A Harvest Festival sermon preached at the Mint Methodist
Church, Exeter, by the Minister,
Hymns: Come ye thankful people come (355)
We plough the fields and scatter (351)
Praise God for Harvest (NHAWS 270)
Beauty for Brokenness (NHAWS 22)
Now thank we all our God (566)
Amos 5:11 “You trample on the poor”
Amos 5:21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts”
Amos 5:24 “Let justice roll down like a river”
prophet Amos lived in Israel 750 years before Christ
The Israelites had inherited the Promised Land 500 years earlier,
and continued to attend religious festivals
to thank God for his goodness.
whilst singing Psalms and attending festivals,
they had forgotten justice.
They lived unrighteous lives
and trampled on the poor and the needy.
gives his people a stark and uncompromising warning from God –
If you live unjustly, then your religious festivals become
a worthless and meaningless mockery.
The parallel with our situation is obvious.
been given this rich and productive world in which to live.
We give thanks and praise to God as we sing our Harvest Festival hymns.
Amos – do we trample on the poor and needy?
Do we ignore the call for justice?
Because if we do our Harvest Festival isn’t worth
the paper the service order is printed on.
I am not very good at hanging pictures –
I always feel I need about three more hands than I’ve got –
You know what I mean?
You line the picture up just where you want it –
you’ve lost the pencil so you put your finger
where the nail is going to go –
and the nail is between your teeth
but then you can’t reach the hammer,
so you put the picture down and lean and stretch behind you
to get the hammer and its just out of reach
so you lean a bit more –
and then you overbalance and tread on the picture
and smash the glass…..
You may not have done that, but I have….
about that when I saw this year’s Christian Aid Harvest poster –
a map of the world with the glass smashed and splintered –
is a vulnerable place –
and it is peopled by vulnerable people –
we need to keep our eyes open and treat it with care and attention –
it is easy for thoughtless and careless people to smash it.
Every generation, not just Amos’s, can trample on the poor and needy.
Do you recall Desmond Tutu
protesting at the Apartheid regime in South Africa saying
“We refuse to be treated a s a doormat
for the government to wipe its jackboots on”
danger is that like the Israelites of old
we sing our Harvest Festival songs
but still goose step over the needy,
trample over the poor and smash the fragile environment
of the world in which we live.
God given world of ours is fragile -
– we need to walk the earth like we are treading on egg shells.
But so often we act more like a bull in a china shop.
(if I can mix my metaphors and similes a bit)
we are like a bull in a china shop full of Faberge eggs –
stamping on precious eggshells and smashing them all
maybe not Faberge eggs –
maybe just hen’s eggs -
which are of course ultimately much more precious and valuable
than any objet d’art – for they are the stuff of life and sustenance –
How do we
tread the earth?
Walking gently –
or stamping on egg shells, destroying the very life of God’s world?
speaks to our condition, to our Harvest Festival,
when he says: I want justice as well as hymns.
already talked a bit before the young people went out
about how we might change a smashed and broken world.
You might to look again at the 8 millennium goals
on the walls around us – goals we are committed to reaching by 2015:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
Or else study, sign and pray the Christian Aid Commitment
you received when you came in.
to stop trampling on our planet and its future
We need to stop trampling on the poor and their hopes and dreams
One of my favourite poems is Yeats’
“He wishes for the cloths of heaven”
It is usually read as a love poem -
but I invite you to hear it as a plea
from the downtrodden poor of the world
to those of us with whom
they would share a common destiny.
Do you remember the words?
And can you hear the poor of Gaza or Darfur
speaking to you through them now?
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.
Scriptures are full of the dreams of the poor,
and God’s dreams for them -
of the coming day when
· the lion shall lie down with the lamb,
broken hearted shall be soothed
the prisoners released, the poor hear good news,
the river of the water of life shall flow from the throne of God
and by the river shall stand the tree of life,
for the healing of the nations
dream of the day when the seed of the Gospel
shall bear fruit 30fold, 60fold, 100fold,
and Justice shall flow like a river,
righteousness like a rolling stream.
This is God promise, God’s dream for his people –
It is a
promise we need to hold firm in a dark and dangerous world,
- that ultimately love and justice will prevail.
But in the meantime whose side are we on?
Are we sharing the dream, or are we trampling on it?
as though the life of the world depended upon it,
Let’s change the world
you don’t know where to start changing the world,
start here and now.
Here’s a Christian Aid appeal envelope –
that is as good a place as you can get to start changing the world –
Please give generously
· And let us pray that the dreams of the poor may come true
· Pray that our broken world may be mended and healed
as our Lord taught us,
Pray that God’s Kingdom may come.