October 2011

Dear Friends,

I was writing about weddings last time. A phrase from the service goes like this - “marriage is a gift of God in creation.” Christians will believe different things about how involved God has been in making the universe but, as a minimum, if we believe in an Almighty God, we must agree that the world cannot have been brought to be without His will and agreement. Even wasps! Which seem to have sworn a personal vendetta against me this autumn. Incidentally, I discovered the answer to a question which has long puzzled me recently. What are wasps for? It seems they have a useful function in controlling other bugs, something for which gardeners should be grateful.

This month once again we celebrate harvest. We have all noticed food prices rising recently and it doesn't look as though there is going to be any let up in this. Rather the reverse in fact. Over the next two to three decades the earth is going to struggle to feed its population. That's because there is going to be a rapid rise in population (it ought to level out or even fall after that) coupled with water shortages caused by climate change and increasing demand from growing towns and cities. Food riots are already taking place in poorer countries and that trend may get worse.

Not much of a celebration, you might say. What the Christian belief that we owe our sustenance to God teaches us is that crops, food and water are gifts from Him, to be treasured, valued and shared. This means – and in a rural community like ours this should be second nature – that we value the contribution farmers make to our lives. In a complex modern world where a new Asda superstore on Parson Cross will seem like a cornucopia of goodies, we do well to remember that its shelves would be bare without the farming industry. Our Christian faith should also make us treasure food. In the UK we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food every year. Supermarkets do it, in vast quantities, because they have over ordered. Every household does it, because we all overbuy. In a future period of ever higher prices and acute shortages for poorer countries it will even more important to say, “This food, this clear water, is a gift from God, and we should husband it.”

All our lives, of course, we have been made aware of the awful problems many people in the so-called third world live with. Drought, which kills their animals and their crops (as in Somalia at the moment); floods which sweep away their homes and fields (like in Pakistan); and sheer, grinding poverty, day by day. This means that a further harvest principle is one of the two things (just two!) which our Lord Jesus Christ said were absolutely vital – to love our neighbours as ourselves. It's interesting, actually, that if people listened to the marriage service – which I'm sure, by and large, they don't – they would hear set out the clear outlines of the whole Christian faith. And in there we pray that the newly married couple's “love will overflow to neighbours in need”; just what I'm saying here.

And we can follow the same service through to a second major Sunday at the end of October, the 30th, when at both our churches we offer an opportunity at our morning services to remember those we love who are no longer with us. What does the marriage service say? That the couple “will come at last to the end of their lives, with hearts content and in joyful anticipation of heaven.” There it is, the Christian hope that, this life ended, God will receive us into rest with his saints and in company with Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

May God help you to value, treasure and share his gifts. And to look forward, with a calm faith, to one day living 'on a different shore' with Christ our Lord.