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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources for Harvest

Year C, Green


Click here to view our harvest festival service

Introduction

Harvest can be a bit of a back slapping exercise. Didn't we do well, we grew all these wonderful things and then we went all around the world and collected the most amazing things produced in other countries. We can refrigerate and freeze, we can put things in cans and ensure that we have as much as we want, almost whenever we want it.

But at what cost? Our farming methods, our industrial progress, our economic systems - all of these have a price. Other people around the world sometimes suffer as a result of our consumption. There is a growing weight of evidence that the activities of human beings are having quite dramatic effects upon our climate as well as the old familiar problems of pollution.

Harvest is a wonderful time of year, but now perhaps more than ever before it is a time when we need to also ask ourselves whether our greed has produced real need. If the cost of world development is global warming and the associated weather problems, then we have to dedicate ourselves to thinking how we are going to help those people who will suffer from the worst effects of flood and famine.

Opening Sentence

The land has yielded its harvest:
God, our God has blessed us. Psalm 67:6

The earth is filled with the gifts of the Lord: wine, and oil, and bread, to strengthen and cheer our hearts.   Psalm 104:13,15

The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. Psalm 24.1
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, we offer you our grateful thanks for your fatherly goodness and care in giving us your gifts and the fruits of the earth in through the seasons. Give us grace to use them rightly, to your glory, for our own well being, and for the relief of those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Lord of creation , whose glory is all around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence and know your peace at our lives' end, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Eternal God, you crown the year with your goodness and you give us the fruits of the earth in their season: grant that we may use them to your glory, for the relief of those in need and for your own well-being; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Creator God, you made the goodness of the land, the riches of the sea and the rhythm of the seasons; as we thank you for the harvest,
may we cherish and respect this planet and its peoples, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

First Bible Reading

Second Reading

Gospel Reading


Post Communion Sentence

God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna, the living bread from heaven: let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger and thirst are no more; through jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Commentary

Harvest can be a bit of a back slapping exercise. Didn't we do well, we grew all these wonderful things and then we went all around the world and collected the most amazing things produced in other countries. We can refrigerate and freeze, we can put things in cans and ensure that we have as much as we want, almost whenever we want it. Harvest is rightly a time when we thank God for the abundance of the harvest. We should be grateful for all manner of things, from the field and the sea, but also the work of those associated with factory, mine,  school and many other areas of life.

But this year I would like us to reflect upon the cost of turning out increased production and greater yields. Harvest is a time for thinking about all that has been produced, but we need to reflect upon the cost of production as well. When the world was created God gave to us a solemn responsibility to care and he put boundaries upon the actions of the people he created. The story of Adam in a garden is a simple one but it has a powerful message. God gave Adam and Eve much to do, he expected them to work, but he commanded that they should not eat of the tree. There were boundaries placed upon their behaviour. Just because they were able to eat, did not mean that they should.

Today we are faced with the same choices. We are expected by God to work, yet there are restrictions placed upon what we should do. Our farming methods, our industrial progress, our economic systems - all of these have a price. Other people around the world sometimes suffer as a result of our consumption. There is a growing weight of evidence that the activities of human beings are having quite dramatic effects upon our climate as well as the old familiar problems of pollution.

Harvest is a wonderful time of year, but now perhaps more than ever before, it is a time when we need to also ask ourselves whether our greed has produced real need. If the cost of world development is global warming and the associated weather problems, then we have to dedicate ourselves to thinking how we are going to help those people who will suffer from the worst effects of flood and famine.

As Christians we need to understand the terrible cost of our harvesting of the world resources. There has been terrible damage done to the earth over the past years and our capability to do lasting damage increases every year. We have destroyed forests all over the world, and the removal of trees has caused erosion which has washed away topsoil which took thousands of years to form. Many of the worlds rivers and lakes are drying up as we extract water without thought of the consequences for aquatic life or local human need. Our intensive factory farming methods can cause lasting damage to the environment. Often the damage done by the use of insecticides and chemicals is not properly considered. Our desire for cheap fuel to power our increased production and satisfy consumerism, has produced acid rain and global warming which may have drastic consequences. It is against this background that we need to be reminded of the cost of the harvest.

