Perhaps this harvest time is an opportunity for us all, to acknowledge the fruits that we all have in the depth of our being. Fruits that take a lot of time to grow and mature into the beautiful personality and unique qualities that are particular to all our stories. The gift of grandparents who embody the story of every harvest, parents who respond so generously to the needs of their children. Parenting I’m sure in many ways could be likened to tending the needs of the vineyard, it is constant, demanding, most challenging and in many ways totally dependent on the unconditional generosity and reservoir of love, that provides for the needs of family life. I am often truly inspired by the time and indeed sacrifices that so many wonderful parents, so often make for their children in order to allow them to grow and realise the best possible harvest for their family. No fruit or talent can realise its potential without effort and work.
So much of what we are giving thanks for is the product of an industrial system designed to treat everything as a commodity and us as the consumer. The purpose of the “market” is to make a profit by processing everything. The Earth and all its produce is raw materials to feed into a factory that churns out processed “stuff” that is supposed to be designed for us. And the advertising is there to convince us that it is good, wholesome and that we must buy it. The machines that process it are operated by a few folk who are there to make sure it is functioning eg. £60,000 machines that identify if the vegetables are the right colour or shape. Or we employ people on low wages to do monotonous, soul destroying tasks such as removing blemished misshapen fruit. Or the sweat shops where our cheap clothes are produced that we wear a few times and then throw away.
And we convince ourselves that this is the right thing to do because we need to be able to feed, clothe and house our growing population. Money rather than community has become our primary source of security and we have moved from a place where belonging matters to a place where belongings matter. Are these the things that we have come to say thank you to God for?
At the start of the pandemic, the international community had agreed to distribute available vaccines fairly worldwide. After more than a year of lockdowns and millions of infections and deaths, little remains of this promise. While rich countries have secured the majority of available vaccine doses, many poor countries still have none, including many countries in Africa. The COVAX vaccine alliance has started to supply these countries with vaccines, but this is progressing too slowly, therefore, a decision should now be made about temporary suspension of the patents for coronavirus vaccines. This would make it possible to quickly expand global vaccine production at additional locations worldwide.
When I read the Gospels and the Old Testament prophets I find a Jesus and a God who stand for something so different. To Jesus people mattered. Their quality of life was more important than the quantity of wealth. He spoke of a God, a Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children.
He spoke out against the systems that were only interested in power, in creating wealth and profit, that turned God’s beautiful creation into raw materials for its businesses, that trampled over everyone.
Jesus and the prophets told a different story, of a world where love, justice and mercy were available in huge measure. Where no one would be in need, where people live in peace with each other and with nature. Where, as we heard last week, God is our lover. Where the rich and the powerful are challenged and changed. A story of revolution and transformation.
We tell a different story every Sunday when we come together as a community. Our liturgy tells the story of how we have failed to live in peace with each other and nature but our Creator God is providing a way to healing, restoration, re-union.
I feel that we are so disconnected from nature and from what we consume. We aren’t separate from nature, we are part of nature. But we behave more like a cancerous growth, out of control and destroying all the rest of life, and ourselves as well. It is time we listened to the prophets and not the profit!
As I’ve said before, I believe passionately that there is more than enough for everyone in the world if only we were to re-write the story and we were to live more simply and share more equally. If we were to act justly, to love mercy and to walk more humbly with our God. Then we would really recognise the beautiful abundance that God has given us and really be able to give Him the thanks and praise that has given us all a rich bounty.