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Sermon for Harvest Festival


Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Luke 12:16-30

I’ve only been to a fancy restaurant once - the kind of fancy restaurant with Michelin stars on the wall outside. The kind of place where you don’t get any choice about the food you’re going to eat. We had lots of different courses, and most of them were complex concoctions of one sort of another, involving mousses and sauces and architectural food constructions. I can’t remember anything about any of them - except one. There’s just one course that I can still remember well. It was a plate of beetroot. That’s all. There was purple beetroot, orange beetroot and pink beetroot, and there was beetroot cooked in different ways - but that’s all it was. Lots of beetroot on a plate. And it was amazing. Absolutely incredible - so amazing that amidst all the culinary genius that went into creating my dinner, it’s only the beetroot that I remember.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that are most memorable. Sometimes simplicity is best.

We’ve just heard two wonderful passages from the bible. The first from the book of Deuteronomy and the second from the gospel of Luke. Lots of words, but with a very simple message.

Gratitude leads to generosity

That’s the simple message

Gratitude leads to generosity

Deuteronomy as a whole is a pretty full on read - it is packed with detailed instructions and prescriptions for living well. Much of it remains absolutely relevant today; don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet things that aren’t yours, keep the Sabbath, honour your parents - these, and the other 10 Commandments are still the very best guide for a good life. Some of the detailed rules don’t apply so literally today though - I imagine that God’s not quite so bothered about whether we eat rock-badger or buzzard as He once was.

But the passage we’ve just heard, and the chapters that come before it, are just as relevant to us as they ever have been; these are things to take on board and to base our lives on. And they tell us that very simple message - gratitude leads to generosity.

This part of Deuteronomy is overwhelmingly concerned with those on the edge of society; it speaks particularly about the widow, the orphan and the refugee - those who had nothing. It’s full of detailed instructions about how farmers should not strip their land of all the harvest, but leave enough for those who have nothing, and how poor labourers should be paid properly and on time, and about how payments should be weighed out on accurate scales, so that no-one is cheated out of their wages. 

And Deuteronomy gives a very clear reason for this concern.

God has given the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, a land with the potential to produce everything they need, and more. And they’ve been give it, not because they have earned it or particularly deserve it - they were given it simply because God loves them and is generous.

And when something is given as a gift, it is to be received with gratitude. It’s one of the earliest things we say to our children when they’re given something - ‘Make sure you say thank you’. To be grateful is to acknowledge that we’ve been given something without earning it. 

And because they have been given so freely they are to give freely in turn. They have been given abundance, and they are to give abundantly. Do that, says the author of Deuteronomy, and you will live well. 

Gratitude leads to generosity, and a generous society is a fulfilled and blessed society.

And in Luke’s gospel Jesus says the same thing. God has created such astonishing beauty and abundance - and if you’re in any way doubtful about that, just take a look around you now and see again the glories of the natural world that fill this place - God has given us so much, but don’t ever think that it’s yours to hold on to.

You have been given abundantly, you need to share abundantly. 

Gratitude leads to generosity

Jesus tells us that gratitude is the release button on hands that hold too tightly. 

We live so much of our lives like this [clenched hand]. But noticing that everything we have is gift means we have to open up and live more like this [open hand]. And when our hands are like this [open hand] it’s so much easier to share what we’ve been given.

And the call to be generous with what we’ve been given is as necessary today as it was when Moses first read out the 10 Commandments. We are so blessed, so privileged and so abundantly provided for. But nothing we have been given is ours. It’s all gift. It’s all meant to evoke gratitude, and then generosity. 

And here’s the really wonderful thing about Jesus’ words; if we live from them - if we are grateful for everything we’ve been given, and if we don’t hold on to it too tightly, and if we’re generous in sharing it with others, especially those who need it most - if we do these things, we will discover what it is to be really blessed.  The more we hang on to our belongings, and the more anxious we are about having enough, the more anxious we will become.  

Have you ever noticed how ‘enough’ is never ‘enough’? Have you noticed how this [clenched hand] makes you anxious, but this [open hand] brings peace?

But the freer we are in giving it away, and the more we remember that it’s all gift, the more joy-filled we can be. The more we know that everything we have is a gift, and that it isn’t actually ‘ours’, the more we can be free to give it away and to bless others with it - and as we do so, the more we discover the fullness of life that God offers. 

Gratitude leads to generosity.

It’s the simplest of truths, and one of the best.

Be grateful. Be generous.

Live like this [open hand], and know the blessings that God longs for you to receive. 

Gratitude leads to generosity

Posted: 17/09/2017 at 18:58
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