Summary: God has given us so much! This sermon challenges us to take action in our world as a sign of God’s kingdom breaking in, and as a response of thankfulness to God.
When I look at the wonderful variety of fruit and vegetables that we can grow, I find myself saying, “Thank you God!” A few years ago in Portugal I remember looking out to sea and being amazed at the sight of the sun setting over the ocean and saying, “Thank you God”; and I remember the first time I visited Moira’s relatives in Scotland, as we drove around the lovely Lochs and the stunning scenery, I said, “Thank you, God.” I remember thinking, “God, what a wonderful imagination you have got.”
Very early on in the Bible we read about the creation of the world, and the creation of all that we see. In the first chapter of the Bible we read this: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
God made everything good, including the most amazing and intricate part of his creation – you and me! Isn’t a tiny new born baby just so amazing!
When each of my children were born I marvelled once again at God’s creation. The delicate design behind human life convinces me that we are not accidents!
But what a mess we humans have made of God’s beautiful world! Pollution, forests wiped out, species of animals extinct because of human actions, a dangerously thin ozone layer, and hundreds of years of tribal warfare which still continues today. What a mess we’ve made of God’s beautiful world.
Now although we have messed it up and still mess it up God has not left us alone to get on with it! He sent Jesus into the world to show us how he wants us to behave towards one another. God sent Jesus into the world to show us how much he loves us; and God sent Jesus into the world to show us that he – God – is willing to die for us. God loves us and loves his world that much! That is Good News!
In our Bible Reading from the Old Testament, and from the book of Joel, we are reminded of God’s good intentions for his world. Earlier in Joel 2: 12 God calls upon his people to change their wicked ways: “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” God is calling us as individuals, men, women and children, and as a church, and as a town, and as a nation, to stop our wicked ways, to repent of our wicked ways and return to him. Joel 2:13 continues like this: “Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love”.
The feast of Tabernacles was and is for Jewish people a reminder of their reliance upon God. At our Harvest festival we give thanks for God’s wonderful provision; and yet part of our thankfulness must surely include our commitment to work for the principles of God’s kingdom in our town, in our households, and in his church.
God’s promises are wonderful! Yet I wonder how Christians living in places where it hardly ever rains will hear these words that we’ve just had read to us: Joel 2:22, “The open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit.” Joel 2: 26, “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” These words are surely not just promises for the future. No, they are signs of God’s kingdom breaking into our world, and as the body of Christ we are called to welcome in God’s kingdom. How can we do that? We can give our full and complete support to Fair Trade, buying as often as we can goods and services which have been fairly traded. In other words, the producer of coffee beans in Africa gets a good and fair price for their beans when we buy Fair Trade. We can recycle absolutely everything that can be recycled in order to care for God’s world, including glass, tins, paper and card.
Let’s support the campaign which is working towards Billericay becoming a Fair Trade Town. Write to the council! In November let’s support the alternative Christmas Gift Fair here at Christ Church, as it will support charities working with people living in poverty; and let’s look for opportunities, however small, to bless those don’t enjoy the clean water and fresh food that we enjoy. One such possibility will be to explore a link with a school in Kenya – something which the Bishop of Chelmsford is very keen to encourage; and a project that our very own Julie Whitfield is involved with. Please pray for the conference I am attending on 19 October where we will be encouraged to begin a link with a Kenyan school. How exciting would it be for people from Christ Church and our local schools to support, encourage and visit a Kenyan school, and for representatives of a Kenyan school to visit us!
God has been so good to us, and we must pass on that blessing to others. Let’s pray!