During the summer we had a couple of days in Sheffield and enjoyed a walk in one of the local parks. After watching the children playing in the water park, we walked on a little further and then sat and watched a team playing bowls. Once their competition was over, we moved to the next green, where three elderly men were having a game of bowls. When they stopped for a few minutes break we got talking with them. Very friendly and sociable, they told us how they only played for fun. We continued to watch them and over the next hour or so there was a fair bit of banter between themselves and along with us. During another break, we started talking about covid (have you noticed it still seems to be the most talked about subject ever – except for the weather of course!) and the conversation led on to us being grateful. One of the men then said, “There is only one thing I take seriously, and that is waking up in a morning. After that everything else is a bonus!”
I wonder how seriously we take things. And, how seriously we take life. Perhaps because of everything that has happened recently; the situation in Ukraine and Russia, the flooding in Pakistan and hurricane Ian in Florida, the rise in the cost of living, the passing of the Queen and so on, I think it is making people think a little more deeply about life, and what it is all about.
Although there are fears and concerns about the future, and how even this winter people are wondering how they are going to manage, yet in this country most of us are so much better off than in other areas of the world.
In our Churches and Chapels, we are coming to the end of our Harvest Festival celebrations and thanksgiving. Our buildings have been decorated and adorned with so much fresh produce, tinned products, and packets of food it has been a splendid sight to see. The tinned donations etc. have all gone to the local food banks and the fresh vegetables and fruit have been taken by friends and members to eat and enjoy.
I recently took a short Harvest Festival service at a Residential Extra Care Housing Complex in Tadcaster. As I was decorating the small table at the front, one of the residents said she was pleased to see the pieces of coal I had brought along. I then said we needed some water, so I fetched a glass of fresh water adding it to the table. The lady then said about some salt. As it happened, I had some salt and pepper in my car, ready for a community lunch I was helping with later in the day, so I fetched the salt pot and placed it with the other items. With our small sheaf of corn, some fruit and vegetables, a tambourine, bells and ribbons, and the Cross as centre piece, the table looked quite splendid.
We sang some favourite Harvest Hymns and then I talked a little about a tin of vegetable soup I had taken along. Have you ever thought about a tin of soup and how it sums up the whole of our Harvest Thanksgiving?
The can contains a good nutritious healthy meal, something we should be thankful for. It is full of vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions and peas. There are also tomatoes and pasta, herbs, and flour.
Farmers have planted the seeds and harvested the crops. Chefs have mixed the flour and made the pasta. Using God’s gift of water, everything has been cooked to perfection. But that’s not the only thing to think about.
The can itself is a celebration of the earth and the minerals and ores that it gives us. So we can give thanks for the gift of industry, and all the men and women who work so hard to produce these things.
Looking at the label, we see the bright colours and can be reminded of just how beautiful our world is. The paper label lets us thank God for the beauty and usefulness of trees. The list of ingredients and cooking instructions reminds us of the gift of language and the wonder of modern communications. Don’t forget the barcode and the gift of technology and science in our world, and the power and ingenuity of the human brain. We have so much to be thankful for. When we sit down and eat the soup, we can thank God for all our senses, sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, and we can thank Him for life itself.
Just one other thought. What else do we need to really enjoy a good bowl of soup?
A bread roll of course, even perhaps with some butter! And who is the Bread of Life, but Jesus Christ. He is the one who satisfies our every spiritual need.
Life is so precious, like the elderly man playing bowls said, we should appreciate waking up every day and then everything else is a bonus. Let us be thankful to God for all the good things we have every day, and for the gift of abundant life in Christ Jesus.
God bless you