Summary: A sermon for harvest about the harvest that really matters
It’s been a good harvest. This year a world record for the wheat harvest has been established. The last time it happened was 5 years ago when a New Zealander managed to harvest 15.7 tons of wheat per hectare. This July, Tim Lamymans in Lincolnshire managed to beat that with 16.5 tons per hectare. Poor Tim however didn’t hold that record for long. Just a few weeks later - another farmer from Northamptonshire managed to beat it with 16.52 tons per hectare.
It’s been a good harvest this year.
So what do I want to say at this Harvest Festival?
I think the thing I want to say, is the same thing that every sermon that I ever preach is really about, or at least ought (deep down) to be about. It’s the thing that gets me up in the morning and makes me want to come bursting into church. The message I want to draw out of Harvest is : that God loves YOU.
Jesus uses the analogy of harvest to talk about the work of evangelism, “The harvest is great but the labourers are few, so pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers.”
So why do we want to grow the church? Is it because a harvest of new people would make us all successful? You know: numbers are up- Yayyy (big thumbs up sign). No - numbers only matter because numbers are people. Bums on seats matter because bums are attached to people and people matter. And I … and I’m pretty sure you too … want people to know that they are loved.
“26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
“ Are you not of more value than they?”
“30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you?”
“ will he not much more clothe you?”
You are loved.
There is no point worrying about stuff, fretting about stuff, because you are loved. your heavenly Father loves you.
Most children know that their mums and dads love them. Very few children go to bed at night worrying whether their mum or dad loves them. In the very few cases where that is not so, we think it’s a terrible tragedy.
Yet far too many people, even people in churches sometimes, don’t get that they are loved, that God loves them. Why does any of the small stuff matter if God cares that much about you?
Lutheran Priest Carla Powell tells the story in Money Magazine of a woman who saved 80% of everything she earned, investing it all in the stock market and turned it into a $22 million fortune within 50 years. It sounds like an incredible success story, doesn’t it? But as you read the article, you begin to wonder whether her sacrifice was worth it to make all her money.
It’s not that she made the money by illegal or immoral means. It was all honestly earned. But she alienated her family and made no friends. She walked to work to save the cost of bus fare. She wore clothes for years until they were tattered and worn. She limited herself to spending only a few dollars a week on groceries. In the middle of all this thrift though, she never bothered to invest in any relationships. She died without a single friend. In the last five years of her life, she didn’t even receive a personal phone call. Her broker says, "A big day for her was walking down to the Merrill Lynch vault near Wall Street to visit her stock certificates." Though her financial portfolio sounds successful, this story is tragic. [sermon on this site by Carla Powell]
Do you think she felt loved?
Pope Francis has described materialism as a spiritual cancer. What is a cancer? Cancer is when cells grow out of control. Cells are meant to grow but they are not meant to get out of control. Material things are good - that’s what we are celebrating at Harvest - the crops in the fields, the taste of a delicious loaf. Indeed, in that sense GK Chesterton described Christianity as the most materialistic of all religions - we appreciated every little thing that has been given to us by God. But when material things get out of control - well that’s another matter.
Rather than fretting about those unimportant things - like that woman with her $22million fortune, we should focus on God loving us and looking after us.
I would like to contrast two people’s attitude to this Gospel passage that we have just heard. One is Francis of Assisi the other the American Mega pastor aptly called Cefro Dollar. Both might be described as living by faith, but both are very different.