+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Matthew 6:33
Theme: “These Things Given…As Well.”
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Harvest Thanksgiving is more than an agriculturally-themed Christian observance. It signifies our origins; our roots. Adam was told that he would return to the soil. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”1 Christ promises to reconstitute those particles of believer’s dust and place them in the new and nobler Garden of Eden. Not only crops, but core truths are in our frame of view today.
Human relationship with the soil is more than casual; it is incarnational. That is, the flesh and blood of Adam was formed from the dust of the earth. It is also a reminder of our mortality. Our physical constitution has no life of its own apart from the life-giving power of God. Without the animating power of the Almighty all matter would be inert, dead. Often times we don’t feel like being thankful. We can put on appearances before others but the heart tells a different story. All ingratitude has its source in the frailty of the spiritual life. When sin rules the heart there can be no true thankfulness, only spiritual decay and death. Only the Holy Spirit can overcome this barrier. Thankfulness is not a child of sin but of repentance and faith.
Today Jesus begs the question, “What distinguishes us from the pagans?” What separates us from those who have no belief in God and invest their time only in pursuing the pleasures of this life or managing its adversities? Is it only a token allegiance to God? Is it a Sunday-only practice of the faith? Is it a different moral compass or ideological perspective? Do we seek to clothe our true desires with a veneer of Christianity? Are our expressions of gratitude hollow?
“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.”2 What things cause you the most anxiety? Is it the prospect of a failed harvest? Still today famines occur when there are crop failures. Is it the constant stress of making ends meet? The day to day struggle for survival or the race to get ahead consumes many. Is your anxiety caused primarily by unresolved conflict or traumatic events that remain unaddressed? Left unchecked, worry can take on a life of its own. God feeds the birds of the air. He clothes the lilies of the fields. “Are you not much more valuable than they?3 asks Christ.
Valuable you are indeed! And why so? Not because of some inherent quality. Not because you have done so much more than others to be worthy of God’s attention. Not because of your name or status or position or piety. Only because of Christ! The miracle that He created and has preserved you is matched only by the miracle that He was willing to redeem you. He died and rose for you. Do you seek a greater miracle?
Did the miracles Jesus performed cause people to believe in Him? Or did those who believed in Him see the miracles for what they were? We’d be hard-pressed to deny, on the basis of the biblical evidence, that both were not the case. Though the Holy Spirit often worked trust purely through the words of Christ alone – and without a doubt faith is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit- Jesus also said, “At least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”4 Still, it should not escape our notice that there were many who saw Christ’s miracles but in the end did not believe. They stood at the foot of the cross and demanded that He come down.
Do we believe in God because He provides a good harvest and meets all our needs? Do believe because Jesus fed the 5000, healed the sick or calmed the storm? Do we search for other evidence? The cross is the evidence, but the message of the cross is called “foolishness.”5 The resurrection is the evidence, but even that has been rationalized by those who wish to do so. The test of faith comes when adversity strikes; especially when adversity lingers. Can the same God who is so lavishly good also test us with hardship?
God is not a projection of the mystery and complexity of the material world. The eternity of matter has no place in Christian teaching. God created. God is other than His creation. He is not matter; He is spirit. Yet, in Christ God embraces His creation. He assumes to Himself complete human nature. He unites with created beings. Though Adam and Eve were to rule over creation by subduing it, they were also designed to serve it. It was a preview of Christ’s work. His rule is characterized by service. Creation is God’s gift to humanity, but He remains the owner and we the stewards.
God uses you to care for His creation in many and various ways, fore mostly through your care of other created beings; people, to be precise. The vocations you hold determine who you are most valuable to. There are few surprises here. Spouses serve one another practicing self-sacrifice that lifts up the other. Parents serve their children by providing and protecting, teaching and chastising. Children obey their parents and honour them as gifts from God. Employers serve their employees by providing work and in turn should receive their respect. The strong should bear with the weak, the cheerful with those experiencing sorrow, those with conviction with those who doubt.
Dear friends, the fruit of the soil is not attained without the labour that is required. The ability to work is itself a gift from God. Solomon said, “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given him.”6
While our bellies savor the fruits of the earth our souls relish food more directly from heaven. Holy Communion is called by St. Paul the Eucharist7, the Greek word for thanksgiving. In this meal the fruit of the vine is elevated to the highest status; the grain of the paddock invested with the most holy of tasks. Bread and wine are carriers of Christ Himself. He is the second Adam whose body was broken and blood was spilled so that we may be spared through His sacrifice. More than spared; that we have life and we have it abundantly.
Not all harvests work out as planned. Some promising starts fail; other questionable prospects surprise. The harvests of the Spirit are no different. Some of the baptized fall away and are forever lost. Others are saved in the eleventh hour. We are still sowing and reaping from one season to the next. The final harvest is yet to come. Then all of our Harvest Thanksgivings will come at once. All of our Christmases, Easters, and Pentecosts will fuse into the stupefying and spellbinding experience of uninhibited interaction with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the new paradise that will excel Eden. Thanks be to God! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Transfiguration of our Lord
15 February, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt