Harvest Sermon at Mitchel Troy 2019

Revd Owen Williams, Sunday 29th Sept 2019

Perhaps we may be tempted to be comforted with a harvest festival with its familiar hymns, old pictures of harvests safely gathered in, and yes it is good that we can come together to celebrate – we are part of God’s creation and we offer thanks and recognise our stewardship that is given to us.

Linking our harvest festival with our patronal festival reminds us to remember that our sung praises of God join us in music that is already playing ; the music of the spheres, the angels sustaining the universe and its forces of wind and weather, earth, fire and life, joining heaven and earth by their song.

But now we all have a nightmare facing us – wake up!

It has taken a 16 year old Greta Thunberg and other young people to stir us up to climate extinction and to ram home the seriousness of our peril.

Do I need to spell out the latest projections scientists from many backgrounds have laid before us, of how our planet is heating up – already we notice that the last 5 years have shown the biggest rise in temperature in earths history. Sir David King, the British government’s Chief Scientist at a news conference, stated that even by the most optimistic estimate, carbon dioxide levels are set to rise to double what they were at pre-industrial levels, which will lead to a 3 degree centigrade rise in temperature. If this happens, few ecosystems will be able to adapt and up to 400 million people around the world will be at risk of  hunger, as between 20 million to 400 million tonnes of cereal production would be lost. In Britain, the main threat will be flooding and coastal attack from rising sea levels. To prevent climate change humanity needs to slash emissions by 45%. by 2030.  That means a transformation of the global energy, agricultural, transportation and other sectors at a speed and scale without precedent in human history. We can be forgiven for feeling helpless.

But what have we done? Suddenly we’ve woken up to the reality of climate emergency, mass extinction of many species, and pollution of our oceans and air. Suddenly we realise that human activity is causing this devastation and suffering, not only to future generations but here and now. 

We Christians love God, and know that God loves us and all creation. So how do we, as Christians, respond to all of this? 

To me it is a blasphemy that people bury their heads in the sand and deny what is happening to our planet earth, or say why should I bother? 

– They might say the big polluters are in China or the USA. What can I do? It is like why should I give to say Christian Aid, my pound or two are nothing – the challenge is too great!

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges. We are at a tipping point!!!

But today, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year.

The sense that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change is becoming clearer all the time.

I love the world. I love my children and grandchildren but literally, what are we passing on to them?

So what can you or I do? Well, be informed. Talk about it. How can I reduce my carbon footprint? – How and what do I consume – food, clothing, or fuel when driving? – Reduce the journeys, drive more slowly to reduce consumption, ask what energy supplier do we have. Is it a green energy supplier? (At home we switched to a green supplier and saved over £300!) Write to our MP about these concerns. Do not allow climate emergency deniers their positions of power.

As Christians we must commit to being good stewards of God’s creation, to care for the environment and to respond to the serious circumstance we face. When we start noticing the amazing character of abundance, love and joy, compassion and mercy, wisdom and integrity in God and shown in Jesus and in this creation we can listen to God’s word and act on it.  We can broaden our understanding of what it is to love, until our love is like God’s love. Jesus tells us to love one another in a particular way: as I have loved you. No excluding the small print, then. No off-switch for world events we prefer to ignore. Are we Christ followers up to that?   

When I was preparing this service I wondered whether to change the readings. Here are two I looked at:-

Isaiah 24:4-6 New International Version (NIV)

The earth dries up and withers,

the world languishes and withers,

the heavens languish with the earth.

The earth is defiled by its people;

they have disobeyed the laws,

violated the statutes

and broken the everlasting covenant.

Therefore a curse consumes the earth;

its people must bear their guilt.

Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up,

and very few are left.

Wow! That is uncomfortable.

We do have a way forward.

Micah 6:6-8 New International Version (NIV)

With what shall I come before the Lord

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly[a] with your God.