Sunday 26 September 2010 : HARVEST THANKSGIVING

We all enjoy our food – some of us perhaps more than we should! – but I wonder if we ever take time to stop and think where it comes from? Today, let’s stop for a moment to give a round of applause to the agricultural community ; to the people without whom the rest of us simply would not be able to survive. We, the people whose mouths are fed by your labour, salute you and thank you today.

But we remember also that the labours of those who grow and harvest and prepare and package and market our food would be sunk without trace, along with the rest of us, were it not for the God who made heaven and earth, who upholds and sustains the whole of creation – often in spite of the follies of a human race who blithely carry on polluting the atmosphere with reckless disregard for the consequences for generations yet to come. God promised in Genesis 8.22 : As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.

LESSON : Luke 10 : 25-37  [p. 1042]


The focus of today’s service is on the nation of Pakistan, where, in July of this year, severe flooding killed at least 2,000 people, destroyed over a million homes, left more than 20 million people homeless or injured – more than the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the January 2010 Haiti earthquake put together.

The Word of God teaches us that love for God is to reflect in love for our neighbour, and the person who is our neighbour is the person who, at that moment, needs a good neighbour. Not necessarily someone we like, not necessarily someone who believes and thinks as we do, indeed not necessarily someone we will ever meet this side of heaven, but the person that God wants us to help and equips us to help. There are many ways in which the people of Pakistan need our help. First, they need [hold up item of food].

The floods, which at one time covered one-fifth of the whole land area of Pakistan, have destroyed the fields where food grows. The figures are scary. 17 million acres of Pakistan’s most fertile land waterlogged, 200,000 animals killed, half-a-million tons of wheat destroyed. There is a major concern that farmers will be unable to meet the plant new seeds this autumn, which could mean a massive shortage of food next year.

Another problem is [hold up bottle of water]. At a pinch, you can survive a couple of weeks without food, but only a couple of days without water. In past years, we’ve helped the Water for Life appeal, and we saw then how important fresh clean water is. If you haven’t got that, and drink polluted water, with animal waste or chemicals or sewage in it, you could become very ill or even die. The World Health Organization reported that ten million people in Pakistan were forced to drink unsafe water.

The third area in which the people of Pakistan need our help is [hold up medicine]. One of the worst after-effects of these disasters is that they are often followed by epidemics of nasty diseases, many caused by dirty water and we need to get medicines across to get people well again. A few weeks ago we had a service to help the HIV/AIDS project, and that was excellent, but even without the floods there’s a far bigger killer on the loose, and it’s one that can be cured quite easily – malaria. Again, we can help.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that we should hire a jet aeroplane and take off for Pakistan tomorrow. It’s neither possible nor advisable simply to get up and go out there – we have relief agencies like Samaritan’s Purse, the same organisation who do the Shoe Box appeal, who are there already, doing a tremendous job, but what we can all do today is partner with them. We do that by giving [hold up cheque or cash].

We give the money, they can provide the food, the water, the medicine. That’s what we call partnership, the people out in the field and the people at home providing finance, working together un the love of God to make real difference to people’s lives. And there’s one other thing we mustn’t forget, another need the people of Pakistan had before the floods, and – if we don’t deal with it – will still have many years from now.

Pakistan is largely a Muslim country, and I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but because of all the terrorist stuff that’s been going on the past 10 years or so, many people have become suspicious and wary of Pakistan as a hotbed of militant Islam – a vile and nasty perversion of truth – and a place where Osama Bin Laden and his mob can hide. Because of that, sadly, Christians have been slow to respond to the crisis and so show the people of Pakistan the truth that God loves them, and gave His Son for them.

In our story today from Luke’s gospel we see that the good neighbour to the man who got mugged was someone from a very different background, someone whom the victim of the attack would have preferred nothing to do with. Jews and Samaritans did not get on. Seriously did not get on. And yet the Samaritan in this story binned any bad attitudes and negative feelings and did what was right.

Showing the love of Jesus Christ by our generosity to the people of Pakistan at this very difficult and painful time is the best way we have to lead them toward faith. We are supporting Samaritan’s Purse because they believe in, and act on, the love of Jesus – you probably know that it’s Billy Graham’s son Franklin who is their Chief Executive.

Today I invite us to let the colour-blind love of Jesus lead us to sow a generous seed  and make a Kingdom investment into the lives of the children of Pakistan, that not only may their physical needs be met, but also their spiritual future assured.