Harvest Beloved Earth
Led by: Revd Dr Carla Grosch-Miller
Preparation for Worship
May we know ourselves as part of the intricately interwoven and complex tapestry of life: Beloved earth (adamah), creation of a loving God. And may we hear the earth call back the name to us: Beloved earthlings (ha’adam).
Call to Worship Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet the line goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world
In the heavens is set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them we are warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the proud thoughts;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Let us worship!
Prayer of Approach and Confession
Your Word is shining and clear. Word and world alike testify to your power and your presence. You created a wonder-filled world that is dynamic, ever-renewing and evolving. The earth spins, the moon orbits, and the tides ebb and flow. The seasons green and brown and green again, guaranteeing times of fallow and of fruitfulness. Rain and wind and dark of night play their role in the delicate balances that sustain our lives. Our bodies are fed by earth’s bounty; our spirits are nurtured by its beauty. What a place earth is! What a gift life is!
Yet days pass, years vanish and the miracle goes unnoticed. On this day we stop, look and listen. On this day we remember the gift and the giver, and our precious calling to care for creation. On this day of gathering in, of home and harvest and hope, we pause to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And to pray that our thanksgiving will be not just on our lips, but in our living.
For in forgetfulness and distraction, we have wandered far from the path you created for us. Our relationship to the creation is strained and neglected. Our careless exploitation and thoughtlessness has caused the destruction of thousands of species of living beings and the warming of the global climate. Our oceans are filled with plastic; our rivers and streams too often polluted; even the air we breathe at some times, in some places has become dangerous to us. However will we find our way back to right relating to all that you have made? The challenge is immense; the way ahead contentious; we are tempted to think we are powerless. Still we hear the call, to love you and all you have made; to turn away from all that gets in the way of that love; and to walk on paths of righteousness. Help us, good God. Reform our hearts and our minds, so that we may walk into the new day with hope. In the silence of this moment, receive us as we are and move us ever closer to who you would have us be.
And hear us as we pray together as Jesus taught us: Our Father….
Assurance of Grace
In steadfast love and compassion, God bids us to come near, to shed the burdens that weigh us down and to hear our name, Beloved, called again. We are forgiven. We are freed for love and service. Thanks be to God.
Come, ye thankful people, come
Spotify: Complete New English Hymnal vol 17, Choir of Ghirton College, Cambridge
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-20
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’
‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Did you hear it? As lockdown deepened this past spring, birdsong filled our gardens. Cheeky winged creatures made nests in unexpectedly quiet places. Wild Kashmiri goats roamed through Llandudno’s empty streets. A goose made a home in York railway station. We stopped all our rushing around and the earth breathed…. A long slow nourishing breath.
The psalm we began worship with sings of a cosmic order that enables the flourishing of all life; last spring we got a taste of it. The psalmist speaks of that order and the signposts to our place in the world as more desired than gold; sweeter than honey. And we are warned: living within the order comes with reward, but our proud thoughts will be our downfall.
We are ha’adam, Hebrew for earthlings, made from adamah, earth (Genesis 1:26). Made to till and to tend, to preserve and protect (Genesis 2:15). Made to have dominion over creatures as the sun has dominion over the earth (same Hebrew verb) – to “exercise skilled mastery” to give life and rest and food (Genesis 1:26).
When Moses is given the Ten Commandments, we are told of the necessity of times of rest and renewal – even God rested on the 7th day (Ex. 20:8-11). In the book of Leviticus (25:8-13), even the land was to be given a Sabbath – a Jubilee year – every 50 years. In fact, the biblical writers give exquisite attention…to the fragile land on which they live. There is a continual emphasis on how the earth is a self-perpetuating system of fertility, of fruitfulness to provide for all. That health and fertility is the best index in the Bible of the health of the relationship between … God and humankind, because we are a part of an intricate web of physical relations, which are at the same time moral relations.
The prophetic books – Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos – speak harshly of our failure to attend to these relations. But they each end with a picture of the people of God returning to a healthy relationship with God, and … the land being fruitful and productive.
