Today is our Harvest Festival Thanksgiving service. It is a day long in coming and I thank all whose initiative this has been. It is part of my 10th anniversary celebrations of being the Rector of St Elizabeth's. I have much to give thanks for as your priest and friend. For the past ten years, I have had the privilege to be nurtured and strengthened in my faith journey with you by you and for you. I have received so much blessings that I am deeply committed to this Harvest celebrations.
My wife and I came to this parish seeking fresh starts in terms of ministry and home and family life. You not only provided a spiritual home, and eternal friendships but through the miraculous works of God St Elizabeth’s gave us not just one but three children. They are central to the Sunday School program as they are growing to understand the joys of giving Thanks to God. I am sure if given the opportunity many of us can stand and give testimony of the numerous ways in which God has blessed you.
In the readings, we celebrate a theme of Thanksgiving, but my focus is upon the concept of harvest. It is not just about giving thanks but recognizing that there was a tremendous amount of sacrifice, work, patience and care that were invested in order for a harvest to occur. The gospel story shares the parable of the sower and quite often we invest a lot of time and energy focusing upon the seed and the soil. Year after year we would listen to sermons preached about who or what was good or bad soil. Some would even focus upon thorns and rocks or even how much was produced. What is often times overlooked is the fact that it is really about the sower. It is his seeds and his soil and his work and his harvest. In other words, for Jesus it was really a conversation about God as the giver and the ultimate receiver. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." Ps 24:1
This was a bold declaration by Jesus to a people who were struggling to pay triple taxes to Caesar, Pilate and the Temple. The community was made to believe that the world belongs to the powerful and the powerless were without any voice, value or valor. The parable about the sower was not a cute sermon for church going folks but a bold revolutionary declaration to a world that was convinced there was no place for God. The sower represents for Jesus, an understanding that there is no place where God is not present. This is God’s world!
We seem to be living in apocalyptic times as we face untold challenges in the physical and social world. Many are convinced that the world is coming to an end. Fires in the west, snow in the east. Shootings in churches and synagogues. The crack epidemic is now been overrun by the opioid epidemic. Our children are still walking the streets in fear, our women folk are working in fear. Blatant racism title as Nationalism is seeking to silence The Black Lives Matter movement. Many would proclaim with some cynicism that things are not getting better.
Yes, I believe this is an ending but one for which we have praying. I recently read in a Lutheran article a quote from American author and social activist Adrienne Maree Brown “Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” God is sowing seeds of equality and equity with justice for all not just for a privileged few. Yes, we are witnessing a world of racism and inequality struggling to stifle the good seeds that the sower is planting and it is our duty to ensure we are working on the right side of God. We do this by participating with a God who is sowing good seeds.
My friends, harvest reminds us that there is no room for cynicism or hopelessness because it seems nothing may be occurring. Anyone who has planted would know that even though there is not much visible action occurring yet when it burst forth there is much joy and wonder. We dwell in a world where we believe we must be central to whatever may be occurring. We feel left out when things happen without us. The call of our faith is to act and leave the rest to God the sower. He sows within the call to pray, to love, to forgive, and to give generously. We are called to respond in an act of faith in order to bring forth the fruits of His work within us. How many times have we murmured that we have been praying and it seems as if God is not listening to us? Yet many years later you proclaim that God was working His purpose out. We are called to pray unceasingly, love deeply, forgive quickly, give generously and live faithfully.
Christianity at its heart is really about three basic things. God made us, Jesus saves us, and Jesus says follow him. Do not look left or right to see what others may have received or what they may be doing. Keep your eyes on the sower otherwise you may end up in the sewer. The Prophet Joel understood that Israel as nation may be doomed but Israel as a faith community can be saved by the grace of God. Sometimes in life we may find ourselves in situations that seems greater than ourselves and we can become overwhelmed but for Joel, God can turn things around in a mighty way, so we can move from being overwhelmed into riding tidal waves of hope and renewal.
Harvest celebrations at St Elizabeth's provides us with an opportunity to declare we are keeping our eyes on the sower. My friends, God is constantly sowing new seeds of fresh starts, new beginnings, renewed hope and peace. God is constantly birthing some new idea, and bold ideal. God is constantly bringing new people and new initiatives to his fields so that nothing can stop his joy for sowing. It is from Him all good things come and it’s to Him we will give our praises of Thanksgiving now and forever more.