Sunday Worship, 10 October 2021

 Sunday 10 October 2021

Welcome

God cares for the earth and makes it fruitful. He crowns the year with his good gifts.

Psalm 65: 9,11

Hymn 230 Praise God for the harvest of orchard and field

Opening Prayer

Lord

Heavenly Father,

At Harvest time we come to say ‘Thank you’

 for the food we eat

 the beauty of the world

 the cycle of the seasons

If we think about it, we also say ‘Thank you’

 for things like fresh water

 all the people involved in bringing food to our table

 maybe even shelter from the cold and rain

But we don’t always think about things like

 fresh unpolluted air

 sources of energy, minerals and chemicals

 the many skills and abilities that we have

 jobs that we have or had

 regularity of income

 availability of benefits, pensions and charitable help

 bin collections and street cleaning

 the whole sanitary system

Sometimes it is only when we see pictures of other places

 or we experience life there for ourselves

 that we realise how much we take for granted

We take you for granted too

 we forget that you are there

 we don’t pay attention to your teaching or example

 we don’t give you the praise and thanks that you deserve

When we stop to think about it

 we are ashamed and sorry

Forgive us

Open our eyes to see the world around us

 the good things we have

 our dependence on so many people –

 and those in need

Open our hearts and lives

 to bring you the praise and honour you are due

 to live lives appropriate to those

 whom you have called to be your children

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

All age time (for ages 0-100)

Does anyone grow fruit or vegetables at home or in an allotment (hands up, don’t shout)? It can be fun to do so, it can be hard work, but what you get often tastes much better than what you can buy in the shops. It is however just a little extra, it doesn’t keep us fed for the year. For the rest of our food, for the rest of the year, we depend upon things that other people grow and produce, that we buy in the shop or the supermarket.

At one time, most people had to grow or gather almost everything they ate: keeping something to plant for next year. Some didn’t have their own land, so had to work on someone else’s, and often people had to provide food for their chief and his friends – as they didn’t do any farming. There are still quite a number of people around the world today who have to grow all their own food. It is hard work, and it’s a cause of constant anxiety: will there be enough sun and rain at the right time to make the crops grow? What if there is a very wet spell, or a long dry spell at the wrong time? (drying up, rotting, not ripening, washed away – turnip fields)? There might be pests or diseases that affect crops and livestock. Many depend upon selling spare crops, eggs, honey, dairy products to give them money to pay for education or healthcare.

Because growing and gathering sufficient food for the next year was such hard work and so uncertain, in many cultures around the world, over a very long, people got together to celebrate at the end of the harvest – eating, drinking and giving thanks to God, or their gods, for the harvest being safely in. When the Hebrew people settled in the Holy Land they found that the native Canaanites had harvest festivals to celebrate the end of the barley, wheat and grape harvests. They took them over and turned them into their festivals of Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles, which Jesus would have celebrated, and which Jewish people still celebrate today.

Because of Covid restrictions we are not celebrating Harvest this year as we have done in the past. The church isn’t decorated with lots of fruit and flowers, we aren’t asking people to bring gifts of food to church (at one time given to ‘the poor of the parish’, then ‘old people’ and more recently the Foodbanks). But we are still taking time today to think about food, to say ‘Thank you’ to God for what we have, to think about hunger, the challenges people face having enough to eat, and what we can do to help.

Hymn JP230 Thank you

Bible reading

Mark 10: 17-31

Reflection    

We are used to going to the shops or supermarket and expecting to find what we want on the shelf at a price that we can afford. But over the last two years things have been less certain, and we have not been able to take that ‘usual way of doing things’ for granted. In fact many are now not going to the shops, but place an order online and have it delivered.

