Material for Worship for Harvest Thanksgiving

Nerys invites you to reflect on the year that has passed.

Good morning. In Jean-François Millet‘s painting, ‘The Angelus’, a couple are called by the church bell to stop and pray as they gather in the potato harvest. As you come into the presence of our loving God, I invite you to pause and look back over this extraordinary year.

This year has been marked by terrible suffering and loss which has affected each one of us. Before we give thanks for all the blessings we have received, we need to acknowledge our grief before God. You may wish to use this prayer of lament based on Psalm 102.

Listen to our lament God. Hear our cry for help. When we are in trouble don’t turn away from us. Answer us when we call.

Your world is weeping, God. The ice is melting. The fires are burning. Your creatures are losing their homes.

Your world is in despair, God. Our wealth and knowledge are not enough. A virus is taking our away our breath.

Your world is dying, God. As ever the poor are suffering most. Their scarce resources are spent.

We lie awake watching screens. We are like lonely birds on housetops. You are picking us up and throwing us away. We are fading like evening shadows. We are dry grass.

Hear our groans, God. Listen to our lament. We are in trouble. Don’t turn your back on us. Answer us when we call. Amen. (Ruth Burgess)

We also need to acknowledge our part in what’s going on – to confess our forgetfulness of the needs of the poor and repent of the ways in which we waste the resources of the world.

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: forgive us and help us.
We enjoy the fruits of the harvest, but sometimes forget that you have given them to us.
We belong to a people who are full and satisfied, but ignore the cry of the hungry.
We are thoughtless, and do not care enough for the world you have made.
We store up goods for ourselves alone, as if there were no God and no heaven.
Father, in your mercy: forgive us and help us. Amen.

In the midst of the pandemic and the natural disasters that have beset our world this year, we have enjoyed many blessings given to us by our faithful God. Take a moment to bring to mind some of the good things you have enjoyed as well as blessings you may have taken for granted and give thanks.

We have looked back, over the year, acknowledging our grief and our guilt and given thanks to God through our tears. Our psalm for today, encourages us to go out and sow those tears like seeds so that with God’s help, a harvest of joy can be brought out of them.
Listen to Mary Birch reading Psalm 126.

The Gospel reading, is taken from the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is addressing a large crowd and from what he is saying to them we build up a picture of a fairly settled, law-abiding people. They are not so well off that they are cushioned from day-to-day worry entirely, but they have some savings and some education, and they are reasonably satisfied with their lives. What Jesus is saying to them is provocative and challenging. He is opening their minds to the possibility of a new attitude to life. He is calling on them not to be anxious about material things. These can be left to God who knows what we need. Instead they are to seek God’s kingdom and follow a pattern of right living, seeing the world through the eyes of compassion.
Listen to David Faunce Smith reading Matthew 6.25-34.

In uncertain times, like the ones we’re living through, it is difficult not to worry about our lives and about our future, but Jesus is right. Worry doesn’t gain us anything. Worry is like a heavy weight which drags us down and disables us. It prevents us from enjoying what we have and from being loving and generous towards others. It is not easy to be free of worrying. In my experience it can take many years of unlearning and of building up trust in our loving God. As followers of a crucified Messiah, we can’t expect life to be always easy. That isn’t Christ’s promise to us. What we are promised is that we will know the loving care of God throughout our lives and beyond. Trusting in that promise, releases us to live freely even in the darkest of days, with the expectation that God will bring a harvest of joy out of our grief.

Matthias Claudius, the author of the famous Harvest hymn, ‘We plough the fields and scatter’, returned to the Christian faith of his youth after a period of serious illness. You may wish to use his words as a prayer to reaffirm your trust in God’s provision for you. Here is David Sawyer playing the tune.

We plough the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God’s almighty hand:
he sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft, refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,
for all his love.

He only is the Maker
of all things near and far;
he paints the wayside flower,
he lights the evening star;
the winds and waves obey him,
by him the birds are fed;
much more to us, his children,
he gives our daily bread.

We thank thee then, O Father,
for all things bright and good,
the seed time and the harvest,
our life, our health, our food.
Accept the gifts we offer
for all thy love imparts,
with what thou most desirest,
our humble, thankful hearts.

Take a moment to pray for the world, for those who suffer and those in need, and for the Church.

You will find on the Church Website details of how to contribute to Start-up Stirling which provides Starter Packs to people who are entering into new tenancies, following homelessness or a crisis, and to Christian Aid’s Autumn Appeal which aims to help communities around the world living in poverty which are facing crisis due to Covid 19 and also Climate Change.

Almighty and eternal God, you crown the year with your goodness and give us the fruits of the earth in their season: grant that we may use them to your glory; so that none may hunger, none may thirst, and all may cherish the gifts of your creation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

You may wish to join in with Mary singing the final hymn of our service this morning.

For the fruits of all creation,
thanks be to God;
for these gifts to every nation,
thanks be to God;
for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe-keeping,
thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labour,
God’s will is done;
in the help we give our neighbour,
God’s will is done;
in our world-wide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvest we are sharing,
God’s will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God;
for the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God;
for the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.
Frederick Pratt Green