Harvest Sermon All Saints Church October 4th, 2020, Ruth 2:14-23, Matthew 13:1-8, Psalm 126
Revd Tudor Roberts
Eating food with others is one of the most enjoyable activities humans can do. Who does not enjoy a roast dinner and nut roast and vegetables with friends and family?
In Genesis 1:30 God said I have given every green plant for food. God’s abundant promise is a sign of his goodness. Psalm 67 verse 6-7 says “ The earth has yielded its increase God our God shall bless us. God shall bless us, let all the ends of the earth fear him”. In Deuteronomy 8.7 and following, the people of Israel get this promise “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks, of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out into valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olives, trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing ,You shall eat and be full and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you”
So, abundance and provision are part of God’s plan for his people, but in Ruth the story begins with famine.
“In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land” (Ruth 1:1)
The story begins in Bethlehem a place that means ‘house of bread’ but one family has to leave that place of provision for Moab the ancient enemies of Israel. In our reading we pick up the story when the tables have been reversed now the remnant of that same family flee Moab where there is hunger for Bethlehem, which is just entering harvest time, by now the family has been whittled down to one old lady and her daughter in law, hardly the recipe for starting a generation from which would come King David, but for God as we know, nothing is impossible.
What this story in Ruth 2 tells us is that Ruth encounters a generosity and kindness that she has rarely seen in her life and it begins in Bethlehem by “chance”. Ruth 2:14 tells us that Ruth is invited to a harvest lunch of roasted grain, the Word tells us that she had all the food she wanted and still had some left over. There was an abundance. That seems to be what happens when God is involved in the catering arrangements. It happens in the gospels when Jesus feeds the 4,000 and the 5,000 and there are 7 and 12 baskets of food left over. It happens in our Gospel readings today from Matthew 13 when Jesus talks of a harvest that yields 30,or 60 or a 100-fold, now those are some returns on the seeds that were sown. And that is Ruth’s experience as from Boaz the landowner’s largesse, generosity, kindness, and sense of Justice she is fed by a man who turns out to be her families Kinsman’s Redeemer, one from who she receives more than she could ever imagine. Does that not sound like Ephesians 3? Is Ruth’s experience not the Gospel in miniature played out on a tapestry backcloth of one of the most beautifully told stories in all of the Bible.
Ruth takes back to her mother in law after harvesting in Boaz’s fields an ephah of grain. That was enough to more than fill one of Theo our Son’s big rucksacks, we are talking enough grain to see all their baking needs for at least a month provided for. She gleans, the narrator tells us, until the barley and wheat harvests ended and during that time she lived with her Mother in law Naomi, and I believe during this time and before on her journey from Moab she becomes a complete follower of Yahweh who proves that he is her provider and her rescuer from famine and poverty.
In this Harvest festival I want to suggest that we too can be on a journey of experiencing generosity and kindness, and we too can respond in kind just like Boaz did in sharing his abundant harvest. We can respond in first place by accepting Gods love, coming under the shadow of his wings just like Ruth did. This harvest we are invited to provide for Swindon Food collective, not just food, but all the toiletries that we can think of so that people can receive a Ruth/ Boaz experience and know what it means to be cared for. I believe too that we can lift up our eyes and think globally. Boaz was able to share because he was an obedient faithful man, and his crops were blessed. Through ‘Send a Cow’ we can be generous too, and help Ethiopian families get the teaching and tips they need to till the land, harvest rainwater, and provide 3 meals a day for their children.
And thirdly today we can seek to respond in generosity and thanks to God through our giving to All Saints Church, that in turn the Church can be generous in local and overseas Mission and care. We want to be a church that buzzes with the happy noise of children and adults on a journey of discovering God. We want to fund mission In Brazil through CMS, in South East Asia through MAF based in Northern Australia, and in the UK through CPAS, Church pastoral Aid society we want to see local mission flourish.CPAS seek to equip Pastors and ministers to be generous in local parish ministry as well as Venture and Falcon holidays for children and young people which they organise and sponsor
Like Ruth and Nami who had to flee famine we live in perilous times, yet I am not discouraged I am full of hope that online, and then God willing, back in schools and out in the Community we can see our Church flourish, fund global mission, pastor our people, reach out to thsoe we encounter and build Church. I think there is a reason we are doing a preaching and teaching series on the Church and that in the middle of that series we pause for Harvest. The local Church said Bill Hybels, is the Hope of the world. Of course, we point people to Jesus the hope of the World. He is our Hope and salvation but that is discovered through local mission, be it in the fields of Ethiopia through Send a Cow, mission on the streets of Recife through CMS, a MAF Aircraft mechanics workshop in Australia, or through schools work in this parish, the beauty of our Church, our home groups etc you name it. But we are invited into a work that one day will reap a mighty harvest, so don’t be discouraged know that like Naomi and Ruth, if we put our faith in God he will build us up again and He God, invites us into the privilege of sharing God’s kindness with others. To God be the Glory great things he has done. Tudor Roberts 4.10.20