There was the run-up to the end of the Brexit transition period, with fears that lorries would be stuck at Channel ports – and so people stocked up, and as a result some shelves were empty. Then came Covid-19, and another stocking up (most famously of toilet rolls), but also shortages of things like flour and yeast partly because of production issues. Now we have the shortage of HGV drivers, abattoir workers and food processors, which is blamed for current gaps on the supermarket shelves (not to mention the petrol queues). We’ve seen concern over school holiday hunger, and Marcus Rashford’s campaign. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people using the Foodbanks. Now we have concern expressed that in coming months the rise in wholesale gas prices will lead to many family having to decide to eat or heat. Increasing prices for fuel and increased wages or salaries for key sections of the economy have caused some commentators to fear a rise in prices for goods and services – again most heavily affecting those with low incomes. And in the summer before the Cop26 conference record temperatures and wild fires around the world have reminded us of the effects of climate change. It might make for a warm sunny July here, but in some places like Africa and Central America it has a direct impact on whether people will be able to grow the food they need to survive till next year, and to sell surplus to raise cash for services like education and healthcare that we are used to having free. In a global economy, where so much of our food comes from all around the world, climate-related problems halfway round the world impact on what we can buy, or the price we pay for it.

Addressing many of these issues requires decisions and action by governments, and in some cases (like climate change or trading tariffs) intergovernmental decisions. But some of those decisions – which might affect taxes, or prices, or restrictions on what we can do – will have a direct impact on us. Governments weigh up whether the ‘right thing to do’ is worth the bad publicity they may get from some of the media, and how it will be received by their core supporters.

The Lectionary Gospel reading for today is Mark’s account of Jesus meeting with the Rich Young Ruler. The man’s money, wealth, status and comfort would all be undermined if he were to follow Jesus’ advice and sell all that he has and give his money to the poor. It is probable that Jesus was speaking directly to this individual’s situation, rather than setting out a rule to be followed by everyone, though it has been much debated. Jesus and the writers of the Old and New Testament were neither economists nor political philosophers. They had little understanding of how economies worked, and if they had tried to spell out in detail their preferred approach to topics like ownership of property, taxation and the like, it would have been hard enough to transfer it from something like the Iron Age Holy Land to Iron Age Scotland, let alone to Twenty First Century Scotland. What they were all clear on, however, was the kind of world they wanted to see, with peace and justice, wholeness and fullness of life for everyone. It wasn’t some kind of mythical world where food miraculously appeared on a plate, and people could laze around in the sun all day. It would still be  a world in which people worked, had families, and eventually died. But people would have security – security from hunger, from eviction, from violence, from disease.

Jesus doesn’t specify how we are to address issues around food, poverty, climate emergency and so on, in order to achieve his goals, but he does indicate that the issues are to be addressed, and that his people have a part to play in achieving them. As we give thanks for what we have, and remember the needs of those here and abroad who do not have security in life, God challenges us to think through what is needed to build the kind of world he wants to see, and what part he wants us to play in achieving that.

Hymn 232 Pears and apples

Prayers for others

Gracious God

As we celebrate Harvest

 and give thanks for the food we eat

 we remember the many people

 who do not have ready access to food

 who worry about where the next meal will come from

 who can only afford food of low nutritional value

 some are in countries abroad

  exposed to extreme or unreliable weather

  exhausted soil, pests or blight

 some have had to flee from their homes

  seeking safety from war or violence

 some live in considerable poverty

 some live in our own country and community

  and have to turn regularly to foodbanks for assistance

we pray that governments will take appropriate steps

 to ensure that no one need go hungry

 that all will be confident about where their next meal will come from

 and that eating is something that can be done with dignity

We pray for groups like the foodbanks

 that provide emergency help

and for groups like Christian Aid

  who work for long-term sustainable solutions

Help us to do what we can to help others to eat

We pray too for all who are engaged in the process

 of bringing food to our table

 farmers, fishermen, growers

 transport and retail staff

we pray for all who are ill,

those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We pray for you church

 the worldwide church

 the wider church in Dumbarton

 our own congregation

help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us

Hymn 231 For the fruits of all creation

Blessing (3-fold Amen)

And the blessing of God Almighty..

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