It took me ages to decide what to speak on this Harvest Festival. It’s a festival that feels very different if you’re in a more urban than rural area (we had quite a conversation about this on Twitter – see the thread here). The Gospel reading set for this year (Year B for Lectionary geeks) included Jesus’ words:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? – Matthew 6:28-30
So for my Harvest homily (which was at our new monthly family service ‘Recharge’ at St John the Baptist, Clowne) I gave everyone a leaf (having collected a variety of them, different colours and types, through the week). Here’s what I said, I used the practice of the examen found in Ignatian Spirituality as a guide. I share this here for anyone who wants to use it in their own context – it would work with all ages.
A Harvest Meditation
When you came into church today you were given a leaf. I’d like you to take that leaf in your hand now. Harvest is a time of year for us to stop and notice. We live in a different time from our ancestors where the harvest and bringing the harvest in would have dominated everyone’s lives. Today we hardly notice it except for seeing some combine harvesters in the fields around Clowne. We carry on with our lives as if nothing is changing. But the creation all around us is changing and now we move into Autumn and the leaves are falling from the trees. Harvest is there in the calendar to make us stop and notice. I’d like you to look at the leaf in your hand. What colour is it? Can you trace the veins on it. Does it have any unsightly marks or is it nearly perfect? Now I want you to think back over the last year. How has it been for you this year? What have been the highlights, the best bits? What have been the difficult things?
Just like these leaves, all of us have had different experiences this year, different challenges. Just like these leaves, each one is unique and each one is beautiful. God has written His beauty into creation. In our reading today we heard Jesus tell us that we should look at the flowers of the field. Stop and notice. See how God has made these leaves so beautiful, even though they will end up on the bonfire soon. Jesus says, if God cares that much to make something as insignificant as a leaf on a tree so beautiful, how much more does God care for you? So Jesus says we shouldn’t be rushing around worrying about everything. We need to stop, notice, stay calm and remember that as sure as the seasons coming and changing, we can trust that new life will come out of death. We know that all our trees will soon look dead but in the new year, new life will come. That is God’s promise to us.
Today is an opportunity to reflect and give thanks for all the good things in our lives, especially the way in which the earth produces food for us to eat, to give thanks for all those who work to produce food and drink for us to enjoy, to say sorry for the times we are not grateful, that we don’t notice God’s work in the world, that we don’t look after the things God has given us.
Look at your leaf again. I want you to think of one thing that you are grateful for. Hold that thought and thank God in your heart.
In the seasons we see the trees letting go of their leaves, letting them fall to the ground. What we are going to do now is pass around a basket in which you can place your leaf. When you do this I want you to think of one thing that you need to let go of. It might be a resentment against a person, or something that you’ve been worrying about too much. Let’s take a moment of quiet again. As we listen to this piece of music (see below), drop your leaf in the basket as a sign of letting go of that thing, giving it to God as we remember that he knows the number of hairs on our head, he knows all the things we’re worried about.
Once the basket was full I took it up and placed it on the altar alongside our thanksgiving offering of food.
Happy Harvest Festival!
I also made this Harvest playlist with Harvest themed songs on it on Spotify!