Loving God, as we come to You today from our own homes, we give You thanks for all Your goodness to us and for all the many gifts and blessings we enjoy each day. Help us to share these with others in all we say and do, and as we come to You now be with us we pray and help us to know Your hand upon us…Amen.
Read Luke 12:13-31
This past week the Autumn Equinox came and went, so we can now officially say that the nights are indeed drawing in as we move further into Autumn. And today we think of Harvest Time, a special time of year when are able to celebrate the abundance of God’s provision to us and offer Him our thanks for all His goodness.
But Harvest is not just a time for us to thank God for His provision, it’s also a time when we are all reminded so vividly of the sheer beauty and wonder of God’s creation and how God provides for all He has created. For as we enter Autumn we see all kinds of birds and animals also enjoying the fruit of God’s provision. Many of which, even now, are beginning to prepare for the winter months that lie ahead. And for many, because of all this, Autumn is their favourite season of the year.
Of course although we celebrate Harvest at this time, it’s worth remembering that God provides for us, not just at this time of the year, but each and every day of our lives, and of course we thank God for that. Yet even as we do give thanks, still we have to acknowledge the sad reality that so many within our world today are not able to enjoy the kind of harvest that we do.
Inequality, sadly, is something that is all too common in our society today and it comes in many shapes and forms. But all too often what it comes down to is the simple fact that we have those who have too much and those who have too little and we see that clearly in our Gospel passage today. But perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves, is what do these two stories say to us and what can we learn from them as we seek to live our lives of faith. Well maybe we have to begin by looking at the two stories separately.
At first glance the parable speaks to us quite clearly about the need to put our faith and trust in God, even in times of plenty in our lives – and of course that’s a good place to begin when we consider these verses. However, once we delve deeper into what Jesus is saying here we uncover so much more. And if we are honest with ourselves, we find that we have to ask ourselves some very meaningful and profound questions, beginning with, what are the priorities in my life?
When faced with such a question many might understandably say that it would depend on their circumstances at that time. If, for example someone was suffering from ill health, their main priority may be to get back to full health and fitness as soon as they could. Others might say that a change of lifestyle was their number one priority. But for others in different circumstances their number one priority may be finding a way to feed or clothe their loved ones.
But what about us? Here and now, at this place and time, what is our number one priority? Does it depend where we find ourselves on that sliding scale between having too much or having too little? Yet perhaps the more important question we have to ask ourselves is this – where does God fit into all of this and how do these priorities tie in with the faith lives we seek to live? And alongside this question we then have to ask ourselves, in what or in whom do I place my hope?
The rich fool in this passage placed his hope in the abundance of his wealth and material goods? The farmer in the parable Jesus told placed his hope in the harvest he had been able to yield, no doubt putting that down to hard work and endeavour on his part. And I wonder, how guilty are we of thinking like this at times?
All too often today we see that for many the main priority in life is the accumulation of wealth and material possessions and it is in these that they place their hope. Like the farmer in the parable they believe that with these they will be able to enjoy a good life – and what more could they ask for. Yet as we see with the rich fool there is a real danger here. When is enough, enough? As human beings we often find that there is always the temptation that the more we have, the more we want.
In thinking and behaving in this way we display a selfishness which is second to none. A selfishness that leads to us shutting God out of our lives altogether, where suddenly the Word of God has no meaning or purpose in our lives, because we don’t need God? If we are able to amass and accumulate so much on our own, we can provide for ourselves and have no need of God.
It’s at times like this that we need to recall the verses we looked at a few weeks ago from Matthew’s Gospel, ‘What good would it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul…’(Matt. 16:26).
To love God and to choose Jesus and be His Disciple, is to choose to be part of what the world is actually for – it is to choose to be part of God’s image. And in God’s image there is no place for greed or selfishness, or indeed anything where we pursue our own self-interest and wealth at the expense of others and at the expense of the relationship we have with God through His Son. And that is effectively what Jesus is saying here.
But if the parable was aimed at those who had too much in life, what follows after is aimed at those who had so little. And whilst it contains some of the most comforting and reassuring words we find anywhere in the Gospel narratives it is also put here to emphasise the teaching of the parable that comes before it.
Jesus wants His Disciples – and He wants us today – not to live our lives focussed on material possessions and the belief that it is these that will enable us to enjoy life, but rather to focus on God and put their faith in Him. Yes, there may be times when we do have genuine concerns and worries about how we will be able do certain things. But if those times come, still Jesus says, we are to look to God and hold on to our faith in Him.
And in the images we have of God feeding the birds of the air, clothing the grass of the field, of the wild flowers looking so beautiful we catch a glimpse of what we think of at this time of Harvest. Because if God would do such as this, Jesus asks, how much more will He do and provide for us – and at Harvest time we see the answer to that in God’s provision for us.
As we walk with Jesus there are many temptations which may distract of divert us from the path that we should be taking. Greed for wealth and material possession is one, and concern about not having these is another – although in many ways they are one and the same. And to stop us from succumbing to these temptations Jesus says that we are to seek God’s kingdom first.
What does that mean in real terms? As best we can we are to seek to live as God would have us, emulating our Lord and Saviour. Listen to what God says and then apply it to our own lives? If we view our possessions or success in life as the result of our own talent and efforts, we will think of ourselves as the owner of these things, whereas in reality we are only stewards of all that God has provided?
Today we give thanks to God for His harvest, for His provision. But the fact is everything we have and everything we are able to do comes to us as a gift from God. So let’s thank God for all His grace and goodness to us and let’s seek His Kingdom at all times and play our part in the building of that Kingdom here and now…
Almighty God, as we once again give thanks for all that You have given us and all that You provide for us, we pray today for all who work to make your provision available to us. We pray for our farmers and our fishermen, and for all who work the land and sea, to bring the harvest of your bounty to us. We ask that You would strengthen and keep them and that You would watch over their families and their loved ones.
We pray also for those who are not as fortunate as we are and who do not enjoy the kind of harvest that we do. Those who live in lands plagued by drought and famine, where crops have failed and where there is too little food and too many mouths to feed. And we think of those in our own land who have scarcely enough food to feed themselves and their loved ones, those who are living below the poverty line and who have to depend on others to feed them day by day. We ask that you would help us to remember them and to play our part in supporting all the many charities and organisations that do what they can to help anyone in this position.
Finally, Lord we think of our own community and those whom we love and care for and we ask that you would hold them close to you this day. Be especially with those who are sick or missing loved ones and grant them your healing and your peace at this time. And in these uncertain days we are living in, be with all who are anxious or fearful of what the future holds and grant them that comfort and peace that only you can. And all these things we ask in Jesus name, Amen.