Sermon preached by Revd Karen Charman for Harvest Festival and the Ripon College Cuddesdon Welcome Service, 27th September 2020 at All Saints’ Church, Cuddesdon
It’s absolutely wonderful to be presiding and preaching here this morning for our Harvest Festival and the first of our two Sunday services to welcome Ripon College Cuddesdon to All Saints’ Church, at the beginning of a new academic year.
I’d like again, to wish you all a very warm welcome. I know most ordinands will soon be beginning placements elsewhere, and partners, spouses and children might choose to worship with you in your placement churches – but throughout your time at Cuddesdon, this will be your parish church, and you will always be welcome here. And I say this on behalf of myself, our Churchwarden Robert, our PCC, and all the regular members of our congregation. Welcome!
Beginning to train for ordination, during a worldwide pandemic, will not be easy; and many of you – including, or perhaps, especially – partners, spouses and children, will have made sacrifices to move here. The next year or two won’t be easy, but I hope your time here will be a good time – a time when lifelong friendships will be formed; a time when memories will be made; a time of growth and great fruitfulness; a time when the Holy Spirit will continue to work in and through you. I pray that – in your time here – you will all experience the grace of God, the unconditional love of God, and the peace of God; and that God’s grace, love and peace will help you get through the many challenges you will face. And I pray that – in your time here – you will be greatly blessed, and that we too, in turn, will be blessed by your presence among us.
Harvest Festival is an opportunity for us to give thanks to God – not just for a good harvest, safely gathered in, but also for the many blessings he pours down upon us. And today, I feel, we have many reasons to feel truly blessed; and many things to be thankful for.
And at this point, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jean and the wonderful team of volunteers who have decorated the church so beautifully for Harvest and our welcome service.
Harvest Festival is also an opportunity for us to respond to God’s generosity – perhaps by reciprocating his generous giving, and bringing blessings to others.
And of course, I’m sure many of you have done that already – either by donating food and other goods to the Community Emergency Foodbank, or by donating money to them. And if you haven’t donated yet, there’s links on our e-newsletter to enable you to donate.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable of the rich man whose land produces abundant crops. Rather foolishly – and selfishly – he decides to pull down his barns and build larger ones, to store all his grain and his goods.
It’s clear from the parable that the rich man has made a poor choice – but, I wonder, what should he have done instead?
Well, firstly, of course, he should have given thanks to God for the good harvest. And, then, he should, I think, have invited all his neighbours … all those who lived, or were residing temporarily, in his village or town, to a great feast to share, and enjoy, the bountiful harvest with him.
With the threat of a ‘second lockdown,’ looming over us, and the recent introduction of tighter restrictions, we’d be unwise to invite the whole village or – the college community round for a great feast this harvest-time. But, as Christians, we are called to participate regularly in a great banquet – in the Eucharistic feast … the thanksgiving feast, to which all are invited.
Whatever the next few weeks and months might bring in terms of the coronavirus and lockdown – even if our churches must close again for a while – we can all participate spiritually in this great feast, in which we:
– give thanks to God for his goodness
– offer our gifts at the altar
– and share in the one bread
Through our sharing together in the Eucharist – whether in church or on-line – we store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
As summer draws to a close, and coronavirus infection rates rise, I’m sure anxiety levels are rising too. I expect many of us are already thinking ahead to Christmas, and wondering whether we’ll be able to share that special festival in our churches, and our Christmas dinner, with our families. Others may be remembering the stockpiling in March, which led to near empty supermarket shelves, and worrying about shopping for food, toilet paper and other necessities. I’m sure Bishop Humphrey, and all the tutors and other college staff, will have many worries at this time. And I’m sure we’re all finding it hard not to worry about our lives, and the lives of our family and friends.
But Jesus comforts us: “Do not worry about your life … life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” He bids us consider the birds and the flowers.
Although, as humans, we find it hard not to worry, the first lockdown reminded many of us of the benefits for our well-being and mental health to be gained from sitting in our gardens, considering the birds and the flowers.
So, in the weeks to come:
– let’s all take time to consider the birds and the flowers, and the flora and fauna in our churchyards and gardens, the college grounds, and the lovely fields surrounding our village
– lets’ all count our blessings, daily, and give thanks to God
– let’s all review what we are able to give in response to God’s blessings (whether that be money, time, talents, or a combination of the three),
– let’s all remember our neighbours and, especially, those less fortunate than ourselves
– and let’s all continue to share in the Eucharistic feast – whether that’s in church, in the college chapel, or on-line
…and, finally, let’s seek opportunities to spread God’s blessings – grace, love and peace – far and wide.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Matthew 6.19-21