Letter to parishioners, 24 September 2021

Friday, 24 September 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday we will hear verses from Mark’s gospel that remind us of the need for all who profess the faith of Jesus Christ to be outward looking in the way they live out that faith on a day-by-day basis. Jesus speaks of accepting that those who are different from ourselves can, through faith, work great signs in his name. He also speaks of the danger of our becoming stumbling blocks in the path of those who wish to follow the path of faith laid by God for all of us. He also speaks of the need for us to remain true to the essential essence of our Christian faith.

At this time of the year the Church is celebrating the bringing in of the harvest. Christians are gathering to offer their gratitude to a loving God who continues to provide for our daily needs. The abundance of God’s bounty is such that no one in this world should be hungry, and yet so many are. The percentage of the world’s population who claim to be Christians suggests that there should be many people willing to serve the needs of those who do not have enough to eat in a spirit of love that was demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ himself, but that is not the case. We spend so much time looking inward that we fail to notice the needs of those around us, or we do not see those needs as a priority with which we should concern ourselves.

Time and again in my ministry I have heard people say something like: “I will give you some money, as long as you don’t expect me to try and find the time to do something.” The season of Harvest is a moment of celebration and thanksgiving, but how often do we consider exactly where our gratitude should be targeted? Obviously, the bringing in of the harvest is something which should be celebrated, but how often do we see the successful conclusion of each agricultural cycle as a model of self-sacrifice which we should emulate in our daily lives? Those who work on the land do not have an easy life. Long working hours, often in isolated conditions, are the norm. Similarly, there is no guarantee that each year’s final yield will provide a good enough income to ensure the future and well-being of both farmer and family. In addition to these uncertainties there are the manipulations of prices that are beyond the control of those who actually work the land. Farmers are not saints. They are working people who are often living a life they have chosen and which they love. But, there is a self-sacrificial aspect to their calling. It is our duty to offer thanks for that spirit of self-sacrifice, just as it is our duty to emulate it in the way we live a life of Christian love and generosity when faced with so much inequality and need in this world.

At the end of the service of Holy Communion we join in this brief act of dismissal: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen. Having been fed with word and sacrament we are charged to go out and live the life of a true Christian. Such a life is marked out by the way in which we are at peace with the life God has given us, the way in which we share Christ’s love, and the way in which we serve others with the generosity Christ demonstrated when he gave everything for the good of humanity, for ever.

As we gather to celebrate this year’s harvest, let us set aside ‘self’, turn to face the world, and step out in answer to Christ’s call. Let us stop living a life of self-interest and greed, and let us look at the life of the farmer and actually do something for others.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen