The Vicarage

Dear Friends

Harvest Thanksgiving, at its most basic, remains for me a celebration of God’s provision of the food we eat. Though brought up in a village, I was never really a child of the land, as a farmer’s son or daughter might be but there was no escaping the sense of gratitude for “all good gifts around us, sent from heaven above.” I remember getting the old mushroom baskets from the greengrocer and filling them with fruit and vegetable and then those tiresome debates about where each basket should go. Who can’t eat courgettes and who doesn’t like bananas! Even in the 1960’s the baskets with potatoes, carrots, an apple, processed peas and a tin of salmon – if you were lucky – seemed but a token but by enlarge they were received graciously, when we school children called to deliver them. Like the flowers we distribute today, they were a way of saying “You are not forgotten” and for most, if not all of us, that is a comforting thought.

Fifty years later we still give thanks for food and seek to share the Christian hope that no one is forgotten. The Bishop of Blackburn’s Harvest Appeal is entitled “Safely gathered in” and is raising funds for the Quilombola people of Brazil and the children of Kailahun, in Sierra Leone. Alongside this we will be collecting dried and tinned goods for a local foodbank and projects working with the disadvantaged in Blackpool. As I read about these projects and the common theme of feeding people who are hungry, I am struck that hunger cannot be seen in isolation. The Quilombola people are descended from escaped slaves and like indigenous peoples across the world, they have faced a constant struggle to secure their human rights and to challenge the prejudice they continue to face. The children from Kailahun are orphans, whose parents have either been killed in the years of conflict in Sierra Leone, or died in the Ebola outbreak, which swept through the country a few years ago.

Hunger may be about failed harvests, but it also has much to do with unfair prejudice, with conflict and will illness and disease. Figures I saw released just today, show that of those households living in poverty in this country, a large proportion include someone with a disability. Illness and disability take their toll in our society too and foodbanks regularly report that problems with our benefit system are adding to the number of families seeking emergency support.

Harvest Thanksgiving remains a celebration of God’s provision but if it is about hunger, it is also about fairness and justice. It has always been so for Christians. After all Jesus warned of the dangers of building bigger barns and storing up for ourselves treasures on earth.

I continue to believe that there is enough for all in this world and that it is our task to make that a reality That will inevitably involve us in issues of justice and fairness, as well as in the simple provision of food and we should not duck that challenge.

At funerals, I often quote the words of Jesus from John 14; “There are many rooms in my Father’s house,” as a pledge that in death no one will be forgotten by God. I believe the same is true in life and it is our task to live by that conviction. That can involve feeding people, but it can also involve helping them to feed themselves and discovering the dignity and self-worth that brings. May they sense that they too have a treasured place in God’s world, whether they are orphaned children of Sierra Leone, foodbank users in Fleetwood, homeless adolescents in Blackpool, the Quilombola people of the Amazonian rainforest, or the housebound and sick of our parish. As the Bishop’s Harvest Appeal puts it “Inspire those of us with plenty to share with those who have little. In the name of Jesus, we pray.”

Every blessing!
Martin Keighley

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