Christians need to responsibly engage and share in thinking through the potential costs of supposed gains in production.  The answers are as difficult as the questions posed and as Christians we can never jump on bandwagons or suggest simplistic solutions. However what is clear is that just because our technology or science is able to do something, doesn’t mean we should allow it to happen. There are trees with forbidden fruit and the voice of Christian people should be heard whenever it is proposed that society should eat from them. Charles Royden

 

 

Meditation

 

Hymns and Psalms

  1. Come, ye thankful people, come

  2. We eat the plants that grow from the seed (Tune: Country Garden)

  3. Praise and thanksgiving (Tune Bunessan)

  4. Praise God for the harvest (Tune: Stowey)

  5. We plough the fields, and scatter
     

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead


 

Additional Material

Harvest Commentary

Harvest Festival dates from pagan times and gives thanks for a successful harvest. For the Jews feasts were held in celebration of good harvests several times a year. Jesus refers to the grape harvest in today's reading from Matthew.

Jesus uses it to illustrate that the Pharisees had really lost the plot. They were so afraid that the Jews might be exiled to Babylon again, that they thought if they kept every law, both the written laws of Moses and the oral traditional law of their ancestors, that God would keep them safe in Jerusalem. Because it was so difficult to keep all these laws, rather than drawing people to God they had the opposite effect, they began to put barriers in their way. The Pharisees were misusing the gifts and responsibilities which had been entrusted to them and Jesus spoke out against this abuse. 

Rather than preparing the ground and making it fertile and ready for the harvest it was becoming more bleak and barren by the day. Not only had the Pharisees misused the gifts of God, most importantly they did not recognise the greatest gift which God had given the world, His Son. They liked to listen to Jesus, but they thought His ideas were too radical. Jesus told them repeatedly that they kept the letter of the law, but lost the spirit; they made a show of loving God with their public prayers, but they didn't have compassion for people and the harvest was being lost.

God has given us many gifts, some of which we celebrate through the harvest festival. We remember His goodness and provision for us and are challenged to use His gifts wisely. Many people are less fortunate than ourselves and we need to remember God loves them too, and often could use us, and the gifts He has given us (to look after) to demonstrate that love for them, not just at harvest time, but all the year through. Using the gifts He has given us in the service of others is one of the most appropriate ways of demonstrating our gratitude to God for what He has done for us.  Sam Cappleman

Harvest is one of the most wonderful times of celebration in the church year. Nobody gets killed, there is just unbridled joy at the beauty and providence of creation. Well almost that is! There are some lessons of caution as well, and those lessons are perhaps more important for our times than ever before.

 
There are obvious lessons about caring for the world which has been entrusted to us. At Harvest time we thank God, for all of the gifts which have been given to us, and all of the opportunities made available to us from the world and its resources. Yet this planet is not ours to do what we want with. It is made by God and we are privileged to have a time here to look after and enjoy it. The expectation is that we will pass it on to our children in a better condition than we found it.
 

There are salutary lessons at harvest about sharing. We cannot help but feel embarrassed that we have so much of the world’s resources, whilst others lack even the most basic necessities. No harvest festival service should ever take place without a time of prayer when we think of the shocking conditions prevalent in parts of the world where people die for lack of resources which we routinely throw away.
There are warnings about priorities. Harvest can be seen as an opportunity to glorify increasing consumption and hoarding. However Harvest is not an occasion to thank God that we have managed to acquire masses of things. In our Gospel reading today Jesus tells his disciples that they need to care less about material things. This is a wonderful message but one which we struggle to hear. Jesus wants his disciples to stop worrying and live. The trouble is that most of us spend a lot of time worrying and working.

So whilst we enjoy Harvest and thank God for it, it is also a good time to consider our priorities in life, what really matters. The pace of life is now so fast and the latest products are brought to market so fast that we might feel we have very quickly become out of date and need to replace everything. Yet even at the time of Jesus he knew that people had the same issues of worry and work.
Jesus knew that toiling for the latest material goods brought no increase in satisfaction to our society. No matter how much we acquire, no matter how many material possessions, no matter how much money we have - enough is always a little bit more than they already have. The pursuit of happiness in the acquisition of things is always a road to dissatisfaction. What a paradox, the more we seek to be happy through such things the less happy we seem to be!

The Christian message is that pursuit of happiness through amassing things will only ever bring ruin. It is a curious fact that contrary to our wealth bringing happiness it brings impoverishment of the soul. Funnily enough the opposite is the case, the more we give to others the more happiness we receive ourselves. Giving to others is something which we learn from our Lord, Jesus. He had no possessions, he gave up everything he had and gave his life for others. It is his model which we seek to copy. Charles Royden

 

Commentary

Today many of us live in towns and our contacts with the countryside are slight. We do not know much about seasons, farming and the agricultural calendar. Much of our food is processed and packaged, we don’t get it from the field and the farm, instead we get it from Tesco or Sainsbury’s. We can now easily buy imported fruit and vegetables which are not in season in our own country.

