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Virtual Worship - 10 October 2021

Harvest Service


Welcome to Worship in the Bradford North Circuit. This is our Harvest Service. We share the joy of harvest tinged with regret that the harvest is so inequitably shared between God’s children.

Call to Worship:

Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Hymn

130 in Singing the Faith, We plough the fields and scatter


Collect for the day

Lord of the Harvest, grant us gratitude for all our food, give us grace to see the needs of every race, help us curb our greed, help those in need, leave this world a better place. Amen.

The Bible

Parts of Genesis 1-2:13

God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good
God named the land Earth. He named the pooled water Ocean. God saw that it was good.
God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants, Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.” And there it was. Earth produced green seed-bearing plants, all varieties, And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts. God saw that it was good.
God made two big lights, the larger to take charge of Day, The smaller to be in charge of Night; and he made the stars. God placed them in the heavenly sky to light up Earth And oversee Day and Night, to separate light and dark. God saw that it was good.
God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!” God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters, And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good.
God spoke: “Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.” And there it was: wild animals of every kind, Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug. God saw that it was good.
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth And every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” And there it was.
God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!

Commentary

The writer of Genesis capturing so poetically the early creation stories of the Hebrews records that creation was good until human beings began to ignore God’s operation manual for the Earth and it all began to go wrong. Isn’t that wonderful? A story from a people who lived nomadic lives before written records, before precise climate measurements, could so accurately pinpoint our current world crisis of inequality. How many harvests do we have left? How are those harvests to be shared? Those who know are telling us that there is only a limited number of harvests left before our lives are irrevocably altered. Unless we believe this, and act upon it, we stand no chance of averting the crisis. We need to do good to the Earth.

Hymn

729 in Singing the Faith, Touch the earth lightly


When we consider how we might do good in God’s world, let’s take example from some young athletes:

The English football squad between them, spoke out for the poor and persecuted minorities, and took the knee before their matches. Gareth Southgate said, “they had a responsibility to the wider community to use their voices on matters such as equality inclusivity and racial injustice”. Was the use of their position to speak up for the poor a good example to us all?

The Danish their football team formed a protective circle around their teammate, Christian Eriksen, when he had a cardiac arrest on the pitch during their match against Denmark, while cameramen were desperate to film his distress. Was gesture of spontaneous and heartfelt dignity a good example to us all?

After Bethany Shriever beat Kye Whyte to Britain’s first ever Gold medal in female BMX riding, she collapsed with cramp. Kye Whyte scooped her up in her arms and held her aloft to receive her applause. Was that act of kindness a good example to us all?

Tom Daley, who has survived all sorts of abuse, won a Gold medal in synchronised diving, he talked openly about his homosexuality, his husband and his child, he passed the time in the viewing area knitting a pouch for his gold medal. Was that openness about his being and character a good example to us all?

Charlotte Worthington tried a ground-breaking 360 degree backflip in her bid for a medal at the Olympics, but she came off the bike in a painful crash. She tried again and succeeded.

Was her example of sticking at it a good example to us all?

Three black teenage footballers publicly apologised to the nation for missing penalties in the Euro 2021 final. Was that humility a good example to us all?

If we did not learn this Jesus-Shaped behaviour by coming to church, might it be that young sports people can teach us? If there are to be more harvests, if those harvests are to be shared more equitably, we need to change our behaviour towards other people, we need to change our behaviour towards the Earth.

Hymn

123 in Singing the Faith, Come ye thankful people, come

Reflection

If we all do just a little, just a little will get done. / We need to knock each selfish skittle down, one by one; / lead lives more like our grandparents done. / Walk, run / eat food grown in the sun. / Make and repair more ourselves, not filling landfill holes tonne by tonne. / If we all do just a little / just a little will get done / and we are all undone.

Ten Sudanese use less, create less waste, than just one English one. / That’s all of us, bar none. / Our great progress, stunning success, comes at a price for everyone. / Every excess, causes distress, lands us in a mess, / I must confess / I am undone / for I’m a guilty one.

To make redress / we must caress this world, not just profess, and bless. / That won’t impress creator Lord / unless we suppress our greed / cease to oppress / write a new creed / that strikes a chord, / that will afford its own reward / we can’t afford to continue this distress. / If we all do just a little / just a little will get done / and we are all undone.

Prayers

Creator God, forgive our moments of ingratitude, the spiritual blindness that prevents us from appreciating the wonder that is this world, the endless cycle of nature, of life and death and rebirth. Forgive us for taking without giving reaping without sowing. Open our eyes to see our lips to praise our hands to share. May our feet tread lightly on the path we tread and our footsteps be worthy of following for they lead to you. Make me a tree, Lord, Sturdy, Deep rooted, Useful, Support to those in need, Shelter to those who are weary, Fruit for those who hunger. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn

693 in Singing the Faith, Beauty for Brokenness

The Bible

Luke 16:19–31 The story of Dives and Lazarus

“There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

“Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.’

