Prayers of Approach
God, giver of all life and of our lives,
blessed are you in the fruits of the earth
blessed are you in the work of human hands
blessed are you in the harvest of human creativity.
God of the poor and hungry,
blessed are you in the striving for justice
blessed are you in the fragility of peace-making
blessed are you in the grace of hospitality.
God of the great feast and the simple meal,
blessed are you in the sowing of seed
blessed are you in the breaking of bread
blessed are you in the sharing of bread
blessed are you in our daily bread.
O God, you are the one we come to with praise
you are the one who hears our prayer
you have blessed us with your hospitality
may we be filled with the blessings of your house.
Lord of mountains and oceans,
we thank you for your power.
Lord of deserts and rocks,
we thank you for your faithfulness.
Lord of seeds and harvest,
we thank you for your provision.
Lord of all,
we thank you for your love.
Hymn: Come, ye thankful people, come (R&S 40)
Readings: Deuteronomy 8:7-10
After wandering in the desert for 40 years the Israelites are nearing the end of their journeying and after giving them the Law Moses reminds them of God’s care and the fulfilment of his promise to bring them into a land of plenty. They are exhorted to obey the Law and give thanks for all that God has given them. In the Gospel reading Jesus too reminds the people of God’s goodness and unconditional love and care for them, and that therefore they should not worry about what is to come.
Hymn: For the fruits of all creation (R&S 42)
Last week after the service at Kirkham I found myself discussing harvest with a few of the congregation over a cup of tea and biscuits. Their harvest celebration isn’t for a few weeks yet, in mid-October, because in past years when there were more farmers in the congregation they wouldn’t have finished gathering it all in until then.
In the south however, and in many other places depending on the crops, harvest might be in by the beginning of September, so I thought I would reflect on harvest now in the middle of the harvest season.
Harvest festivals are celebrated around the world, in many different religions and traditions. The Jews had – and still have – THREE harvest festivals. One comes just after Passover (Pesach ), around our Easter time. It celebrates the very beginning of the harvest, when the first barley was brought in. The second is 50 days later, at Pentecost. The Jews call it Shavuot and it celebrates the wheat harvest. The third happens in September/October, after New Year (Rosh Hashanah ) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur ). It is called Sukkoth which celebrates the final ingathering and is when the Jews make temporary shelters to remind them of their wandering in the wilderness, (and this year begins at sunset tomorrow). They are set out in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy and if you want to read about them all read Deuteronomy 16:1-17.
The focus of all these festivals was a time for family and friends to get together to share food and the stories of their faith and to give thanks to God for the plentiful harvest. Jesus himself celebrated the Passover Feast with his disciples, which we know today as the Last Supper, where he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it reminding us of God’s love for the whole of creation and challenging us to work towards the building of the Kingdom where all are invited to share in God’s banquet. He also went up to Jerusalem to celebrate
Sukkoth, the festival of shelters, even though it was becoming dangerous for him (John 7:10-14).
For many of us there is now a disconnection from the cycles of food production, with most foods available all the year round, many imported from around the globe. We have learned to take it for granted but we need to re-connect to the places and communities that our food comes from and appreciate our global inter-connections. Human activities have had such an impact that climate change now threatens our global harvests. COP26 (Conference of the Parties, the 26th such meeting) in Glasgow in November involving 196 countries will seek to reach agreement on a global response to climate change and how to limit global warming.
Though Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow that doesn’t mean that we can just carry on regardless. He tells us to be concerned about the kingdom of God and what that requires of us, and that requires us to be good stewards of creation. We therefore need to ask, ‘what can we do to care for our world and one another?’ and give thanks to God for the harvest.
Hymn: Praise and thanksgiving father we offer (R&S 48)
Prayers of Intercession
Lord of the harvest, the time of sowing and the time of reaping are yours. The time of weeping and the time of singing are yours, too. Thank you for the time of sowing and the time of reaping.
Let there be harvest in your world. We pray for those places in the world where the crops have failed and for those where poverty is the result of human aggression and human greed… We pray for a harvest of peace and plenty and we promise to work with you for it, both reaping and sowing.
Let there be harvest in the hearts of children, women and men. We pray for those who are spiritually starved, who long for meaning in their lives and who need to belong. Give to your church patience and energy, boldness to speak out and the ability to listen… We pray for a harvest of faith and of lives transformed by the Gospel and we promise to work with you for it, both reaping and sowing.
Let there be harvest in our own lives, and in the lives of those we know and love. We pray for those who are sick or troubled, for those who are lonely or who have suffered loss… We pray for ourselves, that, whatever difficulties we face, our lives may be grateful and joyful. We pray for a harvest of deepened love, more faithful discipleship, and we promise to work with you for it, both reaping and sowing.
Lord of the harvest, the time of sowing and the time of reaping are yours. The time of weeping and the time of singing are yours, too, and we promise to work with you for the harvest of your kingdom, both reaping and sowing. Amen.
Hymn: We plough the fields and scatter (R&S 124)
May the God who gathers and scatters us as seed
give us a harvest of peace sown in justice
that everyone may have daily bread.
May the blessing of the God, who cycles the seasons and swells the grain, go with us.
May the blessing of the Son, who harvests and kneads and breaks the bread, go with us.
May the blessing of the Spirit, who challenges us to a just sharing of earth’s harvest go with us now and into the week ahead. Amen.
Prayers of intercession © ROOTs for Churches Ltd. Other prayers Christian Aid. Used by permission.