September News From The Clergy

September News From The Clergy

23 Aug 2023 • From the Clergy

“Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it” – the theme for this month’s magazine- may be quoting from Psalm 65, but for me, the words take me straight back to my childhood and youth in Claines. No harvest festival would have been complete without the choir singing Maurice Greene’s anthem, which, although I didn’t realise it at the time, is based on this psalm. Beginning at verse 9, the rest of Psalm 65 is a celebration of a successful harvest, one in which the generosity of God’s provision is seen and joyfully proclaimed.

By the time this magazine is published, we will be into September and our harvest festivals will be looming large on the collective horizon. Harvest is traditionally the time when we thank God for the richness of the earth’s resources; for food safely gathered in and survival through the winter months assured. Slightly more modern, is the inclusion in these celebrations of thanks for the “fruits” of other harvests, gathered in more urban, and industrial settings. The products of commerce and industry meet our needs just as much as arable crops and at equal and sometimes self-sacrificing effort on the part of others. Harvest is also the time at which we remember those less fortunate than ourselves, in particular those whose crops have failed or have been destroyed by natural disaster or warfare. Within our own country and communities this year we will also be especially remembering those most badly hit by the cost of living crisis. For such people, to speak or sing of God having visited and blessed the earth, may be an alien concept or a bitter irony.

Yet God does both visit and bless the earth. He created and loves it and through it he provides for all our needs. It is largely through the carelessness, greed and recklessness of the human race that so many people go without the basic necessities of life. It is through our disregard of countless warnings that climate change and global warming are bringing devastation in the form of drought and wildfires to some areas; flooding to others. It is through human arrogance, ambition and intolerance that so many countries are torn apart by war and civil strife. God visits and blesses the earth but so many of us so often abuse it and deny its blessings to others. Perhaps this harvest season can give us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our use of God’s provision and blessing and how we can better play our part in ensuring they are shared fairly amongst all his people.

Harvest, whilst focusing our minds on one aspect of God’s blessings, is not, of course, the only time at which we are – or should be – aware of his blessings.

They are around us every day and most of us will have daily cause to stop and take stock of these blessings. Even when beset with difficulties, we can, if we look, find evidence of God’s goodness all around us and sometimes, just calling these consciously to mind, can put problems in perspective.

But there is one other time of year when we are particularly mindful of God visiting and blessing the earth. Dare I, just into September, mention the “C” word?? We will be just three months away from Christmas! Cards and gift wrap already in the shops and – yes, I admit it – I have already bought a few gifts! But before we all get bogged down in the commercial, materialistic side of Christmas, perhaps we can pause now, with the words of Psalm 65 fresh in our minds, and reflect on the fact that this was the ultimate example of God visiting the earth and blessing it; when he literally visited it as he came to it in the person of his Son. Love, forgiveness, grace, blessing; all ours for the asking, wrapped in the person of one small, helpless and homeless baby. One who would grow up to be an itinerant preacher, spreading the best of all possible messages, a gift beyond price and a blessing beyond imagining.

“Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it” – perhaps that can be a challenge to the musically minded amongst you; to create a Christmas carol based on this verse! Because great though our harvest blessings are and good and right though it is that we should acknowledge, appreciate and give thanks for them, this gift of God, sent at Christmas, was – and remains – his most significant visitation and the greatest blessing he can ever give to the earth and all who dwell on it.

Sarah Cottrill