Harvest Thanksgiving [Lent 3 Year C]

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[Note: In the Southern Hemisphere the tradition of giving thanks for the harvest, where it survives, or in some places where it is a recovered tradition, occurs naturally in Autumn (Fall) and being commonly in the months of March or April tends often to coincide with one of the Sundays of Lent. That is a coincidence that does not fit easily with the Christian calender developed in the Northern Hemisphere. Nevertheless I am including resources for such a celebration at this point in accordance with local tradition, for it is important that we should "always and everywhere give thanks."

The sermon and order of service offered here are those developed for an historical remembrance of a community event which had ceased to be observed in my last parish, but which was revived on Lent 3 in 1995 as part of the celebrations of the centenary of the congregation and as a contribution to a local community festival then being held at the same time. The suburban church inherited a tradition which was an important part of the life of the local community during the greater part of the preceding hundred years when the original wooden church building was surrounded by orchards and dairy farms.

To maintain the general liturgical sequence, however, I have given in separate files resources for the regular observance of the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C. DB.]

Readings for Lent 3:
Isaiah 55:1-9 as the heavens are higher...so are my ways higher than your ways
Psalm 63:1-8 O God, you are my God, I seek you
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 God ... will not let you be tested beyond your strength
Luke 13:1-9 "unless you repent, you will all perish"

Special Readings for Harvest Thanksgiving:
Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (11-20) bless the Lord your God for the good land
John 6:26-35 my Father ..gives you the true bread from heaven

Possible Hymns (Numbers refer to the Australian Hymn Book, SA = Sing Alleluia, TIS = Together in Song]
28 (TIS 111) Praise the Lord, the Almighty
59 (TIS 130) We plough the fields
67 (TIS 133) O worship the King
102 (TIS 166) Sing a new song
557 (TIS 626) Lord of Creation
569 (TIS 627) Praise and Thanksgiving [to Morning has broken]
Anthem: SA 37 For the fruits of his creation / thanks be to God

Sermon Summary -- Harvest Thanksgiving (Click here for complete sermon)

Thanksgiving for the bread of life

Today we are recalling a tradition based on ancient practice. The people of Israel believed that God had blessed them with bountiful gifts. [Deuteronomy 8:7-9]. God promised to bring them to a good land [Genesis 15:1-18]; on their part, they would honour God ...bless the LORD your God for the good land...Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, [Deut 8:10-11]...you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, ...sets it down before the altar ... [Deut. 26:1-4].

Christian tradition of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth

During the Middle Ages in England there was a tradition of having a loaf of bread made from the first of the wheat to be harvested brought to the church on the 1st of August (Lammas Day) each year to be dedicated in the mass. In 1843 in a village in Cornwall the Lammas Day custom was revived. By the middle of that century, at about the time when the first settlers were reaping their first harvests in Templestowe [near Melbourne], the parish celebration of the a harvest thanksgiving was being practiced widely. It is right for Christians to say `It is good to be alive!'

When things go wrong

We live in an imperfect world. We are citizens of heaven, this is not our true and permanent homeland, and it is part of Christian experience that God can bring good out of evil. Healing takes place and we are then better able to serve God in a broken world. We have so much for which to be thankful, but people have always been tempted to put themselves in the place of God. Do not say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth." But remember the LORD your God, [Deuteronomy 8:17-19]. People live better when they know the one whose creation it is and when they enjoy it way he intends it to be.

Thanksgiving for the new relationship with God in Christ

Even when things go wrong, God has provided a way for us to be put into a right relationship with him. It is the way of Jesus who said "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." [John 6:31-35]. So our harvest thanksgiving is repeated every time we come to offer the great thanksgiving at the Lord's table.

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Order of Service HARVEST THANKSGIVING (Lent 3)

The Gathering of the People of God

CALL TO WORSHIP
Let us worship God.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him. -- Psalm 67:3-7

HYMN O worship the King TIS 133 AHB 67

PRAYER OF ADORATION

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS
For our foolish or careless use of the gifts of your creation, Lord have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
For our indifference to the needs of others, our brothers and sisters for whom you died, Christ have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
For our neglect of fellowship and the means of grace in worship and private prayer, Lord have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. -- Romans 5:8
Hear then Christ's word of grace to us:
Your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.

DOXOLOGY Hymn Praise to the Lord, the Almighty [verses 1 and 5] TIS 111 AHB 28

WELCOME AND GREETING EACH OTHER

Service of the Word

INTRODUCTION OF THEME: A word to the children.
OLD TESTAMENT Deuteronomy 8:7-18 ... bless the Lord your God for the good land
ANTHEM SA 37 For the fruits of his creation / thanks be to God
GOSPEL John 6:26-35 my Father ..gives you the true bread from heaven
HYMN Praise and thanksgiving, Father, we offer TIS 267 AHB 569

SERMON

HYMN We plough the fields, and scatter / the good seed on the land TIS 130 AHB 59
Additional verse: We plough and sow with tractors
[before verse 2] and bale the new-mown hay;
we reap the fields with combines
to bring our harvest day;
but all the powers of science,
the life of root and seed,
the air and earth and water
are gifts to meet our need.
See his gifts within us
around us and above?
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all his love.

OFFERING
DEDICATION
SHARING TIME [Memories, notices, celebrations and intercessions]

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING [From Bruce Prewer, Australian Prayers. alt.]
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
God, our Father in Christ, it is good to be alive,
to share life with each other in your wonderful creation:
We are most grateful, and we thank you, Lord.
You have given us the opportunity to see the fruits of the harvest,
to watch trees in the wind, to inhale the fragrance of the seasons,
and to feel the warmth of the air:
We are most grateful, and we thank you, Lord.
God, it is good to rest in the evening, and to rise in the morning,
to walk upon this good earth, to hear your whisper in many places,
and to sing your praise with many friends:
We are most grateful, and we thank you, Lord.
Lord, like a generous friend you share the whole world with us,
and you fill our cup to overflowing with the wine of gladness:
We are most grateful, and we thank you, Lord.
We want to sing, dance, and pray,
in gratitude for every good thing in your creation!
Especially we want to embrace and express your Spirit;
the Spirit that filled our Lord Jesus to overflowing,
the Spirit of mercy, forgiveness, courage, and new life;
the Spirit of love, laughter and peace:
We are most grateful, and we thank you, Lord.
For your presence with us, around us, beneath us,
within us, behind us, and in front of us:
we your children, are most grateful,
and we thank you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
THE LORD'S PRAYER

The Sending Forth of the People of God

HYMN Lord of Creation, to you be all praise TIS 626 AHB 557
WORD OF MISSION
BLESSING
DISMISSAL Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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