This Sunday (the first Sunday in Lent) we found ourselves in a number of different situations. This morning we visited a neighbouring congregation, one in our Presbytery area, at their usual service time. We knew it was to be a harvest service, and we knew this was the first Sunday in Lent. We waited to see what these two things would have to say to each other.
As it turned out, they had nothing to say to each other. It was an interesting lesson in rural religious politics, where the calendar of the Fellowship group (who meet every second Monday of the month) took precedence over the lectionary calendar. You might be wondering what the meeting time of the Fellowship group has to do with what happens on Sunday. Tomorrow night is the annual Harvest festival auction there, the big fundraiser for the year. The Fellowship group organise it. The Sunday immediately before is always Harvest Sunday. The two calendars collided and autumn produce and God's abundance was the winner.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a service that celebrates God's gifts to humanity in this most basic form - none of us can live for long without food to sustain us. The service acknowledged this through prayers of thanksgiving, as well as including prayers for others who are in difficult circumstances and who know what it is to be without many of the essentials of life (remembering especially the people of Japan and Libya, and casting our minds back a few weeks to the floods in eastern Australia). We prayed for God to guide, support, and comfort the people who were in those situations. We remembered those who were working to assist those in distressing circumstances, and we prayed for leaders of nations to consider carefully how they might act in dealing with the the army of the Libyan dictator.
Perhaps there was an opportunity at this point to bring the two calendars together; we could well have reflected a little more on what actions we might undertake, as individuals, to live out our faith in practical and ethical ways. We can't be directly involved in solving the Libyan situation or helping out in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. But in order to ensure that the abundance of God's creation continues, we can turn our minds and our actions towards living ethically and sustainably. With 'carbon tax' as a major issue in domestic Australian politics, we need to be thinking about what we can do to lessen the impact of our own lifestyles on the planet. This feels like a very appropriate thing to be doing in Lent -- what can we give up in our lives? (although it should be something we implement right throughout the year). If we don't modify our lifestlyes and start to live in a way that uses less resources , there will be little opportunity in the future to celebrate the abundance of God's harvest. We western-world people can't keep on living as we currently do, consuming the greater part of that abundance. Without ethical living, harvest festivals will become a thing of the past.
So perhaps Lent and Harvest Festival do have something to say to each other?