Sunday 24th October 2021

Act of Worship at Home

Invitation to worship

At harvest time we come to thank and praise God for all his gifts of food and weather; for all the creatures which move in the waters, fly in the sky and live on the land. Harvest reminds us that all earth’s creatures are a community created to praise and glorify 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 does not make a new thing, but makes “all things new”.

Let us pray

As we celebrate our plenty and give thanks for our food, Lord God, we praise you for all you have done and for all you have given. Lord, we praise you for the harvest of the fields around us; for fields, now harvested, of grain, oil seed rape and maize; for healthy herds, for sheep, cattle and pigs. We praise you for the harvest of local hedgerows, for straggling brambles; for black showers of elderberry, for mushrooms nestling in the dewy grass. Lord, we praise you for the harvest of fellowship here at Christchurch; for friends made and support given. Generous God, we dedicate this festival of harvest thanksgiving to you. As we celebrate your goodness, Lord, so we confront our own shortcomings: our failure to appreciate what we have, food taken for granted, work unappreciated and poorly rewarded; self-centred blindness to the needs of others. Lord forgive us and may your renewing spirit rest on us and fill our community with your love and hope. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen


I have chosen to read an extract from Matthew chapter 6, verses 25 -34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

And from Mark chapter 4 beginning at verse 26 Jesus also said: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”


I last prepared an act of worship for home for 26 September but, at the time, had not realised that on the same Sunday we would be celebrating harvest in Christ Church. I wondered if you had felt left out and so I decided to make this act of worship a harvest celebration. I see that this month’s Messenger also has a colourful harvest theme to it. I don’t know about you but Harvest Festival is one of my favourite services in the Church year but I had not realised, until Tony Coates told me, that it is a relatively new invention and not strictly part of the Church calendar.

When I looked into this a bit more, I discovered that Harvest was apparently invented by the Reverend Robert Hawker in the parish of Morwenstow in 1843. He invited his parishioners to a Harvest service as he wanted to give thanks to God for providing such plenty. I do not know if you have ever visited his hut near the church where, not only did he do much of his thinking and writing, but he also used to look out for shipwrecks. He was regarded as a deeply compassionate person giving Christian burials to shipwrecked seamen washed up on the shores of the parish, and was often the first to reach the cliffs when there was a shipwreck to see if anyone could be rescued. Quite a local connection really and, of course, in this area, we think about the sea perhaps even more than we do about the land around us. It is not only the land that bears produce but also the sea.

There are so many things that one can talk about when celebrating harvest. Food is a topic that comes up a lot in the Bible. Jesus used it many times in his parables and teaching. The feeding of the five thousand is the only event that appears in all four gospels.

I am going to pick on just one image from today’s readings. In Matthew 6 and verse 25 Jesus says: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them”. This made me think of recent worries that people have had about the reduction in production of carbon dioxide and the one of the latest worries is that we won’t have any frozen turkeys for Christmas. Why is it such a worry whether we have particular foods for one day in the year? One year I remember there was a worry about a lack of sprouts. A friend of mine who used to work in one of the large supermarkets here told me recently that, one year, there was a shortage of cauliflowers and when a lady could not buy one on Christmas Eve, she accused my friend of “ruining her Christmas”! We need to worry less. We have so much as it is; so much to be thankful for, that we do not need to worry about the small things that we may not have at a particular time. Let us enjoy what we have and be grateful for it. Amen

Our hymn is number 124 in Singing the Faith: ‘For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God’ 

For the fruits of all creation,

thanks be to God;

for the gifts of every nation,

thanks be to God;

for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,

silent growth while we are sleeping,

future needs in earth’s safe-keeping,

thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labour,

God’s will is done;

in the help we give our neighbour,

God’s will is done;

in our world-wide task of caring

for the hungry and despairing,

in the harvests we are sharing,

God’s will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit,

thanks be to God;

for the good we all inherit,

thanks be to God;

for the wonders that astound us,

for the truths that still confound us,

most of all that love has found us,

thanks be to God.

And now our prayers of intercession:

Lord of the harvest, we bring to you our prayers for all those whose lives are caught up with your creation and who work with you in tending and nurturing it. We pray for farmers and fishermen; their families and communities and all who depend on them. We pray for all who are worried about tomorrow and facing difficulties today. For retailers and suppliers and for all involved in the processing and transporting of food and fuel. We pray for our fellowship at Christ Church. We pause now to bring before you those in our church and community and others known to us personally, who need our prayers… Finally, Lord, we bring to you ourselves that we may have the ability to appreciate your generosity and a readiness to recognise our dependency on each other and on you. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers, for we bring them in the name of your son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen

Finally, a blessing:

May God who has made us, who loves us and who gives us life,

bless us and keep us, now and always. Amen   

                                                                                                            Paula Littlewood

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