Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Harvest 2005

 

"Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the most high"  - Ps.50: 14 (BCP)

 

The first parish I served, as rector, was Neil's Harbour in northern Cape Breton. Members of the Fishermen's Cooperative in the parish donated part of the value of their annual lobster catch to their church. The manner by which they did so was known as 'The Lord's Acre'. Each year, each participating fisher gave the proceeds from a particular set of traps to the parish. However, 'The Lord's acre' represented much more than a way of organizing a financial contribution. The gift that each fisher made included all of the preparation, the worry, the time, the labour and the fulfillment that accompanied each fishing season. It was an offering of self as well as money. This particular kind of giving is similar to how the people of ancient Israel approached the offering of the first fruits of the harvest to God. Their gift represented planting, tending, harvesting and rejoicing. The labour, anticipation, worry, work and reaping were all rolled up in the offering. The gift was part of their membership in the covenant community. The giving was grounded in their relationship with God and with one another. It was to be offered in conjunction with lives of righteousness and faithfulness. It was truly a sacrifice of thanksgiving and a vow to the most high.

 

As we celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving, we too can be mindful of the spiritual nature of giving. Of course it isn't so much the size of the gift, but the size of the commitment or sacrifice behind the gift that connects us as giver to God and to neighbour. Our gift of self through time, ability, money expresses our thankfulness for what God accomplishes in our life. It also allows us to act on our values in ways that touch the lives of others. There are so many beneficiaries in giving of one's self to others. This is true in giving to both church and social agencies. There is the family preparing for baptism, the patient who receives a visit from clergy or laity, the young couple being counseled for marriage, the person who has a need met by outreach, and the community that gathers in church on Sunday to celebrate the faith. There is the child whose day at school is made manageable because of a breakfast program. There is the critically ill person whose life is made more hopeful because others canvassed for medical research. There are the people of all ages whose lives are enriched because someone contributes time and expertise to a program or community organization.

 

"Offer unto God the sacrifice of Thanksgiving … ". Notice the particular emphasis the translation from The New Revised Standard Version places on this verse: "Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God…." This Harvest Festival may we affirm with the Psalmist that giving is a form of Thanksgiving, and that giving is joined to sowing and reaping in the kingdom of God.

 

The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis,  Harvest, 2005