Last week at Chebsey we started our journey through Harvest with a reminder of how connected we are, as humans, to the Land. We reflected on how this connection is not only a physical but also a spiritual connection. So we acknowledge we are of course dependent upon the Land for our physical needs .. without care and attention to the 6 inches of soil into which we plant our seeds we will not survive as humans. We suggested we have perhaps lost this connection in the western world where delivery drivers and shelf stackers seem more important than fine weather and farm workers. But the problem is far more than physical for us humans .. we have both a physical and spiritual need for connection to the land and the provision of food. There is something in the link between us and nature which reveals our createdness and our Creator and nourishes our souls.
This message is found again in the passage of scripture we have read today. Humanity learns something of the Creator through the connection to nature. But there is a different theme which springs out in relation to the importance of the physical Harvest to our spiritual journeying today. Last week we thought about what nature tells us about provision. That we need not worry because our Creator still sustains and cradles us in care.This week the message is more to do with a connection between need and provision. An important message, that it is OK to be in need .. in fact our need is a central part of God revealing the Divine glory.
Take a moment and think about how you usually feel about being in need. If you are anything like me you probably feel like you shoudn’t be in need. That if you need something you are being a pain. Need is perhaps perceived as weakness. But the Bible seems to be telling us if we take this view we are being less than human. To be human is to have needs. And to have needs connect us to the One who can meet our needs and therefore lead to praise and thanksgiving.
So consider our Psalm today. We see there is a clear and direct connection between the praise of God’s people and the journey from need to fulfillment. Restored fortunes seem to be at the heart of rejoicing in God. In quite resonant language ‘sorrow seems to be the beginning of joy’
‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.’
In acknowledging their need God’s people make a journey to fulfilment and praise. In declaring Lord we need our fortunes restored or in another turn of phrase .. we need salvation .. we see the whole essence of the Gospel. In your need is God’s glory.
This is at the heart of the passage of feeding the 4 thousand .. and yes it is 4 thousand in this Gospel and not 5 thousand as in the more familiar story of Mark’s Gospel. This is a different account which takes place in another location .. the message is important it seems from its repetition .. it is even repeated in Mark itself.
Anyway the message is that the physical needs of the people allowed Jesus to reveal God’s glory and love. Imagine the people had said what most British people would have said .. oh don’t worry Jesus it’s fine .. we will be OK .. don’t bother yourself with our needs .. it’s our own fault after all coming all this way without thinking about refreshments. Don’t concern yourself . don’t trouble yourself. Isn’t that what we would have said. Don’t trouble yourself .. forget I have needs. And in doing so we convince ourselves we have no needs and become less human than we ought to be.
It is this message that in meeting our needs that God becomes present and praiseworthy which I want to highlight for you this Harvest. We need a Harvest. We need the seed we sow to become fruitful and fulfill both our physical and spiritual need. The 2 are linked. A physical Harvest which leads to spiritual joy and praise. The crowds who are of the loaves and fish were filled physically but also spiritually as they gave thanks to God for provision.
Human need is at the heart of the Harvest message. We need our endeavours to work. Not just from a physical point of view but in order that we might find spiritual joy in the meeting of our needs.Sometimes it has to be said this requires patience and waiting. Sowing in tears. Waiting while weeping. Hoping and praying. Until at the right time and in its right season our need is met and our spirits rise to give thanks and praise. Thanks and praise for the Harvest which connects humanity to the Divines. Let us not lose that connection through denying our needs. Let us confess our need and in doing so have our fortunes restored once again.