However, this doesn’t mean that we cannot celebrate harvest in a meaningful way. Actually we could say that harvest is more important now because we need to be reminded of our dependence on God and our responsibility to treat the world properly. We must not become just indiscriminate consumers, unaware and unconcerned about how our food is produced. We now have the potential to do so much damage to our world so this is very important.

Harvest is a time to focus upon our environment, to thank God for it, and consider our responsibility for our environment. Issues such as genetics, animal husbandry, pollution—all of these are in sharp focus at Harvest. (I was interested to read a paper this week circulated by John Stubbs at St Mark’s, it was from the Methodist Church concerning genetics and it is available for home group study.)

Harvest falls in the time of the Christian calendar with a liturgical colour of green - this is a good colour with all of its ecological and environmental connotations. The message of the ecological movement is that we all have an impact upon the natural world. We are all consumers or producers, so we are all links in a long chain of action which can either protect or destroy our natural environment. God put mankind into the Garden of Eden ‘to till it and keep it’ Genesis 2:15.

With our increasing technology we are able to till the earth more than ever before. With the aid of science we are able to turn waste animal products into food for the same animals, and we are able to change the substance of plants and animals so that they can resist disease or be more productive. The ability to make a crop resist pests might bring food and life to millions. However this same technology also puts us at risk, as never before of being unable to keep the earth and its resources in the condition in which we have inherited it from previous generations.

Harvest festivals, while giving us the chance to thank God for the riches of the natural world, also present us with the more solemn task of contemplating our responsibilities to nature. In more and more Harvest Festival services Christians must give thanks to God but accompany those thanks with promises to keep our environment safe, which is the means of all future harvests. Harvest is about how we use the things which God has given to us. We can use God’s gifts wisely for our benefit and share them with others, or we can abuse them. God gives to us resources which we can do many different things with. Some of those things are worthwhile and some of those things are very destructive. I think especially of the passage in the bible which speaks about a day when we will learn to use resources wisely. Instead of using metal to make swords we would use it to make ploughshares, instead of using it to make knives we would make pruning hooks. ‘Swords into ploughshares, Knives into pruning hooks’ Today this might say ‘Bombs into buckets.’ Today we each need to ask ourselves how we can use the gifts God has given us wisely, for the benefit of all and not just for ourselves.    Charles Royden

Harvest Thanksgiving Lectionary Bible Readings

Year A
Deuteronomy 8.7-18 or Deuteronomy 28.1-14, Psalm 65, 2 Corinthians 9.6-15, Luke 12.16-30 or Luke 17.11-19
Year B
Joel 2.21-27, Psalm 126, 1 Timothy 2.1-7 or 1 Timothy 6.6-10, Matthew 6.25-33
Year C
Deuteronomy 26.1-11, Psalm 100, Philippians 4.4-9 or Revelation 14.14-18, John 6.25-35


Hymns

  1. All creatures of our God and King,
  2. Let us with a gladsome mind
  3. Jesus is Lord
  4. All people that on earth do dwell
  5. Jehovah Jireh
  6. We plough the fields and scatter
  7. For the beauty of the earth
  8. For the fruits of his creation
  9. Come ye thankful people come
  10. Sing to God new songs of worship (Ode to Joy)
  11. May the fragrance of Jesus
  12. If I were a butterfly
  13. All things bright and beautiful
  14. Who put the colours in the rainbow
  15. Praise O praise
  16. Praise the Lord ye heavens adore Him (Tune Austria)

 

Thanksgiving Prayer

Father in heaven all good gifts come from you. You send the sunshine and the rain, and it is through your love and care that we enjoy the harvest time. Thank you for providing so richly for our needs and help us to share the good things we have with those who have little or nothing.
Minister: Lord in your mercy
All: Hear our prayer

Minister: Lord we pray for your blessing on every kind of harvest that we enjoy. Thank you for the harvest of the land and the sea. Bless too the harvest of factory, mine and workshop. Bless the harvest of research and of creative art. May we work together with you in every area of life to produce what is worthwhile, good and fruitful. May you be glorified in it all.
Minister: Lord in your mercy
All: Hear our prayer

Bring to fruition Creator God, the work of your kingdom in our lives. Make us part of that joyful harvest in which your loving purpose is completed. Help us to realise how important the smallest words and deeds are. Thank you for others who have set before us an example of true Christian living and who have sown the seeds of faith hope and love in our lives.

Lord we pray for your blessing on every kind of harvest that we enjoy. Thank you for the harvest of the land and the sea. Bless too the harvest of factory and mine and workshop. Bless the harvest of research and of creative art. May we work together with you in every area of life to produce what is worthwhile, good and fruitful. May you be glorified in it all.

