Summary: Harvest reminds us that we are as Christians called not so much thankful FOR what God gives us but rather to be thankful IN the situation in which we find ourselves
Story: One day an Atheist went out hunting in the woods just outside Prince George in British Columbia, Canada.
It had been a slow day and he hadn’t found any game to shoot.
Suddenly, he heard a noise behind him.
He whirled around and saw two ferocious looking bears coming towards him.
He quickly raised his rifle to his shoulder, took aim and pulled the trigger.
Nothing - the rifle had misfired.
He reloaded and fired again
Click… click… click.
Again, nothing - the gun just wasn’t working.
By this time, the bears were almost on top of him.
In desperation, he threw down his rifle and ran.
But the faster he ran, the closer the bears got.
Finally the hunter came to the edge of a cliff.
As there was nowhere to go, he dropped to his knees and began to pray.
“O God, although I don’t believe in you, I pray that you make these bears Christian bears.”
As the hunter looked up, he was surprised to see the bears kneeling just a few feet away from him.
And as he listened, he heard one bear pray;
“For what we are about to receive, may the Good Lord make us truly thankful. Amen”
The Harvest Festival is all about remembering how much we have to thank God for.
The Harvest Festival Service stands in a long tradition for God’s people. It goes back a good 4,000 years.
In our Old Testament lesson, we read of the three important Jewish festivals.
1. Passover ,
2. Pentecost and
For which there was a three line whip to attend
This was usually held in April each year – at the beginning of the harvest.
It was at this festival that God’s people recalled how God himself had been their Saviour.
For God had brought them miraculously out of slavery in Egypt.
And it is significant that it was at the Feast of Passover that Jesus was crucified in
Because when Jesus died, he became our Saviour, bringing us out of the slavery of sin. And at Easter we remember that
2. Harvest or Pentecost
The second festival was The Feast of Harvest, where the Jews gave thanks to God for their crop.
This festival occurred at the end of the barley harvest.
The other name for the Feast of Harvest is Pentecost, because it was timed to be 50 days after Passover.
The word comes the Greek Pentecoste meaning 50
We read in Acts 2 that it was at Pentecost when the power of the Holy Spirit was released on the disciples.
And they were then able to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And as the result of one sermon 3000 people became Christians.
What a crop they gathered that day into God’s Kingdom.
I wish I could preach like that!!!
The third festival mentioned in our OT reading today was the Feast of Tabernacles
The Festival occurs five days after Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) usually held in September or October each year.
It was celebrated after the grape and grain harvest was over.
It was at that festival that the Jews would camp out for a week in tents - recalling the temporary dwellings they had after the exodus.
Perhaps this feast reminds us that we need to remember to sit lightly on what we own here on earth – and look forward to our heavenly home.
All three of these festivals reminded them of God’s blessing on his people – in the physical and in the spiritual.
It is in the tradition of that second feast – the Feast of Harvest or Pentecost that we stand this morning.
Our forefathers were not so much thankful FOR what they had but rather they were thankful IN whatever situation God allowed them to be in.
When they had a lot, or when they had a little they were thankful.
It was just a way of thinking!
At the time of festivals or in famine they were thankful.
In joy or in misery they were thankful.
There is a big difference between being thankful FOR things and being thankful IN all things.
The hymn "Now Thank We All Our God" was written in 1637 by Martin Rinkart (1586-1649).
Rinkart was a Lutheran minister, was in Eilenburg, Saxony, during the Thirty Years’ War.
The walled city of Eilenburg saw a steady stream of refugees pour through its gates and soon the Swedish army surrounded the city.
Famine and plague soon broke out.
It is said that in 1637 when Rinkart wrote his hymn, he buried 4,480 people in Eilenburg, including his wife and his children, who had died of the plague
The death toll placed a tremendous strain on the pastors who had to conduct dozens of funerals daily. Finally, one after the other of the pastors succumbed to the plague, until Rinkart was the only one left doing 50 funerals a day.