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Harvest Thanksgiving

Gethin Edward

Holy Communion

West LaHave, Crousetown, Broad Cove – October 7 AD 2007

Isaiah 55:1f     John 6:27f

Eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you.

One of the joys of my childhood on Prince Edward Island was our family’s vegetable garden.  It was a big one, planted partly out of my mother’s love of watching things grow, but mostly because the food that it produced was needed to fill our larder.  The bond of the gardener with the garden is a wonderful way for us to meet creation, and perhaps particularly for children; I remember the feeling almost of awe that the tiny seeds we planted and watered were the beginning of the harvest that would soon grow to feed us so well.  Carrot seeds seemed especially unlikely to succeed, but not long after the tiny specks were buried in the earth we would be thinning the carrot patch, and by August there were roots too great for our young teeth to bite through.  One of the most comforting memories of my life is the vision of my mother in the kitchen at the end of a long day in late summer, blanching beans for the freezer, storing away the summer’s bounty against the cold and lean days of winter.  And so we grew up knowing to be thankful for the humble and humbling miracle of creation’s annual pageant of life and death and rebirth. 

Today we are called, both by the church and by the movement of the seasons, to offer before God our yearly thanks for the fulfillment of nature’s promise in the harvest.  For anyone whose life or livelihood is tied to that promise, from the smallest kitchen garden to the largest field of grain, it is among the most natural of acts, to give thanks for the earth’s bounty.  And yet, for Christians, who begin their redeemed life with a special kind of dying to the world in the waters of baptism, this festival bears with it a kind of dilemma.  Just how and in what way are we to be thankful for the material gifts of this life?  How are we to possess them, and how are they rightly celebrated, what is their proper place and use in our lives?

In our inheritance as fallen creatures we begin life unable to see what is the proper goodness of creation.  Our hearts are confused and disordered, since we have lost that original paradise of a pure and simple communion with our creator—and in our sinful confusion we turn to the world, endlessly and slavishly to seek in the fleeting things that are made the goodness that is God’s own.  Our Christian pilgrimage begins with a turning away from that worldly mindedness, in a kind of thwarted sadness, and with a turn toward Jesus in hope as the redemption, the rebirth and the return of the soul to the love of God as our one true and perfect goodness and happiness.  All that was once embraced and held dear as the gratifying of our proud desire is crucified with Christ on the Cross, so that we might rise again with Him in the new light of the resurrection to know only the perfect satisfying of our longing in His love for us.  Only there do we discover the infinite peace of our souls made present to God, without which we are all restless and heartsick.

And this discovery, and its recollection, forms the whole basis of our Christian lives.  Constantly we must be reminded of the fruitlessness of seeking our happiness in the world, and of Christ as the one true object of heart’s longing.  “Wherefore, writes Isaiah, do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness,” in the fullness of Christ’s self-offering to us and for us.  “Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”  The world is to much with us, and we must constantly renounce all its vain pomps and glories if we are to taste the true bread from heaven.  Think of the first weeks of this Trinity season. It is entirely concerned with the discipline, the instruction of our souls to turn away from earthly lusts and deceits, and not to be led by them.  “ … My brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the manner of the flesh; for if you live after the manner of the flesh, you will die; but if through the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the body, you will live.

But that is not the end of the story.  In our redemption, creation is not simply lost to us, but renewed and perfected in our newly restored vision of the eternal goodness of God.  Think of Job, who after all his suffering and confusion of heart repented of his pride, and after he turned back to God in dust and ashes, all that he had lost was not only restored, but restored more abundantly, perfected in the new light of redeeming grace that was his by repentance and faith. And think too of Mary Magdalene finding Jesus outside the empty tomb, and thinking Him to be the gardener.  Because from God’s point of view our redemption is not simply a matter of our own circumstances, but in the fullest sense involves the whole created order: “for the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:19)  Creation awaits the liberation from our proud spirit of domination, and a rebirth of the holy dominion that was ours in the beginning. 

It is one of the paradoxes of our faith that the way toward that right relation with the world is our spiritual communion with God in Christ.  As we grow in our discipline and in the strength of prayer, the reality of creation does not fade away, but appears to us more and more vividly.  But that is not such a strange thing; it is just a matter of knowing things in their proper order, knowing all things in their divinely ordered courses.  Nothing that is made falls outside the motion of Love, since, as we discover in our redemption, there is nothing else that moves the world.  That has been the refrain of this entire Trinity season, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”  As we grow in the knowledge of that love, we grow to see how each element of life, from the humblest to the highest, belongs to the working of Providence, and we grow to see how to us each thing that is made has a right use as the agent and vessel of the love of God.  This is part of our calling, and part of the fullness of God’s work in the redemption of the world, “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  All creation longs after its place in the praises of its Creator, and it is our privilege in the world to commend all things to God in just this way. 

It is for this that we have come to this place today; to draw near with faith to the offering of Christ’s love for us in word and sacrament, and to know in the delight of that heavenly manna how that all things rightly participate in the operation  of grace.  So we present them here, all the things of creation that belong to our lives, with thanksgiving that to us they are no more the seeds of temptation, but in the eternal goodness of providence they belong to the shape of our praises and the offering of ourselves unto God. 

Amen.

 

 

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