Thanksgiving

Let us give thanks to God,
the God of all peoples of the earth.

For the colour and forms of your creation
and our place within it,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For our daily food,
and for those whose work and skill
bring your good gifts to us,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For the gifts and graces inspired in human minds and hearts;
for insight and imagination,
for the skills of research
which bring healing and fulfilment to the lives of many;
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For the light and shades of the changing seasons,
and their variety and dependability;
for new life and growth out of barrenness and decay;
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For new hope and strength in our communities,
especially in your Church and among all you call to serve you,
we bring our thanks, good Lord;
your mercy endures for ever.

For all in whose lives we see
goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience and humility,
and all the fruit of the Spirit,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For the life we have been given,
and for all those whom you have given us to share it,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

 

Confession

Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom
the whole universe was created,
we mourn with you the death of forests,
fruitful lands that have become deserts,
wild animals left without grass,
plants, insects, birds and animals threatened with extinction,
lands ravaged by war, people left homeless.
As the earth cries out for liberation,
we confess our part in bringing it to the point of disaster.
Through ignorance, often wilfully,
we have thought that we could serve both God and ourselves.
We were unable to resist the temptation
to spend and buy more and more,
with little thought to future generations.
Saviour of the World, you call us to repentance,
so as we confess these sins,
may we be transformed by your love
and play our part in transforming your world.

The minister will proclaim the words of forgiveness.
 

Confession
God forgive us, for the destruction
which we bring upon this world and all who live in it.
You have entrusted this world into our care,
forgive us for the way in which we destroy and pollute,
and fail to protect the precious resources which we have.
Forgive us when the power of the human mind
is used wastefully, and destructively,
whilst millions are in need of skills
to bring them clean water and basic medicine.
Forgive us when we fail to speak out for justice for all people.
Forgive us when we are tempted to despair
at the size of the problems
and the seeming insignificance of our own contribution.
Strengthen our faith, hope and trust
in the miracle of your redeeming love.
This we ask in the name of your Son,
our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The minister will proclaim the words of forgiveness.

Confession

We confess our sin, and the sins of our society,
in the misuse of God’s creation.

God our Father, we are sorry
for the times when we have used your gifts carelessly,
and acted ungratefully.
Hear our prayer, and in your mercy:
Allforgive us and help us.

We enjoy the fruits of the harvest,
but sometimes forget that you have given them to us.
Father, in your mercy:
Allforgive us and help us.

We belong to a people who are full and satisfied,
but ignore the cry of the hungry.
Father, in your mercy:
Allforgive us and help us.

We are thoughtless,
and do not care enough for the world you have made.
Father, in your mercy:
Allforgive us and help us.

We store up goods for ourselves alone,
as if there were no God and no heaven.
Father, in your mercy:
Allforgive us and help us.

Intercessions

Let us offer our prayers to God for the life of the world
and for all God’s people in their daily life and work.

God, the beginning and end of all things,
in your providence and care
you watch unceasingly over all creation;
we offer our prayers
that in us and in all your people your will may be done,
according to your wise and loving purpose in Christ our Lord.
Lord of all life:
hear our prayer.

We pray for all through whom we receive sustenance and life;
for farmers and agricultural workers,
for packers, distributors and company boards;
as you have so ordered our life that we depend upon each other,
enable us by your grace to seek the well-being of others before
our own.
Lord of all creation:
hear our prayer.

We pray for all engaged in research to safeguard crops against disease,
and to produce abundant life among those who hunger
and whose lives are at risk.
Prosper the work of their hands
and the searching of their minds,
that their labour may be for the welfare of all.
Lord of all wisdom:
hear our prayer.

We pray for governments and aid agencies,
and those areas of the world where there is disaster, drought
and starvation.
By the grace of your Spirit,
touch our hearts
and the hearts of all who live in comfortable plenty,
and make us wise stewards of your gifts.
Lord of all justice:
hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are ill,
remembering those in hospital and nursing homes
and all who are known to us.
We pray for all who care for them.
Give skill and understanding
to all who work for their well-being.
Lord of all compassion:
hear our prayer.

We remember those who have died,
whom we entrust to your eternal love
in the hope of resurrection to new life.
Lord of all peace:
hear our prayer.

We offer ourselves to your service,
asking that by the Spirit at work in us
others may receive a rich harvest of love and joy and peace.
Lord of all faithfulness:
hear our prayer.

