Harvest Festival 2019 ~ SMC
I was walking round one of the new local estates a few years ago and it struck me as sad that it was impossible for the residents to do from one floor to the other: the lifts simply didn’t allow. Many sets of flats won’t allow you even to deliver little notes if the person you want to visit is not around. I can see while safety is a concern we have to be careful that we don’t make everything so secure that actually no one can communicate with each other anymore.
Human beings are not meant to be alone. We see this when God creates Adam and perceives within His creation a longing for the other, hence woman is made (Genesis 2). We see in this chain of human beings I’m now showing that we are actually bound together as the human race. And we’re bound to people who are all different, even those who have done wrong to us, even those we try to avoid or speak ill of.
And our Harvest Festival reminds us of this. We bring food and share it with whoever comes to lunch in the Hall afterwards. Meals are places of encounter and learning in the Scriptures, hence Jesus tells us the disciples to offer Bread and Wine to proclaim His saving death. We also offer food today for our lunch clubs and our night shelter, recognising that we have a responsibility to such folk, even though we may not even go ourselves. Our giving to the Church as well ensures the Church’s ministry can continue to those we will never meet.
And I wonder if the current parking troubles are also an opportunity for us to actually strengthen our community. The larger ground up the road with more events will make life difficult at times to have occasions when people can come together. But I wonder if we simply need to rise to the challenge, fortified by the grace we receive in this Sacrament? Maybe you live in the restricted areas and you can give a permit to someone who is driving in? Maybe you’re driving in and you know someone normally gets a taxi and you can offer to pick them up. Maybe you’re driving in but actually you can get the bus or the train so someone will have a parking space you would otherwise have taken? Hereby we can actually strengthen our concern for each other and so strengthen our community. Have a think and a pray about how this can actually be a chance for us to grow.
Food. Cars. A third thing binds us together, namely our faith. Jesus speaks of faith in that Gospel reading. “Were your fish the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea.’” After Mass, if you catch me in the garden I can show you the Mulberry Tree there. When it has fruit on it, they make a horrendous mess on the grass because they have a dark red stain. The saints have found it significant that our Lord compares our faith to a mulberry tree in this passage. St Bede notes the colour of the fruit becomes red, a deep red that stains and says this points us to the Cross and its centrality in our faith. St Ambrose notes the mulberry tree shows us our faith helps us keep free from sin. The fruit of the mulberry goes white, then red and then black and reminds us of the fallen angels, he writes. We are not to fall and our faith will keep us raised upon eagle’s wings.
Saying we have a faith that binds us together does not mean we simply gather with a load of people who agree with us. The internet is excellent at ensuring we only hear the views of those with whom we agree. This is not what the church is meant to be. We’ll all have different lives and different background, different experiences and different stories to tell. It’s great that we’ll hear from Cynthia after the Creed of how God is at work in her life during her Monday to Saturday week.
What binds us it not simply a set of propositions but an identity to worship God. Hear again the words of the psalm, said at the start of each day in the Church’s liturgy: “Come in; let us bow and bend low; let us kneel before the God who made us.” Through our worship we give to God what we’re meant to give: all that we are and all we have. And in the context of that worship we pray for a more just world, such as we heard Habakkuk long for in our first reading, a world of peace and fair government, a world where food is shared and not hoarded.
God spoke to Habbakuk, as we heard, and said, “The upright man will live by his faithfulness.” St Paul makes this statement extremely important quoting it a couple of times, and basing His teaching of God on it. He writes, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17).
The righteousness of God binds us together and means we’re not here by our own merit and so we have no more or less right to be here than anyone else, we have no really reason not to be here because it’s God’s invitation that brings us here. The person next to you is made righteous by the same God who justifies you. Let’s praise Him name for all He gives and for the community he’s brought us together in. Amen.