Letter from the clergy - Friday 2 October 2020

First published on: 1st October 2020

Dear All,

Well October already! We’re getting ready to celebrate Harvest this weekend, with a focus on the generosity of God, in providing all that we need, and the beautiful creation around us. This is a season in which we give thanks that as God generously pours blessing out on us, so we can bless others. God’s generosity is meant to be shared, and as our hearts are transformed by his grace and his love, so the joy and spiritual life that he gives us should flow out to touch others.

I attended a clergy study day this week (by Zoom) with the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and he was reflecting on why it was that so many of us clapped for the NHS, which soon expanded to include all essential workers, on Thursday evenings. He said it was out of gratitude for those who were serving us, keeping us safe, and providing for our needs. It was a way of thanking them and recognising our dependence on them. You could say we were praising them, and Archbishop Stephen explained that being praised ‘expands the heart’ and enables us to give even more, to give sacrificially.

In our first Bible reading from 2 Corinthians, St Paul is writing about the generosity of one group of Christians towards some others who were less well off, and that the source of this generosity was the outflowing of God’s grace which touched their hearts, and enabled them to give generously and freely. Another way of putting it is that God had expanded their hearts. God will provide what you need, he said, and more: ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things… you will abound in every good work.’ There is a flow going on, from God to the believers, which then flows out through them to bless others. And as people see the generosity that comes from a thankful heart, that blesses others, they will praise God.

St Paul says that God is the one who supplies our resources, the seed for the sower, and bread for food, so there is no need to hoard it, it can be given generously to others, and that will bring a harvest of good works. Our attitude in what we do affects the harvest: ‘those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, and those who sow generously will reap generously.’ The financial gift that the church in Corinth sent to the impoverished church in Jerusalem was not given begrudgingly, or out of a sense of obligation, but was given with a spirit of generosity, that flowed from the heart, and recognised that they had been given abundant blessings from God, so it was only natural to share it. There was a ‘chain reaction’ of thankfulness and appreciation for God’s generosity to them in Jesus, which flowed out to touch others, and built a sense of community and love between the believers. This is true for us today also. God’s generosity overflows to bless those around us when we receive it with open, thankful hearts, and look out for our fellow human beings with love and compassion. I thank God for the many examples I’ve seen during my time with you at St John’s of generosity in terms of loving care for others, and time spent in reaching out to help those in need. May God continue to bless you all.

A Prayer (the Harvest Post-Communion Prayer adapted)

Lord of the harvest,
with joy we offer thanksgiving for your love in creation.
By your grace plant within us a reverence for all that you give us,
and make us generous and wise stewards of all the good things we enjoy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

With grace and peace,
Sue McWhinney         
07484 181699

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