A harvest to share as we live out our beliefs

Mary Copping, 3 October 2021

1 Timothy 6: 6–10; Matthew 6: 25–33

This year we are giving our harvest gifts to the Basics Bank, a wonderful organisation that helps those in need, and in this way we can support their work. These days there are mostly tins or packets of food – very different from years ago when the children brought fresh produce, the baker gave a harvest loaf and the farmer gave a sheaf of corn. But it’s so good to encourage the children and all of us to think of others in need, especially in such a place as Winchester, where the need is more hidden than in some other towns. It’s also very good for us to think again about the needs of our city and our world.

One thing that seemed really to interest Jesus was the harvest. He calls himself, in Matthew 9: 38, ‘the Lord of the harvest’. In John 20: 21, he says, ‘As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you’. In Matthew and Luke we’re told that Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’. Jesus Christ is still the Lord of the harvest, and he is still now calling for people to join him in the harvest, to draw people to him.

Matthew tells us that ‘Jesus went about all the cities and villages’. The Jewish historian Josephus said that at this time there were over 200 cities and villages in the region of Galilee, which was an area about 40 miles wide and 70 miles long. Because the land was so fertile it was a booming area for farmers, which was the main occupation of that day. He estimated that the smallest villages and cities contained at least 15,000 people. So based on that assessment, Galilee probably contained at least 3 million people. Jesus went about village to village, city to city, trying to speak to as many of them as he could, preaching his message of love and care for neighbours.

Obviously Jesus couldn’t get to everybody, but he was willing to get to anybody, whatever status they had, if they needed his help. Jesus spent his time seeking to love the unlovable, reach the unreachable, teach the unteachable and care for everyone.

Jesus couldn’t get to everybody, but he was willing to get to anybody, whatever status they had.

But when Jesus was on this earth as a man, he was limited by time and space and couldn’t accomplish everything he wanted to by himself. That was the point at which he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few’. What is our response to this?

In our gospel reading, Jesus urges people not to worry, making the point that by worrying ‘we cannot add a single span to our lives’. It’s very difficult not to worry, especially in this Winchester Green Week when we’re looking at all the negative things we are doing to God’s creation. Of course we are worried about the effects we have on God’s world. Yet I think Jesus is saying that worrying about the things we can do nothing about is pointless. We can show concern, and in our concern we can do something to help. We can all do something to take care of God’s world and protect it – however large or small. Ours is to go out into the harvest, however Jesus means this, and do good to creation and to people.

In a piece on faith and climate change by Archbishop Justin Welby which was published in the New York Times on 3 November 2017 he said:

As people of faith, we don’t just state our beliefs — we live them out. One belief is that we find purpose and joy in loving our neighbours. Another is that we are charged by our creator with taking good care of his creation.

The moral crisis of climate change is an opportunity to find purpose and joy, and to respond to our creator’s charge. Reducing the causes of climate change is essential to the life of faith. It is a way to love our neighbour and to steward the gift of creation.

St Teresa of Avila put it well when she said, ‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which he is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which he is to bless us now’.

So what is our response to this? Where is the harvest for us and how can we be all that God wants us to be where we are?

Another quote from Justin Welby: ‘As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.’

We should continue in our lives, loving, having compassion, going where we feel God wants us to go, being where he wants us to be and helping those he calls us to – being aware that we are stewards of all that God gives us, and followers of Christ, and asking God show each of us how he wants us to respond to the needs of people and to the needs of his world. Amen.