Psalm 100, Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Philippians 4:4-9, John 6:25-35
Now is the season of harvest. We are also at the first Sunday of our four-week stewardship drive. Happily, the Lectionary readings for harvest, which we’ve heard today, work really well with the theme of our first Stewardship Drive Sunday – God’s generosity.
Each week of our stewardship drive will focus on a different element of what stewardship means as part of Christian discipleship – so, in other words, what it might mean to each of us as Christians.
To really understand what Stewardship means we need to look first to the place from which all that we have comes – God’s generosity in creation.
There was a generous and loving God who created the most beautiful world, where many thousands of millions of creatures lived together in diverse and fertile environments. God commissioned human beings as stewards, to manage the earth with all its rich resources and bounty, enough for everyone. Things didn’t go to plan – and we find ourselves where we are today.
We heard in our Gospel today – Christ describing himself as the bread of life. During Harvest season, bread becomes a symbol of God’s bounty, reminding us of God’s Creation, of God as the giver of all life, of God’s ultimate act of creation in providing us with the living bread from heaven which will sustain us always and eternally. Bread, then, is also intrinsically tied with our responsibility to care for God’s creation – the earth that provides the wheat that makes the bread which feeds so many peoples and cultures all over the world.
Harvest, bread, the ground, the earth, is really an amazing metaphor for how we steward the good things God has given us, and how we share what we have grown – not just the environment but all the good things in our lives. In our cases here in Kew, I doubt many of us are farmers, but what can we take from that metaphor? What are the first-fruits God has provided us with, and how do we give gratitude and pass on and share the blessings we receive?
The question we can ask ourselves today on the first day of our Stewardship Drive is - how do we respond to God’s generosity – personally and as a church?
Our reading from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament gives us some direction on this. The people of Israel are led out of slavery in Egypt – they are taken to a land flowing with milk and honey. How do they respond to God’s generosity – they return it by bringing their first fruits from the land back to God.
The passage then goes on to instruct the people to share the first fruits with those beyond their community – the aliens – meaning those from other places and communities, strangers or those from a foreign place.
This is about sharing with others – celebrating and giving thanks for God’s bounty by sharing it. The Idea here is of giving back, of responding to God’s generosity by being generous ourselves.
I remember once when I was moving into my graduate housing at university and a friend of mine helped me all day to move furniture and buy new bits and pieces. I asked him how I could repay him – what did I owe him? And he said – you can repay me by doing the same for someone else one day – pass it on. The same idea is here in terms of God’s generosity to us – how do we respond? We respond by being generous ourselves by giving of ourselves for others – whether in our community or in the wider world.
I would challenge you on this first Sunday of our Stewardship Drive, to reflect on God’s incredible generosity to us – the wonderful gift of Creation and Christ the bread of life.
Generosity itself is at the heart of stewardship – we are called to take God’s generosity and reflect it in our lives and actions.
Rev Melanie Harrington