grocery shelves, and then finds its way onto our tables.
We pray for those in the world who are starving, or are malnourished.
Help us to support charities that work to eradicate hunger. We know there is enough food in the word to feed everyone.
As we were taught at an early age, help us to share.
In a time of silence, we bring before you other matters that need prayer: concerns in our own lives, or in the wider world
Loving God, as you have listened to our prayers, and the sighs of our hearts,
we are grateful you have taught us a prayer that we can pray, that we often cling to when we cannot find our own words:
‘Our Father in heaven…
‘Take my life, and let it be,
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.’
(from the hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal)
Have thankful hearts,
live gratitude-filled lives,
for you are blessed, and loved, by the Trinity.
-Rev Barbara Allen