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Harvest Thanksgiving 4 October 2020                   

Deuteronomy 8.7-18

Luke 12.16-30 The rich man and do not worry…

Is our carbon lifestyle the Covid for Creation?

If you are a man of the world, like Canon Richard, you are allowed a newspaper every day. I am only allowed one on a Saturday or when on holiday. So on holiday last week I noticed letter in the Times which asked when the day might come, eventually, when a news bulletin would not include an item on Coronavirus. The letter went on, asking when the day will come, when every preacher will no longer feel it necessary to reflect on the impact of Covid 19 on our lives. Well that day is still a long way off I fear, even at Harvest.

In fact especially at Harvest. How do we manage today’s Gospel reading when a rich man prepares for the future and yet without warning, his life is expected of him that night? Whilst we pray for anyone who is suffering from the virus, the comparison with Mr Trump is obvious. None of us can rely upon our own wealth, for Jesus says to us all; ‘So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

But as the Gospel goes on, we can all identify with the natural human concerns. Why wouldn’t we wonder where our food is coming from? Why wouldn’t we worry about contracting a virus that could infect those we love and even put us on a ventilator, or worse? Why wouldn’t we worry about these things; it is human to do so? Why wouldn’t we worry when the news changes every day and we all feel somewhat unsafe, and how can it be right to be told just to have what seems to be a blind faith that God will provide, when so many people are losing their jobs and the future is so uncertain for us all? What is Jesus saying to us?

I’ve been amazed throughout this crisis just how well we have been provided for in terms of our daily bread. The silliness of toilet roll shortages might show us what is really important to us as a society - ponder that one if you will - but throughout this pandemic, certainly in the West, despite all predictions, we have not gone without. Those who plough the fields and scatter, those who drive the lorries, those who work stacking the shelves in our supermarkets - often at risk to themselves - have not let us down, and we have reason to be thankful. And despite all our carbon lifestyle, creation has not let us down as even in lockdown, the world has kept growing.

I’ve become much more aware of issues of climate change and care for the environment in these troublesome days. What if the threat to our existence is not some virus that ultimately will be beaten by a vaccine but what if the greatest threat is our destruction of the world we need to survive, for all life to survive? I can’t presently shake off the feeling that our choices, our demand to consume, our desire to build bigger and better barns if you like, is actually a virus for the planet. What if you and I are the covid for creation? How then will we survive, and that really is something to worry about. So what is Jesus saying to us?

In today’s Gospel, and in so many other places and people, Jesus is saying to us that faith is what matters above all other things. Faith moves mountains. Faith drives our despair, and faith is all that is left when we have been stripped of everything else. I heard this week of the death of a life-long priest friend of mine, same age as me, who died after eighteen months from motor neurone disease. It is a vile disease. It takes everything away, and yet, as Chris entered what he described as the ‘sleep of sleeps’ his faith remained and his family were faithful by his side, keeping faith with him. Only faith remains.

Our readings today remind us that bad things happen to good people, and life brings its inevitable challenges. To worry obsessively about those realities, is to see them as more important than anything else - like toilet roll. To allow ourselves to be consumed by our consumption - is not to live. But to have faith that the promises of God are real, and that we are truly loved, and that no matter what happens to the body, our uniqueness is held by God, is to be faithful. Richard Rohr, the American Franciscan describes this as our need for an authentic spirituality. He says that the life of faith is always seeking daily bread to feed the starving parts of our soul and fresh and living water to fill our reservoir instead of allowing the dark waters to develop toxins and poisonous algae - which largely happens at a slow, certain and unconscious level. This is where Jesus wants us to be, consuming the boundless, Big Love of God.

Today is the Feat Day of St Francis of Assisi. He knew a thing or two about God’s love, about being faithful, and about giving up what Rohr calls the pleasure cruises of possessions for a simpler, more fulfilling life. At Harvest, we do well to remind ourselves of his saintly example, which resulted even in receiving the wounds of Christ. St Francis deserves the last word today.

“Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for they will be crowned.”

The Very Revd Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester

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