from the manse …28 September 2020
We have now passed the autumnal equinox, so the nights are lengthening and we’ve seen the beginnings of autumn colours in the trees. Its harvest time and we’ll be celebrating at St Margaret’s on 4 October. There will be a collection for Christian Aid (money) and for the foodbank (tins etc). We have also decided on a date for Holy Communion – 11 October. Everything is a bit different these days, but I hope to see those of you who feel able to attend. There will be a new QR code at the door, for those with smartphones to log in, to help with track and trace.
Harvest has traditionally been a busy time – gratefully followed by our festival of thanksgiving. At St Paul & St John’s, we usually give to WaterAid at harvest and I have received some information from them. Its good news! 9 out of 10 people worldwide now have access to clean water – possibly for the first time in history. We’re making progress! There may still be much to do, to bring a harvest to the world, but we can still pause, to celebrate achievements and to re-gain our enthusiasm, strength and commitment to continue. We give thanks to God for all the food we are able to enjoy.
(WaterAid are at www.wateraid.org.uk,
0300 123 4341 and at Freepost Plus RTXT-JATZ-LJST, Water Aid, York House, Wetherby Road, Long Marston, York, YO26 7NH).
As last week, I’ve included harvest hymns, especially for St Paul & St John’s folk, (tho I hope you’ll all enjoy them), as well as alternatives.
‘As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’ (Genesis 8: 22)
HYMN We plough the fields and scatter R&S 124 HTC 292 MP 732
And can it be? R&S 366 HTC 588/452 MP 33
Lord, we praise and thank you for the beauty of the earth and your love shown to us in so many ways. Forgive us when we live selfishly, putting ourselves before the needs of others. Help us to care for the world and all its people with love, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Old Testament Readings: Exodus 17: 1 – 7 Psalm 78: 1 – 4
HYMN Praise and thanksgiving R&S 48
Praise God for the harvest of farm and of field HTC 288
New Testament Readings: Philippians 2: 1 – 13 (see also R&S 749)
Matthew 21: 23 – 32
HYMN River, wash over me MP 581
At the name of Jesus R&S 261 HTC 172 MP 41
On a cold, wet day, its hard for us to imagine what it must be like to live without constant access to clean, running water. In our homes, it even runs hot and cold.
Moses struck the rock at Horeb, so that the people could have water to drink. Nowadays, water is brought to remote communities in different ways! I thought I’d share with you this week, two contrasting stories to illustrate WaterAid’s work.
Felisberta is 57 and lives in Vatuvou, a village in Timor Leste, Southeast Asia. The area depends on farming, but climate change has meant the dry – or hungry – seasons last longer causing water sources to dry out. Crops failed so the community doesn’t have enough to eat and sell and their livestock died. This is all without Covid-19. Felisberta says, “Because we have less water, we try to manage it – we use it for drinking. That’s why sometimes the kids don’t take a shower or a bath. We also don’t really wash our clothes. … If we had water it would be good for us – we could use water to grow vegetables in the garden.” There’s a beautiful photograph of Felisberta, with bottles on her back in a basket, going to collect water. She looks very thin.
In contrast, the second story comes from Zabendella, Burkina Faso, West Africa. Almost half of the country live without access to clean water, but in 2019 WaterAid built 2 wells and 12 compostable toilets in the market garden area – the first toilets in the village. Rasmata is 37 and works with her husband in the fields in the rainy season. During the dry season she gardens with 80 other village women. The compostable toilets mean waste can be converted into fertiliser. Rasmata says, “It will reduce our expenses of buying the fertiliser bags. Before, we were sometimes forced to sell animals to buy fertiliser bags.” She now grows enough vegetables to feed her family and sell at market. There’s a lovely photograph of Rasmata, preparing a harvest of onions for sale. She looks contented and well fed.
There’s also a photograph of a beautiful little girl called Roumina, from Madagascar, who had just seen clean running water for the first time in her life! I’ll take the pictures to St Margaret’s, so some of you will be able to see them.
For so many around the world, water represents life. As we look around, we can see the effects of water everywhere, in the green of grass, leaves and trees. We can watch the clouds scuttling by and watch the life of the river. When I visited Israel, it took me a long time to see natural beauty which had nothing to do with water.
Our gospel passage reminds us that it is not good enough for us to know that a problem exists, or that work needs to be done, and do nothing. We may prefer to spend our time differently, but sometimes the needs of others have to come before our own. In Jesus’ story, the life of the family was involved. If the work was not done, that would impact on how the family could live in the future. Perhaps we need to take that idea more seriously as we look at the life of the planet, and try to do what we can now, to combat climate change.
HYMN God in his love for us lent us this planet R&S 85 MP 832
Jesus, united by thy grace/Help us to help eachother, Lord R&S 500 HTC 540
Our prayers with the Synod this week are for Peacemaking Sunday, the Presbyterian Church of Mozambique, Lay training and evening classes at Khovo in Maputo and the Northern Baptist Regional Minister, Rev John Claydon.
We thank you, Lord, for our link with Mozambique. May it prove fruitful. Bless our Synod and all the work of your churches. We thank you for ecumenical links and for our growing ever closer, in love. Help us through these difficult times and be with us as we come to terms with long-term restrictions. Bring this pandemic to an end, we pray. Guard us and guide us and grant us your peace, joy and hope. Amen.
This prayer, with the response (Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer …) comes from the Arthur Rank Centre. (© Germinate: The Arthur Rank Centre)
We pray for farmers, their families and communities and all who depend on them,
For all who are worried about tomorrow and facing difficulties today,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For agricultural chaplains, support groups and rural churches,
For the communities in which they work and the people to whom they minister …
For retailers and suppliers, for all involved in the processing and transporting of food
For urban communities far removed from food production …
For children and young people with little knowledge of where their food comes from
For those that go hungry and those who endeavour to feed them …
For relief agencies and aid workers giving help and healing to those in need
For restraint and fairness in the use of economic power …
For discernment and a long view in farm policy and decision,
For justice in world trade …
For ourselves that we may eat with joy and care,
For land and livestock and love for those who care for them …
For the ability to appreciate your generosity
and a readiness to recognise our dependency on each other
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.
HYMN All creatures of our God and king R&S 39 HTC 13 MP 7
‘Now to the One who is able to keep you from falling, and to set you in the presence of his glory, jubilant and above reproach, to the only God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now and for evermore.’ Amen (Jude: 24 – 25)
God bless you always.