Call to Worship
God of abundance, God of fruitfulness,
God of generosity, God of love beyond measure.
God of extravagance, God of celebration,
God of goodness, God of love beyond imagining.
We gather, bringing the best that we can offer
to give thanks for all good things
and share your generosity with others.
Hymn 233 – Come, ye thankful people, come
Prayers of adoration and confession
God of honey and harvest, of grain and grape,
of ocean and orchard:
This harvest time may we both praise and pray;
praise you for the abundance and pray that this harvest is not just shared but shared justly.
God of beehives and breadbaskets
of living webs and the weaving of life
of ecosystems and economy:
This harvest time may we both praise and pray
praise you for the wealth of the harvest
and pray that this harvest is not just a promise
but is full of promise for all
God of bumble bees and blue whales
evolution and environment,
ice-field and star-field:
This harvest time
may we both praise and pray
praise you for the sheer wonder of the world
and pray that this harvest is not about our wealth
but the wealth of our generosity.
Let us confess our forgetfulness of God, our failure to give thanks and the ways in which we have wasted the gifts of creation. We confess to you our lack of care for the world you have given us. We confess to you our selfishness in not sharing the earth's bounty fairly. We confess to you our failure to protect resources for others. Lord have mercy, Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. May God show us his mercy, restore us in his likeness and give us generous hearts and lives. Amen
Hymn 143 – Who put the colours in the rainbow
Readings – Ruth 2: 17-23
Matthew 13: 24-33
Hymn 137 – All things bright and beautiful
Prayer of Illumination
Lord of the harvest,
as the wild flower scatters its seeds far and wide,
so may your people scatter the seed of hope
in the soils of despair, bringing to growth those
good things that are your gift and promise. Amen
Two women shuffle along the dusty way. They have been on the road for many days. Behind them lies death and heartache; the future for them lies ahead. But an uncertain future. They have been sleeping rough, just where they have been able to find shelter, but now they reach their destination. Where will they stay? Where will they manage to find food? Where will there be work?
Who are these women? It could be Ruth and Naomi, leaving Moab behind. Moab where Naomi’s husband and two sons died and were buried; Ruth whose husband died, but who also had the heartache of leaving her family, her homeland, everything that was familiar, to venture with Naomi to make a new home, but ever the niggle in her mind of how she will be received.
Two women on the road. But think 3000 years on, to October 2022. There is not so much difference. For these women could be Maryam and her mother-in-law in East Africa, in Somalia, where drought has caused one million people to be displaced. Families have had to bury loved ones on the road as they journey for days, sometimes for weeks, in search of aid and assistance. Maybe Maryam has had to bury her husband, her children.The UN warns that famine is at the door of Somalia, but by the time it is announced, it is already too late. The scenes that prompted popstars to perform at LiveAid are being repeated again, with 22 million at risk of starvation
Two women on the road. It could be Yasmin and her mother. They live in Pakistan. They weren’t rich, but they had a good life. A house with some fields to grow vegetables, and they had chickens. They were comfortable, and they counted themselves blessed because they lived near the River Indus, so the ground was well-watered, even when drought was at their door. They are Christian, so had to keep their heads down sometimes, but they counted themselves blessed. But that same river had become swollen with rainfall: it had risen and risen like the story of Noah’s flood the pastor mentioned at their small church. Their house was threatened, and they had to take what they could and leave. Her dad went back to see if he could rescue more, and he hasn’t returned. They shuffle along the road, like the 9 million others who have been displaced. A third of the country under water. What would the future hold?
For Ruth in the Old Testament, there was a future for her, and we have romantic pictures of her standing ‘amid the alien corn’. But it was hard. She was young and foreign; she was vulnerable to unwanted attention by the locals. She was given the opportunity to glean in the field of Boaz; once the harvesters had done their work, they left a little for the widows and orphans to come and pick, a practice incidentally that still goes on in the kibbutzim of Israel today.
A lot of the Bible stories and a lot of Jesus’ parables are in an agricultural setting. There is the joy of the good harvest, but the Bible is honest and equally there are stories of plagues of locusts devastating the land or -in our parable today, a crop where there are many weeds sown with the good grain, which will need to be sorted out and separated later.
In the story of Ruth, we have a snapshot of Boaz the farmer enjoying a good harvest. No doubt like all farmers, he would have his anxieties; the weather, the fear of a plague of locusts which would destroy the crop, and even war. Just like farmers today worry about the weather and climate change and various diseases and bank loans; just as farmers in Kenya or Somalia or Pakistan worry about drought and flooding. But Boaz shared his good fortune. He obviously treated his workers well; he also noticed the stranger and included her. If we read on in the story, Ruth and Boaz marry, and their great-grandson will be King David. A good future for someone who shuffled along a dusty road with her mother-in-law.
But what future for Maryam in Somalia? What future for Yasmin and her family in Pakistan? They will pick up the pieces, but the drought and the flood have both been caused by climate change, as was Hurricane Ian which left such a trail of destruction in the Caribbean and in the States. Next year or the next may well bring more extreme weather, and we need to act.
We rejoice at our harvest. We are happy that the tractors are in the fields around us, that we do have broccoli from Caverton in our shops, that we have food in our cupboards and fridges. But we are called to have the same compassion Boaz showed and reach out to the increasing number who rely on foodbanks in this country, but also remember that we are part of the world and must reach out to the likes of Maryam and Yasmin, that they might know a brighter future.
Prayers of Dedication
We bring the offering of wheat and all cereals, the potatoes and all the crops from our fields. The land has yielded its harvest; our God has blessed us.
We bring the offering of the shepherd’s crook, a symbol of the flocks and herds of animals and birds.
The land has yielded its harvest; our God has blessed us.
We bring the offering of flowers, fruits, berries and vegetables from orchards and gardens. The land has yielded its harvest; our God has blessed us.
We bring the offering of seeds for next year’s crops, symbol of the trust we put in you, O God. The land has yielded its harvest; our God has blessed us.
We bring this Harvest Loaf as both a symbol of the fruits of human labour and of the means by which we have the strength to labour.
The land has yielded its harvest; our God has blessed us.
We bring the offering of an empty bowl as symbol of harvests that fail and of those around the world who suffer from hunger and starvation. Keep us mindful of their needs and may your goodness towards us bear fruits of compassion and generosity. Almighty and everlasting God, we offer you our hearty thanks for your fatherly goodness and care in giving us the fruits of the earth in their seasons. Give us grace to use them rightly, to your glory, for our own well-being and for the relief of those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Hymn 230 – Praise God for the harvest
Prayers of Thanksgiving & Intercession
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world and all that lives in it. Thanks be to God. All the animals of the forest are the Lord’s and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills. Thanks be to God. The Lord brings forth food from the earth, wine that gladdens our hearts, oil to make our faces shine, bread that sustains our hearts. Thanks be to God. The Lord makes springs pour water into the valleys; it flows between the mountains. Thanks be to God. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. Thanks be to God. For all who cooperate and collaborate with God to bring food to our tables, Thanks be to God For farmers, growers, packers and processors, for breeders, stock people, shepherds and dairy-farmers, Thanks be to God For distributors, hauliers, retailers and stall-holders, for chefs, cooks and creative entrepreneurs, Thanks be to God
Let us offer our prayers to God for the life of the world and for all God’s people in their daily life and work.
We pray for all through whom we receive substance and life; for all farming families who work so hard, often in adverse conditions, to provide our food and look after our countryside; Lord of all life: Hear our prayer
We pray for young people in farming, for those studying at agricultural colleges and for the next generation of farmers as they bring new skills, energy and vision to the care of the countryside and the production of food in sustainably ways. Lord of all life: Hear our prayer
We pray for farmers and their families who are under stress as they face uncertainty and unpredictability in global food markets, and who struggle with increasing regulation and requirements; for those who want to leave farming or retire, and those who find it hard to see a way forward. Lord of all life: Hear our prayer
We pray for governments and aid agencies and those areas of the world where there is disaster, drought and starvation; for all involved in agricultural research who face the challenge to produce more food for a growing world, without harming the environment; and grant us all generous hearts in the face of immediate crises. Lord of all life: Hear our prayer
We pray for all areas in the world where the harvest has failed for whatever reason. Ukraine, Yemen, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and all affected by war or by extreme weather.
We offer ourselves to your service, asking that by the Spirit at work in us others may receive a rich harvest of love and joy and peace Lord of all life: Hear our prayer
God of grace as you are ever at work in your creation, so fulfil your wise and loving purpose in us and in all for who we pray, that with them and in all that you have made, your glory may be revealed and the whole earth give praise to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Hymn 804 – You shall go out with joy
God the Father, who created the world, give you grace to be wise stewards of his creation.
God the Son, who redeemed the world, inspire you to go out as labourers into his harvest.
God the Holy Spirit, whose breath fills the whole of creation, help you bear his fruits of love, joy and peace.
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you all, now and forevermore. Amen