Reflection by Rev Dr Simon Rae – Sunday 31 March, 2019 Lent 4, Harvest Thanksgiving
Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, John 4: 31-38
‘Be grateful for the good things the Lord your God has given you and your family, and celebrate together with the Levite and the foreigner who lives among you.’
Deuteronomy 26 embodies a ritual of Thanksgiving for Harvest
But also a Profession or Reaffirmation of Faith – set in the story of Israel’s experience of God.
‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…’ Then the whole history of Israel and God is remembered:
Egypt, Exodus, the Land of Promise,
‘..and now I come to bring the first fruits of the ground, which you O Lord have given me’
Production of Food – is a work and a blessing.
We remember the Jewish benedictions that have become part of the Christian liturgy of
Holy Communion “Bread, which earth has given and human hands have made”
“Wine, fruit of the vine and work of human hands”
Harvest celebration, in some form or other, was part of almost all ancient civilizations…
But the puzzle for us – in modern cities – is that we hardly ever see the beginning of our food chain (except in our own, or our neighbour’s, garden)
The whole process is out of our hands. We live from other people’s work – on the land, transport, processing, distribution, marketing.
So, it is appropriate that we have brought some processed and packaged food… along with ‘raw’ food from our gardens.
If we follow the model of Deuteronomy 26 there are three tings to remember:
To be Grateful
To be consciously grateful, aware that in spite of the horror of recent weeks we enjoy a peace, security and freedom to get on with our own business, that is not the experience of many in our world. To be consciously grateful – is not to take these things for granted. We have been reminded how fragile they might be. Be we have a hope that some kind of new normal will allow us all to go on with our lives.
To Celebrate is central to Christian and to Jewish spirituality. But it is a community celebration – together.
Deuteronomy is quite specific ‘celebrate together with the Levite and the Foreigner who lives among you.’ [Both groups were landless, unable to produce food from their own land]. They were to be included - not left out.
It is difficult to find the right words right now –‘foreigner’ will no longer do. Nor will the more technical translation ‘the resident alien’.
But the spirit of the instruction is clear: ‘People whose origin or homeland was somewhere else, who are now living among us, are part of us,- and so are part of our celebration, part of the blessing which was given for all,
They are not ‘other’ – although they may do things differently, according to their custom,
they are not ‘different’ - not ‘they’ or ‘them’ but ‘us’ and ‘we’
And so part of our celebration,
Thirdly To Share:
In ancient times gifts would have been brought to a holy place, blessed and given out by hand to people who gathered expectantly;
Today we have whole networks in place – locally and internationally. And we have globalized awareness.
As a congregation we support regularly, Presbyterian Support, the Night Shelter, the Food Bank and more – and individually or as families we take up a whole variety of opportunities.
- To include those around us, and many we will never meet, in our
- Inclusive Celebration
- Thankful caring
- Responsible thanksgiving.