(Genesis 2.18-24 Hebrews 1.1-4; 2.5-12 & Matthew 25.14-30)
Sometimes, you just have to say “Thank you!” don’t you? Because we have got so much to be thankful for haven’t we? Come Ye Thankful people come! God is just SO very good to us...isn’t he?
I mean - think about it. God is the all-powerful source of all being and life. He did not have to create the Universe like this. He could have created a Universe any way that he wanted to. He could have made one that was entirely black and white - devoid of any colour. He could have made one in which food had no taste - or in which his people had no taste buds. Imagine not being able to taste what chocolate was like! He could have made a world that didn’t have sunlight, and mountains, and rivers, and oceans. He could have just made one which was all flat desert.
But he didn’t. God created a world which is teeming with life, and variety, and colour and sound. He gave us delicious food. He gave us every kind of resource that we could need. He gave us families and friends - and communities in which we can live together.
And so, we come together on a Harvest Sunday to thank Him for all his amazing gifts to us. We come to say, “thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love!”
In our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, just now, we were reminded of words from Psalm 8. “What is man, that you should be mindful of him? You have made him little lower than the angels…you have given him dominion over the works of your hands.” Did you pick that up? The idea there is that God has given control of the whole world to human beings.
The theme was picked up in our reading from Genesis, the great mythological creation story, during which God brought all the animals of the world to the first man, to see what he would name them. Elsewhere in the Genesis story, God gives the Man a command that he should ‘take care of the garden’.
And my goodness, haven’t we done just that! There is hardly a landscape on earth which human beings have not shaped by their own hands. The rolling hills of England, for example, were once a dense forest, until we humans cut down the trees, and tamed the land. The great rolling plains of the Americas have been tamed and tilled into enormous fields of grain. In land after land, across Africa and Asia, the Americas and the Antipodes, the hand of human beings is seen everywhere. We have developed the technology to reshape vast swathes of land, and to transport the harvest of the world into every corner of the planet.
But somehow, along with all our technology, all our science, all our cleverness we have forgotten where all this harvest came from. We have forgotten that all this abundance is given to us - we did not create the world. None of us, even the cleverest of us, can create life.
Have you heard the story about the scientist went to talk to God and he says, "God, we can now clone humans, make life, and take care of ourselves and we don't need you anymore." and God said "Ok that’s fine, but I want to challenge you to a contest before I let you go. Each of us has to create our own human using nothing but dirt, and the first one done wins." So the scientist agreed and reached down to start making his human, and God stops him and says, "Whoa not so fast! I made that dirt. You have to create your own!"
Not only does all this abundant life come from the Creator God, but God also gives us another very special gift. He gives each of us abilities and talents which can be used – or abused – as we see fit. God gives us free will, to use our talents for our own self-development, or for the needs of others. He gives us the ability to make huge differences in the lives of other people, or to make a huge difference for ourselves. He gives us hands which can work in two directions…either to gather, or to give. We either sweep the resources of the harvest towards ourselves, or we hold out our hands to others, and share with them.
The same is true of our skills and talents in the life of our church. Some people come to church because they receive something from coming.
Perhaps it is the warm feeling of love from other people and from God – which helps them cope with whatever is going on with the rest of their lives. That is no bad thing. We all need to be loved and held, especially when life is hard.
Some of us come because we like the music, or the liturgy, or the architecture. That’s no bad thing. We all need a little beauty in our lives.
But if we only come to church because of what we receive from church, then we have rather missed the point, haven’t we? The primary functions of the church can be summed up in two very short lines:
a) to worship God
b) to make God known
Both of those are ‘outward imperatives’. Neither of them is about what any of us can receive personally from church. Instead, they are about our calling to look outwards from ourselves. These ‘outward imperatives’ call us to use our God-given talents and abilities to worship God, and to make God known to the people around us.
So, on this harvest Sunday, as you and I give thanks to God for all his abundant gifts, what are we going to do with the gifts and talents he has given us? How are we going to harvest our talents in order to worship God and make God known?
Many of us already give huge amounts of time to those tasks. All who serve at the Altar or the Choir, or in the Bell Tower. All who patiently welcome strangers throughout the week. All who visit the sick and bring them the comfort of communion. All who raise funds, and steward our resources, or clean our floors, or sell goods in the charity shop. Each and everyone is using their God given talents in order to worship God and make God known.
But are there some who have buried their talent? Are there some for whom church is about what they receive, more than what they give? Are there some who need a little encouragement to learn the deep contentment which comes from using one’s talents for the purposes God created them?
Have you ever tried to use the wrong tool to do a job? I know I have. You know…there’s a screw that needs unscrewing. But I’m too lazy to go out to the garage and get a screw driver. “I know! I’ll use that spoon!”. It never works, does it?
Using a tool for the wrong purpose is never a satisfying experience. Well, we human being are like that. The Lord of the Harvest made us, and gives us abundance, for one primary purpose: to worship him and to make him known. Any other purpose to which we put our talents just isn’t satisfying. Is it?
I’m going to sit down now…and I’m going to offer you a moment or two for reflection. Just take a moment, and ask yourself this question: “Am I using my talents for the tasks God has given me? As someone built to share, as God’s child, created for the sole purpose of worshipping him and making him known: am I doing what I should?”
If the answer is yes, then congratulations! If however, you want to think some more about this question…let’s talk!