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27th September 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Harvest/Scarecrow Festival Sunday 27th September 2015
Joel 2.21-27
Matthew 6. 25-33

“Be happy – don’t worry” was the refrain of a reggae song a
few years back... and it was a phrase I heard several times in
the last couple of weeks when I was in Germany. And it seems
an apt phrase to remind ourselves of this weekend – one which
so many people have been looking forward to .... perhaps with
mixed emotions for the organisers?!

But all their worrying has it seemed paid off – we have, by the
grace of God, had another wonderful weekend for the
Scarecrows. Lots of smiling faces around – so the instruction to ‘be happy’ has certainly been fulfilled.

So much to be thankful for – the weather; the participation of so many people throughout the village – way beyond the normal, worshipping community, the abundance of cakes produced; two great evenings of entertainment; a wonderful
contribution from the school and the children and some of our shopkeepers, that will ensure we have a great gift to take to the foodbank on Monday. And I know – very well – how much hard work has gone into making it all run smoothly. My thanks
therefore to the organising committee especially.

But back, for a moment to my time in Germany. This had – as you will expect – a considerable impression on me. Our theme was “Walking the way of justice- together” and I was one of some sixty delegates from all over the world; China and Hong Kong, Russia, the United States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, India, Tanzania, DR Congo, Kenya and South Africa.

Now you will perhaps imagine that justice can look very different if you come from one of the less developed countries of the world; or from the Southern Hemisphere ... and if you are wondering why there were no people from parts of the
world that we more naturally associate with, well remember we were guests of the Lutheran Prostestant church of Germany.

The English delegation and that representing the Church of South India, were I think the only other denominations present – all the rest were Lutherans. But just as the Anglican church in Kenya or Uganda is very different from that in the United
States, or Canada, so too the Lutheran church in Tanzania is very different from that in Sweden or Germany itself. In two years time – 2017 – (when maybe.... just maybe.... we shall be celebrating another scarecrow festival???) Lutherans world
wide will be celebrating the 500 th anniversary of Martin Luther attaching his list of 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg on 31 October. And this event has meaning for us in the Church of England too. It influenced Cranmer and others who
were the architects of our own church – proudly both catholic and reformed.

Luther was angry with the established church of his day. Angry for many reasons – all 95 of them! – but perhaps chiefly he resented the way the church had become rich through the practice of selling indulgences. People who had something
weighing on their conscience were paying money to the church for a pardon – ostensibly for masses to be said or sung on their behalf – but in reality increasing the power and riches of an already powerful and corrupt organisation.

The justice of God was something very close to Luther’s heart – and it should be close to ours too as we sit here this morning surrounded by all this wonderful decoration and food. For God’s justice is not just about being fair. That is important too of course, and using Fairtrade products whenever possible ; questioning our retailers about their supplier contracts; paying our bills on time whenever possible; being honest and straightforward in all our business dealings and administration
– all these are good and just things.

But God’s justice is something else.

We find it easy to be fair if others are fair with us. We follow the fairness of the contract if you like.

God follows the fairness of the covenant.

He gives us his love and forgiveness, even when we have done nothing to deserve it – that is what we mean by God’s grace.

When the sun shines for our major events.... we don’t deserve it as such. When we experience an outpouring of community spirit .... we don’t deserve it as such – even though we are jolly glad of it when it comes. When we live in peace and
experience considerable prosperity – by virtue of where we live and in what century we were born.... well, we have done nothing to deserve it as such – and we should never cease to thank God for all the many, many blessings we each and everyone receive.

And for those of you who maybe are not feeling blessed particularly this morning; those who are aware of illness or sorrow in your immediate family or even in yourself, even for you God’s grace and justice are at work, placing you in a
country where there is – generally speaking – good access to a high standard of health care, and in a community where there are people around to talk to and who will support and uphold you in friendship and fellowship.

A good harvest may take many forms in this complex age of ours. It may be reflected in the kindness of volunteers who offer help and friendship to a frightened refugee, exhausted and desperate at the end of a journey of maybe many
thousands of miles. It may be felt in the development of sustainable forms of energy, using wind, waves or sunshine. It may be experienced in a kind word or a neighbourly act... and it may – of course – come in the form of barns full of wheat,
potatoes, barley; of hedgerows and orchards full of fruit and vegetables; of full stomachs and satisfied sighs... Let’s thank God for the harvest once more. “Be happy – don’t worry.”