’As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’ (Gen 8:22)
Creator God, for daily bread and all who work to bring your harvest home, we bring our thanks today.
What do you miss about harvest this year? One thing I miss is walking into a traditional harvest festival service and my sense of smell being awakened by the scent of flowers, fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread. In more recent years harvest tables have rightly groaned under the weight of dried foods and tins to donate to Befrienders and food banks, and the joy of that nose tickling harvest scent has been non-existent. Now it is actual harvest festivals which are non-existent, no gifts to be ‘gathered in’ and no gathering of the congregation. But just as parents teach their children to say, “Thank You” it is still in our nature to give thanks for God’s generous provision.
Hymn: Come ye Thankful People Come (StF 123)
1 Come, you thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home!
fruit and crops are gathered in
now, before the storms begin:
God our maker will provide
for our needs to be supplied;
come, with all his people, come,
raise the song of harvest home!
2 All the world is God’s own field,
harvests for his praise to yield;
wheat and weeds together sown
here for joy or sorrow grown:
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear-
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.
3 For the Lord our God shall come
and shall bring his harvest home;
He himself on that great day,
worthless things shall take away,
give his angels charge at last
in the fire the weeds to cast,
but the fruitful ears to store
in his care for evermore.
4 Even so, Lord, quickly come-
bring your final harvest home!
gather all your people in
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there together purified,
ever thankful at your side-
come, with all your angels, come,
bring that glorious harvest home!
Henry Alford (1810 – 1871)
© Jubilate Hymns Ltd
William Wilberforce said, ”Things great have small beginnings. Every downpour is just a raindrop; every fire is just a spark; every harvest is just a seed; every journey is just a step because without that step there will be no journey; without that raindrop there can be no shower; without that seed there can be no harvest.”
Let us pray:
In the beginning there was nothing, and out of nothing you fashioned a universe so vast, so unimaginable that we can only sigh with amazement when we stare upwards on a star-lit night. And within this universe you positioned the earth and populated it, provided for it and designed for it to be a place of beauty.
In the beginning there was just potential; the seed within the packet, soil’s nutrients, sunshine’s warmth, rain clouds gathering. And within the tiny seed all that is our daily bread encoded, primed and ready should it be planted and allowed to grow.
Creator God: Thank you
© John Birch at FaithAndWorship.com
Forgive us, God,
that we have taken your creation for granted.
You have given us
the run of the land,
the pick of the crop
and we have squandered these resources;
distributed these unfairly,
vandalised their beauty,
violated their purity.
Forgive us, God,
that we have taken your kingdom for granted.
You have given us
the seeds of faith,
the fruits of the spirit,
and we have misused these resources;
displayed them rarely,
bestowed them grudgingly,
ignored them blithely.
Thank you, God,
that you are stronger than our destructiveness
and greater than our meanness,
that you give us a fresh start, a second chance.
Overwhelm us with the power of your resurrected love.
Compel us with the challenge you issue for change.
Lead us in the conquest of our own limits and restrictions.
Drive us towards a new life of peace, justice and integrity.
—written by Janet Orchard (MRDF/AllWeCan) downloaded from re-worship/blogspot.com
Hymn: We come to you with no pretence(StF 435)
1 We come to you with no pretence,
yet nourished by your grace.
we come as people needing love
within this time and place.
2 We come confessing all we are,
yet all we have to give.
We ask for your renewing power
to teach us how to live.
3 We need your spirit to be strong,
your risking, leaping faith,
that brings the love of God to bear
in every aching space.
4 Then from this point, restored, renewed,
we pledge to take your way;
to live responding to your call
with each succeeding day.
Andrew Pratt (b 1948)
words 2010 Stainer&Bell Ltd www.stainer.co.uk
Mark 6:30-44 (The Message)
Supper for Five Thousand
The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.
So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. Someone saw them going and the word got around. From the surrounding towns people went out on foot, running, and got there ahead of them. When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke—like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them.
When his disciples thought this had gone on long enough—it was now quite late in the day—they interrupted: “We are a long way out in the country, and it’s very late. Pronounce a benediction and send these folks off so they can get some supper.”
Jesus said, “You do it. Fix supper for them.”
They replied, “Are you serious? You want us to go spend a fortune on food for their supper?”
But he was quite serious. “How many loaves of bread do you have? Take an inventory.”
That didn’t take long. “Five,” they said, “plus two fish.”
Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. More than five thousand were at the supper prophet who is to come into the world.”
