Remember the poor when you look into your barn, at the abundance of your harvest.
Remember the poor when the wind howls and the rain falls,
As you sit warm and dry in your house.
Remember the poor when you eat fine meat and drink fine ale at your fine carved table.
The cows have grass to eat; the rabbits have burrows for shelter,
The birds have warm nests;
But the poor have no food except what you feed them…….
The words of Jesus in the Gospel reading for today may sound simplistic in the face of the ongoing concerns as Covid-19 continues to spread amongst so many families, communities and nations. Of course folk are going to be anxious about what they can eat and drink if they’re not able easily to get out shopping and the empty shelves of some supermarkets bear testimony to the renewed anxiety being experienced as lockdown becomes necessary once more in some areas. Yet, ironically, stockpiling can bring about the very thing being feared and deprive the vulnerable and those at work of what they need too, when there is sufficient for all if it’s shared fairly.
In the time of Jesus, his words would have an even greater significance: many of those who flocked to him would probably have only just enough to live on or perhaps one change of clothing, unlike many who have so much today. Then, if the family breadwinner experienced illness or injury, it could lead to destitution – and, as the furlough scheme ends and loss of jobs may result as well as the consequences for the economy, some may hear these words of Jesus and think them strange when there is now so much to be worried about.
But that is part of the difficulty – we can make our lives so complicated with the amount of belongings we have and the standard of living we’ve come to expect. The first Advent calendars are already in the shops, Christmas food and hampers are being ordered early so that people can be sure of getting them and some charity shops can’t cope with the amount of goods now being donated with so many folk having a clear out during lockdown. Others, though, are leading lives of loneliness and worry, with the unanticipated loss of income and security through lockdown during the pandemic having profound consequences. One recent visitor to St Melangell’s, a photographer, said that he had lost the anticipated fees from 22 weddings which had been cancelled and that it had affected his whole family. The effect of sudden adversity on the breadwinner can still be as profound today as in the time of Jesus – whether or not we remember the original use of that word, for “There is no such thing as ‘my’ bread. All bread is ours and is given to me, to others through me, and to me through others. For not only bread, but all things necessary for sustenance in this life, are given on loan to us with others, and because of others and for others, and to others through us. Meister Eckhart (1290-1329)
At Harvest Festival today, along with many others, we’ll be giving donations to the local Food Bank to support the increasing numbers of those who need its help at this challenging time. Those who want to will also be asked to take an acorn to plant in a suitable place as a sign of future hope. It will take a long time to grow, if it does, but it will provide a reminder that creation will live on long after we and our current concerns are gone. And, if the squirrels get it, food will have been provided not just by God’s creation, as Jesus suggests, but by the bounty entrusted to us all.
So, if concern about the pandemic seems overwhelming and with many other issues being overlooked because of it, why not find an acorn or sapling and plant it as a sign of future hope in a suitable place where it may grow? Hope springs eternal – but we have to make it happen too!
With my prayers,