We plough the field and scatter! Harvest, refugees and fear…

Had our harvest celebration in one of our churches yesterday- we’ve a dairy farm next door to the church and most of the parish is farmland of some type so its quite a ‘proper’ harvest celebration for us, with many either involved directly or one step removed in work of the farms.

However we also wanted to think about and help those who’re in real need, so we had a volunteer from Medecins sans Frontiere join us and put the offering towards their work in Southern Europe and elsewhere- if you want to find out more about what they do, look here and give generously if you can. (on a tangent- I know I’ve been encouraging folks to give to support refugees recently, its important to trust that how you’re giving will make a difference to the situation on the ground, whether thats to a group taking goods to the refugees in Calais or elsewhere or to a charity… find one you trust and don’t worry about the cynics).

Anyway, a great time was had- after the service we had lunch and auctioned off all the fresh produce and folks went home happy and full and having helped others who’re struggling to get through each day. I was speaking on some of Jesus’ teachings from chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, about worry and growing love in our lives… a harvest of compassion as well as the physical and spiritual harvests that are often our focus…

Here’s what I said:

At harvest time we give thanks for the good things that we have- for the food that we have, the homes and jobs that we have, for our clothes, toys and gadgets. But even though we have those things, we often worry about them- what shall we eat tonight is a big question in our house- what shall I wear today is another one… in the last few weeks our tap water has, along with many others around Barnstaple, had a funny earthy taste to it… ‘what shall we drink?’ is rarely something we both about here in the uk but we’ve had that… but the thing is, that usually we’ve got these questions because we have a choice- what shall I eat- chicken or pork, with pasta, rice, potatoes? Or how about fish and chips? What to wear- rather than finding clothes, its finding the right clothes… no matter how we might feel that others have more than us and are happy because of what they have (which is what the adverts on TV and in magazines tell us- we’re missing out and if only we had a newer phone we’d be truly happy, and more organised, people would laugh at our jokes and our skin and hair would improve too).  Jesus says ‘don’t worry about these things’ because he loves us and doesn’t want us to be anxious… instead he wants us to trust him- if we can learn to trust Jesus when things are going well we’ll find that when things really do get difficult we’ll find it that much easier to keep on trusting him in the tough times…

The children are going to move to the back of the church now for an activity with Carolyn and Laura, but while they’re going, have a look at the question on the screen, and just talk to the person nearest to you about it…

What’s the difference between ‘worry’ and ‘care’?

When someone says ‘I don’t worry’ that sounds good, but ‘I don’t care’ is rather heartless… and put them the other way around and the contrast is even greater- would you rather be known as someone who worries or someone who cares?

Worry- concern that has no solution… that doesn’t lead anywhere…

Care- its got the possibility of some constructive action- If I’m worried about the future I may be paralysed into inactivity, but if I care then I’m galvanised into action…

When Jesus says do not worry, he isn’t being flippant- just get over yourself; he is genuinely encouraging us to put down our anxiety, to let go of our worries… but not to stop caring.

In another part of that passage it says ‘seek first the kingdom of God’- and as we’ve been hearing again and again over the summer, the kingdom of God is found when people show compassion for one another, bring peace into situation, help the poor and the needy, share what they have with those who have not, pray for healing and release for the oppressed, stand for justice for those who have no voice… if you do that, then these other things will fall into place.

That doesn’t mean that if you give to the foodbank or volunteer to help someone in debt then your car will become a Bentley, but rather its about priorities. If we prioritise helping the needy, then we’re not prioritising our own desires… that Bentley, or whatever, will fade away… it’s a conscious decision that we make… what am I going to make my priorities? Some of us might start with a tendency towards compassion, but we can all become less worried about what we have and care more about others who don’t have. And it will be shown in different ways in each of us- because we’re different. Some of us will be more affected by the plight of children, others by those affected by climate change, while some will be directly concerned with the damage to the environment or the treatment of animals.

But how is this a harvest talk? Because we reap what we sow. If we intentionally work, as individuals and as a community, towards being generous, caring, welcoming and a place of peace- in the small things that we can do naturally or that we can just about force ourselves into, then we’ll grow into being a community made up of caring, generous welcoming and peacefilled people- a place of refuge, a beacon of light and hope. The kingdom of God here on earth starts with the smallest of things… maybe for you today it’s the small step of deciding to care more than you worry, and the decision to act on that…

There was a whole extra bit about Angus Buchan and his life story as told in the film ‘Faith like Potatoes’– well worth watching or reading if you get the chance, but that kind of slipped in without any notes so I can’t tell you what was said… it was really good though!

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