Harvest time

We can all be forgetful at times can’t we? I know I can be, particularly when I am tired or really really busy.  We sometimes find that we are overwhelmed by the busy-ness or circumstances of life.  I think perhaps that’s understandable because at the end of the day we all have a limited capacity to do things with a finite amount of energy.  If you’re one of those people who has the habit of taking on too much, you probably come to realise more often than most.

I’ve invited you to share what helps you to remember. It’s been interesting to hear your responses.  When I sat down and thought about this, I wondered why is it that I don’t usually tend to forget to get a drink or to have a meal?  It made we realise that we always have a choice; we always tend to choose the things that are important to us at any given moment.  Are other choices in life brought to mind that are as easy to remember as having a drink or eating a meal? The question is, do we make the right choice?  In all of this I think there are 3 key things to consider:

  1. How do we choose to use our time, talents and resources?
  2. What is our priority? 
  3. What is our motive?

We must live our lives mindful of the destination God has set for us.  We choose to drink and eat because we know it is fundamental to our survival; so why do we find it so easy at times to forget God and all that He has done for us, all that he is doing for us, and all that he promises to do for us – surely these things are as critical as life itself? 

This kind of forgetfulness is one which people down the centuries have all experienced at one time or another.  We only need to think about today’s society and culture to witness almost a kind of amnesia when it comes to the presence of God.  This is nothing new.  Just think about the Israelites in the Old Testament:

  • They did not keep his Law
  • They broke the Covenant
  • They forgot all that God had done, and the miracles he had shown them
  • The forgot his deliverance during the Exodus, when he:
    • Divided the sea and delivered them from their captives
    • Split rocks open in the wilderness and provided fresh water for them

The hard truth here is that we can be just like that too.  You know how easy we might find it to forgot God and not give him thanks when everything is going well in our lives and perhaps only begin to turn to him when things start to go wrong?

We must seek to develop practices in our life at key times through the year that help and encourage us to remember and refocus on God, and to get our priorities in order.  That’s one of the many reasons why I have a deep appreciation for the liturgical calendar.  It helps and encourages us to remember key moments of faith, and to tell and retell the story of God in a fresh way to ourselves and to each new generation.

If you have ever wondered why the liturgy we use in the Church is so important it’s because it helps us to remember, it is a declaration of truth, it is a statement of faith and worship.  It helps us to remind ourselves of God’s gracious provision and plan and who we are in Christ.  It is that telling and retelling the story.  It helps us to trust and experience something of God’s constancy, and stability.  It helps us to try and stop history repeating itself, if only we would listen.  And that remembering is part of our very identity.

Despite all that God had done for the Israelites, and despite the clear importance of remembering and telling and retelling the stories, they sinned still more against him; they had no faith in God and did not trust his saving power.  They didn’t think that God who had delivered them and provided for all of their needs would and could provide for them.  And perhaps even still worse, what God provided for them wasn’t enough.  God provided for their needs, not their selfish wants.  God offered them the world and it still wasn’t enough. 

The people in our Gospel reading were no different.  Basically they were materialists. Their real interest in Jesus lies in his feeding their bellies, so that they no longer had to work for their food. They became so obsessed with the material world and themselves that they were not able to see that the true blessing which God is offering them is not on that level at all.

God provides the food that endures to eternal life, the gift of the Son of Man whom God himself has affirmed—on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.  Jesus’ confrontation provokes them to ask what it is that God wants them to do. Jesus points them to the true food, faith and trust in the one he has sent.  It is simple really:

“What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

That must surely involve putting God first and acknowledging him in all of our ways and in how we use our time, our talents and our resources.  The very first thing that Israelites were commanded to do as they entered in to the Promised Land was to take some of the firstfruits of all that they produced from the soil of the land the LORD was giving them and put them in a basket to offer to the Lord.  Right at the start, God first.  That sets the context for everything that follows and it helped them have that attitude of gratitude to God and acknowledging his leading, his blessing and his provision.  Having given thanks, they engaged in remembering.  We can do that every time we have a harvest celebration; we can do that too every time we gather around the Lord’s table.

In one of the great “I AM” sayings of Jesus, he declared “I AM the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).  We are told in Matthew’s Gospel, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).  Jesus yearns for us to come into a fullness of knowledge and relationship with him.  Jesus yearns for us to feed deeply on him that we might never be hungry or thirsty; that we might not forget. And that happens through relationship.  We are reminded of that every time we pray the Lord’s prayer…give us this day our daily bread.  We remember that every year at Harvest as we give thanks to God for his provision.  In relationship with God our provider, we ask that he might give meet our physical needs and by deepening our relationship with Jesus he meets our spiritual needs as we feed on the bread of life. We forget.  We must work to remember.  As we break bread together today, let’s take time in the beauty of the space and silence after we have received to remember…let’s remember together that Jesus is the Bread of Life…Jesus, the Lord of the Harvest, can provide for all of our needs.  Let’s renew our trust in him and come to the foot of the cross together and say “Lord, I believe help my unbelief”. Amen

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