God of grace,
as you are ever at work in your creation,
so fulfil your wise and loving purpose in us
and in all for whom we pray,
that with them and in all that you have made,
your glory may be revealed
and the whole earth give praise to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


Praise (Based on psalm 8)

God, when we think about your creation, we’re amazed;
We walk through a masterpiece every day.
Your imagination has created such beauty.
We can never come to the end of your wonders.
How incredible it is that you’ve trusted us to take care
Of your prized possession!
You’ve shown us how to sustain life:
Help us to use this knowledge for the good of your world,
The benefit of your people and the glory of your name.
We praise you, painter of creation’s harvests!  (Christian Aid)

God, you are more generous than the most loving parent; yet we depend on the harvests of other lands, and the labours of people of many races. Make us grateful for what they do for us; help us to trade in such a way that we may not exploit others, and to share our plenty with those in need; that none may go hungry while your earth yields so abundantly. Amen

Father God, give to all who work the land, wisdom to understand your laws, and to co-operate with your wise ordering of the world: and grant that the bountiful fruits of the earth may not be hoarded by the selfish or squandered by the foolish, but that all who work may share abundantly in the harvest of the soil. Amen

Forgive us Lord, for thinking of ourselves more than others; for eating too much without considering those who have nothing at all; for our lack of diligence in searching for ways to share our riches with the hungry and the thirsty. Your Son came to earth that everyone might be blessed and forgiveness offered to the penitent. Amen

May God the Father bless you, who first sowed the seeds of eternal life in your hearts, may God the Son bless you, who nurtures you with the rain and sunshine of love; may God the Holy Spirit bless you, who brings us all to fruition; and may the blessing of God Almighty be among you and remain with you always. Amen


 

Prayer

God of love, help us today to watch for you carefully , work for you simply, and rest in you gratefully, through Jesus Christ. Amen. Rev Christian Le Moignan, President Designate of the Methodist Church in Britain for 2001/2

The whole creation is suffering, and cries out with pain. Our sin affects the world of nature and the harvest it yields. Let us confess our sins against God and God's creation. After Michael Counsell

Lord Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life; grant us never to stray from you, for you are the way; never to distrust you, for you are the truth; and never to rest in anything except you, for you are the life. Teach us what to believe, what to do and where we should take our rest; and this we ask for your love’s sake. Amen. Desiderus Erasmus 1467-1536

Look upon us in your mercy, O Lord, and take away our sins. Be to us both our reward and our redeemer, and defend us against all adversities that may assault us in body or soul; through Christ our Lord. Amen. St Ireneaus, c.130-200

Ubuntu: a prayer for humanness. Loving God, who in Jesus willingly took on human form, come to us again in the flesh, so that in your humanity we may recognise the humanity of others. In these days, when so many feel rejected because they are HIV or have AIDS, speak to us and assure us of your presence so that we may be there for all who call on us. Lord, who dares to call us your friends, touch us with the hands of friendship so that we may reach out to those who feel untouchable. Touch us with that second touch of healing and wholeness of sight so that we may see others as you see them and offer your healing power to these your sisters and brothers. Spirit of love and life, breathe into us your compassion and care so that we may reach out in this place to touch and to share your love with all. Daphne and Demetris Palos, South Africa

"My sisters the birds, much are you beholden to God your Creator, and always and in every place should you praise him. He has given you the freedom to fly wherever you wish and he has clothed you so fully. Moreover he preserved your kind in the ark of Noah so that you might not die out. Again, you are beholden to him for the very air that he has given to you. Furthermore, you do not sow nor reap yet God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains from which you drink, He gives you mountains and valleys as places of refuge and the tall trees in which to build your nests. Because you do not know how to sew or spin, God clothes you and your young: you can see how much God loves you in that he gives you so much. Guard yourselves therefore my sisters the birds from the sin of ingratitude and be ever mindful to give praise to God." From The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

"For this I thank you, that you have created me in your image, and placed your wonders under my hands, so that I may know them and rejoice in the works of your Creation. I pray to you, eternal God, give me understanding and wisdom, that I might not misuse your creation but make use of it only for my needs, for the good of my neighbour, myself and my family. Give me gratitude for all your gifts, so that my mind does not say: 'This is mine, I have bought it. I will possess it alone. I am noble with it, majestic and beautiful; It belongs to me because of this honour and glory.' All this comes from the devil and the grievous fall of Adam." Jacob Boehme. The Way to Christ.

Lord, may I love all thy creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. May I love the animals: thou hast given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Let me not harass them; let me not deprive them of their happiness; let me not work against thy intent. For I acknowledge unto thee that all is like an ocean - flowing and blending - and that to withhold any measure of from anything in thy universe is to withhold that same measure from thee. (Adapted from The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky.)