For some reason, something about the culture of formality that tends to dominate St M's means that even when I am quite sure that I'm saying exactly what I should be saying on any given occasion, I go through paroxysms of anxiety - unless, of course, it's so flipping 11th hour that there simply isn't time for any anxiety at all.
I've known all week what I needed to say at tomorrow's Harvest Festival service. I've devised a whole shortened Eucharist with an ecological theme. I've enjoyed sourcing material from all directions, and I'm confident that this really is what needs to be heard tomorrow. But right now, on Saturday night, I'm in sitting jittering, wondering what the impact will be of a whole adult sermon that doesn't have a recognisable and attributable origin in Scripture and which dares to ask the congregation for an immediate and border-line creative response.
Right now I wish someone would stop the carousel so I could get off and avoid the whole gruesome business. Harvest Festival is one of those services which everyone thinks that they own. At least this year they are getting to sing "We plough the fields and scatter" while the gifts are presented...and we all know that this is the most essential feature of a good Harvest Festival. Never mind the preacher...
We’re here to celebrate Harvest Festival…Even in a context where we are more likely to have gathered our food from Tesco than from a well tilled vegetable patch, Harvest is a joyful opportunity to reflect on and respond to our creative role within God’s creation and our responsibilities, under God, for all God’s creatures.
Harvest reminds us that we are part of an interdependent community living on this earth. We're a community that exists to praise and glorify God.
Creation does that without our intervention…If there were no human husbandry at all, the natural world would still offer a rich harvest as the summer comes to and end. Wild creatures enjoy the fruits of the season. With human co-operation, however, nature glorifies God through cultivated fields, including grain and grapes which make bread and wine. Human hands and voices represent the whole earth community, in Christ, to God. The transformation of the earth at harvest is a sign, the beginning, of the final transformation of all material creation in the resurrection when God makes ‘all things new’ and can once again look on his creation and say “It is very good”.
Meanwhile, though, our impact on the earth is not always beneficial….We interpret God’s request in Genesis 28 to “fill the earth and subdue it” as a mandate to exploit and pollute, rather than to tend and nurture.
We assume that we have the right to draw more than our share from the common treasury, no matter who else is damaged in the process. Recently, scientists set to to measure the ecological footprint of humanity and compared it to the “carrying capacity” of the planet. They defined the ecological footprint as the land area that would be required to provide the resources... and absorb the emissions... of global society. When compared with the available land, they concluded that human resource use is currently some 20 percent above the global carrying capacity.
During 2004, an area of Amazon rainforest equivalent to six football pitches was flattened every day; this amounted to 10,000 square miles during the year. The land was used for cattle farming, soy production and logging…necessary to fuel our apparently insatiable appetites.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money.
It’s in this light that I want you to consider this parable of the Prodigal Race…
When I’ve read it, there will be a short period of quiet, in which you are invited to consider your own ecological footprint, your impact on the planet and to write an environmental promise to God on your leaf,- a pledge that you will try to take more seriously your own responsibility as a steward of creation. These leaves will be collected and brought to the altar at the offertory as a sign of our desire to act as agents of God’s healing grace to all the people of the earth, now and in the age to come.
There was once a ruler who had 2 sons. The younger son said to his father
“Let me have my share of the property”.
After a few days, the youngster took his share and got busy, releasing the assets to create wealth for his own use. He dug for coal, drilled for gas and oil and used the wealth released to go on a major spending spree…Fast cars, exotic holidays and food from across the world, in season and out. He denied himself nothing…if it was out there, he had to have it.
But the more he had, the more he wanted.
He was sure that there would always be more and better of everything, so each new gadget inspired in him a longing for the next one…and the next.
He went on grabbing with both hands – he called it progress, living life to the full…never pausing to think that the more he used, the inheritance he passed on to his children would change from a fruitful world to one laid waste.
If the story ended now, would he come to his senses before it was too late?
When one machine wore out, another was ordered and he amassed more and more until one day his oil well ran dry, his coal was exhausted and there were no trees left in the whole of the rain forest.
He realised that he had spent his inheritance and scarred the earth.
He sat amid the waste, thinking of the life that those in his father’s family had once enjoyed, and he wondered if it was too late to say sorry.