Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


Harvest at Easton
October 6, 2013, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Sermons

My garden isn’t very big, but we do manage to grow quite a few vegetables each year. This year we have had potatoes (all eaten now), beans (all gone too), cabbages (still coming) as well as onions and courgettes. These change each year, but two things grow permanently in the garden, my vine and my fig-tree. The vine only produces good grapes once every few years- the last time I made some quite nice wine with it, but there is only one bottle left, which I’m saving for a special occasion. But this year the fig-tree has produced more fruit than ever before, and it’s been hard to know what to do with it all. Marilyn has made pies (we all like figgy pudding) and some rather good fig chutney.

Long, long ago, the Israelites, God’s People in the Bible, didn’t have gardens. They were shepherds, and because in the Holy Land grass is scarce, they had to keep moving on from hillside to hillside, as the sheep ate up the available grass. With that sort of life, they couldn’t have houses, only tents, to be packed up and re-pitched as they moved on. They weren’t popular with the local farmers in the valleys, either, who were glad to see them go. But one of the dreams the shepherds had (because they believed that God had promised them one day a settled home in the land), was to stop moving on, build a nice house, and plant a vine and a fig-tree. “Living under your vine and your fig-tree” was a sort of proverb for living a quiet and peaceful life. That is one reason why I planted a vine and a fig-tree in my garden.

Once the Israelites did settle, they gave thanks to God each year for the crops from their fields and fruit from their gardens at Harvest Festivals. But one of the things God told them to do, when they gave thanks, was to remember that they had once been homeless wanderers, and share their blessings with those in need. In later years, many of them (especially the rich and successful ones) came to forget that, and to be like the farmers, who in the early years had said, “Move on! Move on!” to their shepherd ancestors. In fact, God sent them away from their Land again, to teach them what it was to be homeless and exiled.

We are very, very lucky in our country. There is food in the shops, grown by our farmers or brought from far away. We have houses, schools, hospitals and all sorts of things that people in other countries would love to have. Many people in those countries have little choice but to leave their homes and seek refuge in this and other countries. Sometimes it is because of war and violence, sometimes because of famine. Sometimes there are just no jobs for people to earn their living.

When these people come here, they don’t always get a welcome. “Move on, move on!” they are told. This is cruel and unkind, and not the way God wants us to behave. In All Hallows parish there are very many people who have come to England in search of a safe and sure life, and they are still coming: and this was true, once, of the grandparents of many of you children here. They did not always receive the welcome they were entitled to expect, which was shameful. When we give thanks for our blessings from God, we should also see how we can share them with others. That is why our harvest gifts this morning are going to the Wild Goose Cafe.

Jesus told us that when we welcome the stranger or the homeless, we are welcoming him. He also told us that in a way we are all homeless people, like those old shepherds I told you about, always moving on, but hoping for a settled home one day. Our life is a journey, and one day we shall have to leave this world behind. Our true home is with Jesus, and with his mother Mary, and all the saints and angels. But what sort of welcome will we get from them, if we have refused to welcome those in need here and now?

Let us ask God our Father in heaven to make us truly thankful for what we have received, and to give us kind and generous hearts to share our blessings with everyone.

 

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