Sunday 24 September - Harvest Festival - 8am - Markus Duenzkofer

When I flew from Vancouver some five years ago to Edinburgh to interview for this position, I had an unplanned stopover in Edmonton. Modern air travel, I tell you! It was a Sunday and so I did what I try to do every Sunday: I went to church; to a tiny wee little Anglican parish on the outskirts of Alberta’s capital. And, boy, was it different from what I was used to!

First of all, the parish was a small, rural church: about twice as big as this chapel. And it was new, no more than 20 years old. There was no glorious pipe organ or a hint of a choir. Most noticeable, though, was the presence of small people. There were children everywhere. And these kids were definitely part of the church, ,as they usually are in rural churches. They were seen and they were heard. And they were passed around among the congregation. It was quite lovely.

Yes, it was very different.

But it was also very familiar.

It was familiar, because we used the common liturgies and hymnbooks. When we got to the Prayer over bread and wine, the familiar happened: The

“Lord be with you!” -  “And also with you.”

“Lift up your hearts.” – “We lift them to the Lord.”

“Let us gift thanks to the Lord our God!” -  “It is right to give our thanks and praises.”

Yet, at this point I realised I wasn’t really there… my mind had wondered off. I was looking at a wee girl in front of me, who kept on waving at me.

I had done it again! I had not been able to completely focus on this most sacred moment, when heaven and earth melt into one and we are joined by the church that was, that is, and that is to come. I wasn’t there that morning.

And I got angry with myself.

 

 

Today, we have come together as God’s sacred people in this sacred place to give thanks.

We give thanks every time we break the bread and share the wine. It is intrinsic to what we do in the Eucharist. The very word, which comes from the Greek word εὐχαριστία, meaning “thanksgiving.”

But today we also come together to give thanks for the bread we share in a much broader understanding.

Harvest has developed out of the ancient tradition to acknowledge and give thanks to the Creator at the end of the harvest season. In a world based on living off the land this was an important feast to celebrate the end of a hard, work-intensive summer. And it was a festival to praise God, who ultimately enables any harvest.

As we moved away from being exclusively a farming community, we did not give up celebrating. Who wants to miss a party, eh? Harvest Festival developed into a festival of giving thanks to God for all kinds of harvest, not just the fruits of the earth. It’s an acknowledgement that God is the Creator of everything there is. As 1 Chronicle reminds us: “All things come of thee, o God.”[1] All things.

And this is why Thanksgiving also developed into a time, when we seek to express our gratitude by sharing the blessings of our lives with others. By sharing what God has provided for us, we do as Jesus had done at the table: He broke the bread, gave thanks and then shared it, shared even himself. But remember: In the end, though, what we share with others is not our great achievement. It is just a redistribution of things that we have been gifted to begin with. As 1 Chronicle continues: “All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.”

Harvest Festival allows us to stop for a moment and reconsider the source of all being. It is a moment in our busy lives each year to remember that the earth is not ours to possess and that Harvest is not our achievement. Everything comes from the Creator, and remains the Creator’s.

All things come from God.

And this is true not just about the environment, but this is true in a very special way about our own lives. They come of God, too, who gifted our lives in love and generosity, in abundance and beauty, in awesomeness and wonder. All come from God, and this includes all of our sisters and brothers, both those from our highways and those from our byways, and it includes also the one looking back at us in a mirror. Regardless of what delights our souls or pains our hearts, regardless of what or who we are, regardless of what we have done or what was done to us, we were all loved into being by tour triune God. God fashioned you and me and fashioned us with a smile on His face.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this sermon.

Yes, my mind had wondered.

But, I shouldn’t really have gotten annoyed at myself.

I proclaim and confess that in the Eucharist heaven really does open, the veil between our reality and God’s realm is lifted, and we feast by and on Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord. It is probably one of the most mysterious, the most mystical, and the most sacred things we do in our ministry and mission.

However, Christ’s presence on earth is not limited to bread and wine in the Eucharistic celebration. But Christ seeks to be known in abundant ways.

And this is an awesome thing, for which we should be extremely thankful.

When God came among us in Jesus, the infinite was circumscribed in the finite, the eternal took habitation in the mortal. A human being pointed back at God as God became flesh. Christ Jesus is the icon of God.

In a similar fashion, because we share our common humanity, we are icons of our brother Jesus. God became accessible in a particular human experience so that in our human experiences we might grasp God.

As the priest recited the sacred words at the altar in the little church in rural Canada, Christ offered himself in bread and wine as he does in every Eucharist. Yet, on this particular day, Christ made himself known to me in the faces of those gathered, in the wave of the little girl.

And this is true for our urban experience here in Edinburgh, too: Yes, when I invite you to today’s Eucharist, Christ will be present. But Christ will also dwell in the faces of those around you, in every single one of you. 

I think we miss an aspect of today’s feast of Thanksgiving, if we purely remain fixated on the fruits of the earth.

And so, today I want say “thank you!” to our Creator this way:

I am thankful for how God formed us in our innermost parts.

I give thanks that God has known us, named us, and loved us even before we were born.

I am grateful that despite of our continued efforts to run away, God does not stop reaching out to us in compassion, in mercy, and in grace.

And I say “thank you!” to God for all of us and all of God’s children, you and me, and all of us.

I pray that God will give us all thankful hearts – not just today – to see the goodness and love of the Creator, to discover the beauty of creation and to make us good stewards thereof, and to embrace the awesome wonder of God’s abiding presence in each and every one of us.



[1] 1 Chronicles 29:14