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 Harvest Thanksgiving – a sermon of praise

Today, we celebrate Harvest Sunday, Thanksgiving Sunday.  That celebration of bringing in the fields, giving thanks to God for the fruits the earth and to give thanks to God.  This is a celebration that goes back to biblical times, as we read in Deuteronomy today.    Land meant food, security, freedom and a place to live, all these were considered a gift, a blessing from the Lord…the birthright of God’s people who had been enslaved in Egypt for so long.             And thanksgiving for these blessings were enshrined in liturgy and celebrated as the festival of Shavout (sha-voo-ought).  Take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. …” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.” We follow a similar tradition as several have brought their baskets forward to be blessed this day.  Giving thanks for the abundance before us and for God who has made the sun to shine, the wheat to grow, and the hands skilled enough to make all that we are blessed with.             So, when the festival of Thanksgiving comes around we, like ancient Israel gather to give thanks.  Often this includes a gathering of harvest fruits and grains at the altar, a symbolic offering to God of all that came from God.             But I think that as less and less of us are rooted in a culture of planting and harvest these celebrations have changed.  Our produce comes from the store and even if we have gardens we find it difficult to find the time or energy to tend them.  So, it may seem a bit …antiquated …to give thanks in a personal way for the soil, rain and sun that God provides… it connect with us as it used to.              Never the less we  know that we still should gather and give thanks to God for all the blessings that we have received, but if we don’t have fields of wheat to harvest…what is it that we do harvest?             The psalm we read today begins “Make a joyful noise to the Lord! Worship with gladness and come into God’s presence singing.” And Philippians begins “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!”             Perhaps today we will give thanks for a harvest of joy!  God is just as integral to health of our spirit as the health of our bodies, perhaps it would make sense to give thanks and give back to God the fruit of the spiritual harvest that God has planted within us.  To give back to God and to share with others joy and laughter that fills our lives with meaning.             Perhaps along with the pumpkins and wheat sheeves we could  cover the altar with the drawings of toddlers, and letters from a friend.  To pile up memories of date nights and quiet cups of tea.  To bring together the feelings of birthdays, graduations, accomplishments and those little moments of glory.  And to not forget the simple things that make you smile, like hot showers on a cold day.  The sight of a lone rose blooming abundantly.  The secret joys of taking that last cookie or singing above the sound of the vacuum. Perhaps Harvest Sunday can go beyond the thanksgiving for the cultivation of the soil, and embrace the cultivation of joy in our lives.  Encouraging us plant seeds in our own lives and in others that will grow into shouts of joy and laughter.             We all have things in our lives that fill us with joy to the point of bursting… perhaps that is something we can harvest together today.       So, let’s take a minute to think … what are those things that you can cultivate, or do cultivate in your lives that fill you with joy?  Take a moment in silence to focus your thoughts on a time this past year that filled you with joy… it could be big or small… it doesn’t matter.  Something that filled you with laughter and shouts of joy.              Then we are going to share that moment, with your neighbour and give thanks to God with them for all that God has given you both. So that all of us here together, will bring a harvest of joy to the altar of God.  Giving thanks to God not only for the bounty of creation, but the joy of our hearts.             So, I invite you to take a moment of silent reflection to center on that moment of joy you wish to give thanks for…. Then share it with your neighbour, being sure to give thanks to God for each others joy. 

Let us enter into joy….