Sermons from St
Today we celebrate harvest festival, when we thank God for the delivery of the life- sustaining crops. This is our good fortune. The miracle of the earth giving forth in abundance. The striving for the kingdom of God is our daily business, and we are both recipients of God's mercy and goodness, but also his advocates and doers of his work of love. For we don't want to see anyone go hungry or suffer because of famine and drought. In our service today, we bring food for the food bank – for those in need in our community. The generosity of this church community, witnessed in the gifts for the foodbank are testimony and living proof of the love of Christian believers.
Trusting in God, as his beloved people, is told to us here in today's Gospel. Like the lilies of the field there is no scheming or complex struggle for power. By sharing power and trusting in God, there is the foundation of community. In doing so, there is the possibility of something being created, which is greater than the sum of its parts. The concept of power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely is an ancient one, articulated by relatively modern people such as Lord Acton. This is the danger and one which must be avoided. Absolute power should rest only with God. For Christians, life is based on faith and trust in God. Each man and woman is to pray for mercy and tenderness of heart towards their neighbour. Yes, as Jesus instructed his followers, to turn the other cheek. This seems against human nature and instinct itself, a denial of self.
This way of being, of thinking, behaving is transformative, but requires commitment. As Ghandi said: 'If one does not practise non-violence in one's personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken.'
A person's way of being, therefore sets the path ahead. If in the small things there is violence - of thought, word and deed, then there will be a perpetuation of violence. If one were to follow the path of non-violence, however, there is no instigation or perpetuation of violence. There is no domino effect. Instead, the true Christian way of non-violence results in the perpetuation of love, mercy and goodness – like the lilies of the field.
The life-giving harvest from the earth relies on a community effort, where all actions are directed towards investing in cultivation. The long term future – harvests in years to come are to be ensured, by measures such as crop rotation.
By contrast, we think of times of war, where social structures break down – people are driven out of their homes, where armies scorch the land, to deprive the population on enemy territory of their crops. Where forces are brought together to bring misery.
There is of course, the imbalance across the world of resources, with vast numbers of the people without the basic necessities of life. The systems in place perpetuating inequality. Fear and oppression ruling, through corruption and greed. There are also the bystanders who do nothing, but do allow evil to flourish. They may do so of course, through fear – self-preservation, for themselves and their families. That is how systemic inequality and injustice reigns.
This also resonates with Jesus' warning that the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.
Here then is the call to discipleship. In today's Gospel reading from Matthew, the promise of abundance is there. But it cannot be grasped at. The people do not own the land or command the forces of nature. Nor do they challenge God's power. Instead, God's people are stewards – there to tend and look after the precious earth, working as a true community, bound together in Christian love.
There is always then the need to turn to God, to seek guidance and protection against evil. That connection to God and Heaven, found through perseverance in prayer and reading of scripture is what sustains the people of God.
Yesterday, I was at the cathedral for the licensing of new readers. It was the feast of Michaelmas, the archangel Michael, the defender and protection of the church, according to the Book of Revelation. Michael, also the archangel that leads us on the road from the earthly world to the Heavenly Kingdom. The Bishop reminded us of the need to stay connected to God and Heaven, through prayer and scripture.
We are challenged to perceive the will of God in our lives, to be Christ-centred. Our prayers need to be bold and inspired by God's will. We need strength and this can only come from God.