This morning we read in the gospel of Matthew a parable of the harvest which warns of the consequences of rejecting God by failing to cooperate: loss and death.
The Harvest festival was celebrated with joy by our ancestors near and far because they knew that the health and fertility of the land and the sea was a matter of life and death. On this day we are recalled to the fragility of all life on earth and our role in protecting and preserving. We stop, look and listen…. delighting in birdsong and autumn colour and windfall fruit. We give thanks for the harvest. We take a breath, a long nourishing breath. And we pray for our precious beloved earth and for ourselves: that we may indeed yet protect and preserve for the flourishing of all life. Amen.
We plough the fields and scatter
Spotify: Complete New English Hymnal vol 16, Choir of The King’s School
Prayer of Dedication of Gifts and Offerings
Let us pray and give thanks for these gifts, monetary and otherwise.
Let us pray:
We come before you this morning bringing our monetary gifts – in the plates and also donated during the week. We thank you that we are able to give these gifts for the work at St Andrew’s. We dedicate them to you, a loving and generous God. But we also remember this morning at our Harvest Service all who are connected to St Andrew’s – our congregation and our uniformed organisations: Guides, Brownies and Rainbows, Scouts, Cubs and Beavers. We remember the young people at this time, we bring our prayers to you, asking you to put your loving arms around them – keeping them and their parents comforted – they are our future. It is a difficult time for all our young people.
We also remember all the groups that are associated with St Andrew’s. We pray that each and every one of them knows that we pray for their safety at this Harvest time.
We thank you God and remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves – we know the volunteers at the People’s Kitchen will be able to use these gifts for the many that use the People’s Kitchen. We thank you that your love shows through the actions of the volunteers.
We pray that during these strange times every one of us can help by our actions and prayers, to bring about your kingdom on earth – where hunger will be a distant memory and the world will no longer worry where the next meal will come from. AMEN
And now we remember this Sunday the names in our Book of Remembrance for October:
Charles Gordon Mallett
Winifred Emily Rye
Joan Mary Forster
William Malcolm Dickinson
Alec William Skee
God bless you all – faithful and dedicated servants of the past.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray:
Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home. But loving God, at this time when our way of life seems limited, we sometimes find it difficult to praise and give thanks! However, as we sit in this church this morning surrounded by your bountiful gifts we realise your loving ways are still with us. Thank you God for “bringing us up with a start” – life goes on and we must become your cornerstone as the gospel writer reminds us.
Our world is troubled by natural disasters – drought, famine, climate change. But we must remember, however small our contribution in helping it to be a better world, you will enhance it one thousand fold with your everlasting love.
Loving God, we pray the leaders of the world please put to good use their power, giving hope and encouragement to all.
In our own country we must learn to be less selfish, thinking only of ourselves – we thank all those who work with the sick, the marginalised, those with no voice and those who seem so selfish. Guide their thoughts and actions so they realise we are all God’s children – we each have a responsibility to each other.
We thank you for your unending faithfulness – from ancient times onto the future. Help us to draw on the past – to have courage for the present – moving forward with confidence and hope into the future.
As we sit in the calm and peace of this place help us to gather our thoughts together in the silence and open our hearts to you so we may be comforted, strengthened and inspired on our faith journey.
As we go forth from this place, help us to have a lightness in our step and a smile on our face, prepared to meet another week with your Son, Jesus Christ, at our side.
We ask all of these things through Jesus Christ, our mentor, our friend and advocate.
Blessing and Dismissal
Our good God made the earth and all that is upon it.
May we walk on the earth gently
eyes and ears tuned to its wonders,
hearts tuned to its care,
hands willing and able to protect and preserve.
Exit music Now thank we all our God
Spotify: Hymns from Kings College, Cambridge
 Ellen Davis, Old Testament scholar, https://onbeing.org/programs/wendell-berry-ellen-davis-the-art-of-being-creatures/#transcript (accessed 1/10/2020).
Words and Music reproduced under CCLI 213535 / One License A-632495