Commentary

You see, even in death, the rich man was thinking of Lazarus as a servant. This story is interesting because Jesus gives the poor man a name, but not the rich man, it is usually the other way around. How do you think the rich man was feeling when Jesus told this story to him? He did not consider himself to be rich, there were richer people by far, the Roman rulers of Palestine, for instance, or the Emperor. He must have felt persecuted by this upstart prophet.

The Bible

Luke 12: 16-21 The Rich man building bigger barns

Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’

“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’

Commentary

What do you think the Rich man felt, to whom Jesus told this story? Had he even considered that he was rich? Had he ever thought that giving his harvest produce away might be a smart move?

Anyone who shares a toilet with fewer than, say, 10 other people, is rich. Anyone who lives in a house with more bedrooms than people is richer than anyone who shares a bed with more than three others. People who do not have to share a toothbrush don’t necessarily regard themselves as rich, because they cannot imagine life without access to money.

It is only the rich who can make this crisis of inequality and global heating better and who can ensure that we have future harvests that are shared more equitably. We are the rich.

The Christian Church has for many years emphasised that we do not earn salvation by being “Good”. The Church has taught about the freely given Grace of God that forgives and saves our souls. One result of our gratitude for salvation is that we shall want to do good. We have willingly taken the first gift of Grace, but we have selfishly ignored much of the personal responsibility that follows. The result of this is seen in wars between peoples, in crushing poverty supporting indecent wealth, and in unsustainable exploitation of the Earth. Wealth such as we have in Bradford: not just food but a wide choice of yogurts; not just clothing but fashion; not just cures for illnesses but remedies for personal excess; wealth that has allowed us to exploit the earth and its peoples.

In this country, we currently have a shortage of people to pick crops, to work in the personal care industry and the hospitality industry. This is all because we have depended on the relative poverty of other countries to persuade workers to come here to do work that our own privileged children don’t want to do. The older generation, who enjoyed free education and low taxes, often living in our own expensive houses, are now to be supported in our old age by young people already repaying tuition fees and paying exorbitant rents to rich landlords. We dismiss all this as politics, not suitable for discussion in churches, not relating to personal salvation. John Wesley would not have drawn this distinction. Jesus would not have drawn this distinction.

We need to do good in this world on many levels, in return for our gift of Grace.

We need to do good to our bodies. Our bodies are temples, dedicated to God. Many of the beds in our hospitals are occupied by people with diseases of affluence; the result of lifestyle choices that we make: people who have slid into addiction to alcohol, to tobacco, to other drugs (we say “suffering from…”); people who have neglected exercise and chosen to eat unhealthy food to become obese (we say “living with obesity…”); and women and children who suffer from the selfish violence of men. We do need to do good to our own bodies, and to treat the bodies of others with respect and kindness. We need to do good to our bodies.

We need to do good to others. Not just to others in our families, not just to others who are our friends and neighbours, not just to fellow Christians, not just to people lucky enough to be born in the UK, not just to people alive today, but to others. This is a big stretch for our minds to realise that our actions affect many people alive today, and that affect even more people who will come after us. We cannot dismiss this as politics, it can be seen as trying to reverse the fall from grace described in the Garden of Eden. We need to do good to others.

We need to do good to the Earth. We need to use the land that we control directly, our houses and gardens, to encourage wildlife, to grow as much food as we can, to release as little pollution as we can, to use as few of the earth’s resources as we can, to send as little to landfill as we can. This is a response to the beauty of creation. Hedgehogs, butterflies, slugs and birds will thank us by showing up instead of perishing.

Beyond the land that we own, we need to do good to the land that we control. Everything that we buy has come from the Earth in some form. The Fairtrade movement aims to be fair to those who produce our food. The organic food movement aims to be fair to the soil. Every time we buy soya, or soya-fed meat, or one of the many items that contains palm oil, we degrade this Earth for our descendants. Every time we use uncertified timber… and the list goes on. What?! You say; this is hard, this is harder than going to church or supporting a charity, harder even than praying for personal salvation. With wealth comes responsibility. Jesus’ teaching contained much about wealth, and if you want to be shocked, read John Wesley’s sermon about money. I wonder what he would have preached about global inequalities and global heating today? We need to do good to the Earth.

Hymn

126 in Singing the Faith, Praise God for the harvest of orchard and field

Blessing

Come with us, Lord Jesus; Fill us with your Spirit; Shape us to your likeness; Use us to enfold with love our needy world.

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