2020 has been the year that, like many people, I had a go at growing my own. I’ve planted flower seeds many times before, but I decided that home grown veg would be on the dinner menu. Courgettes, carrots and cauliflower seeds were duly sown, although not everything I planted began with a ‘c’! Then we watered, watched, and waited. There was much rejoicing at number 7 when we realised that those feathery leaves really were carrot plants, and those rough stems really were courgettes, and we started to look forward to harvesting the veg of our labours. The carrots did really well and so did the courgettes, the broccoli and cauliflower not so well, but we had our own mini-harvest to celebrate and to gather, although not enough to share.
So why did I choose the feeding of the 5000 rather than an agricultural parable for this service? Well I asked at the top of the service what you’ve missed about harvest this year. For me, along with the scent of the harvest table, it is the gathering of the congregation from across the different groups in the church, with a harvest supper or lunch, a sharing of food and fellowship. As I pondered on all of that, the feeding of the 5000 came to mind. Those who know me know that I use the painting at the top as an illustration in services from time to time. The artist, Eularia Clarke, pictures the five thousand (women and children too!) eating fish and chips and I love it. Can you spot Jesus?
And I love the way it talks, in “The Message’ version, of ‘people coming and going’. It just isn’t like that this year for any of us, whether we’re thinking church or home. Jesus listens to all that his disciples have been doing on their travels (remember them?) and now they’ve gone off together to a quiet place. (Have we had too much of our quiet places?) Jesus and his disciples are then surrounded by around 5000 people. (Today, thousands of new students feel like prisoners on campus, away from home and stuck for food.) Jesus has compassion for this crowd as he did for his disciples, and they are hungry. There’s no social distancing as they sit down in hungry groups of 50-100, and food is scarce. (We know how that feels.) A young boy steps up to share his own food, not thinking for a moment there wasn’t enough to share. But by a miracle, there was.
The world today is a far cry from that day when a crowd gathered and a picnic was shared, and amongst all the confusion is it not easy to spot the positive things, but they really are happening. Take a moment to reflect on the good things that are happening in your community.
And while we are scattered rather than gathered, let’s find ways of being creative, generous and thankful, let’s share the new skills we have learned, and share the gospel of Christ. As the last hymn says: “Then from this point, restored, renewed, we pledge to take your way; to live responding to your call with each succeeding day”.
Hymn: Beauty for brokenness
1 Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in your suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!
2 Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can’t speak
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame
3 Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain
Friend of the weak …
4 Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Make us content with
The things that we need
Friend of the weak …
5 Lighten our darkness
Breathe on this flame
Until your justice
Burns brightly again
Until the nations
Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation
And bring you their praise
Friend of the weak …
© words & music 1993 Make Way Music Ltd.
God who made the earth and saw that it was good,
and trusted it to our care,
we give you thanks for the people who
generations long have tilled the ground
planted and harvested the crops
season by season in want and plenty
tended the livestock early and late
in heat and cold, beauty and bleakness.
As the months pass the trials seem greater,
we have more questions than answers.
Statistics dominate the news
The world is in disarray, hurting and broken.
Our usual ways of living life have had to change.
Throughout all of this we thank you that you are the same today as yesterday,
and that as we look to tomorrow we can trust in you because you never let us down.
We pray for students starting at university right now, and the challenges they face.
For schools returning to class, and being sent home again.
For young children starting at nurseries and playgroups, for whom life is a big adventure.
And we pray for their concerned parents.
We pray for those who have lost loved ones,
that you will comfort them in their grief and loss,
cover them with the peace of your presence.
We pray for those who have lost their harvest this year
because of the weather, and those in East Africa where locusts destroyed hopes of harvest.
We thank you for your promise that ’As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’
The Lord in his mercy hears all our prayers.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We say the Lord’s Prayer …
Hymn: Praise and Thanksgiving (StF 125)
1 Praise and thanksgiving,
Father, we offer,
For all things living
You have made good;
Harvest of sown fields,
Fruits of the orchard,
Hay from the mown fields,
blossom and wood.
2 Lord, bless the labour
We bring to serve you,
That with our neighbour
we may be fed.
Sowing or tilling,
We would work with you;
For daily bread.
3 Father, providing
Food for your children,
Your wisdom guiding
Teaches us share
One with another,
So that, rejoicing
With us, our brother
May know your care.
4 Then will your blessing
Reach every people;
Each one confessing
Your gracious hand.
When you are reigning
No one will hunger:
Your love sustaining
Fruitful the land.
Albert Frederick Bayly
© 1988 Oxford University Press
We bless you,
God of seed and harvest
And we bless each other
That the beauty of this world
And the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives
And be a blessing to others
Now and always.