Harvest Thanksgiving Sermon 11th October 2015 – Paul Magnall

Notes from the sermon

Reading 1: Deuteronomy 28:1-6

Who are we giving thanks to?
Obvious? God?

What are we giving thanks for?
Is it, as the harvest hymn says “All good gifts around us”?

Leading into communion we sing “Everything is yours Lord, everything comes from you”
But are all the things that we are giving thanks for good?
Are we giving “thanks and praise” for things that, quite honestly, God would be upset about?
Are some of the things that we have here actually bad?

What do I mean by these questions?

When I was a child our village had both school and church harvest festivals where people brought along flowers, fruit and veg from their gardens and allotments. Much of this produce was pretty much organic (maybe a few slug pellets were used), potatoes often still had soil on them and we had buckets of flowers. There was hardly a tin or a packet of processed food in sight. We were giving thanks to God for the produce of our labours on His earth.

So let’s have a look at the produce that we give thanks for today.


Potatoes – our shop bought potatoes have usually been sprayed with chemicals several times. First the seed potatoes are sprayed to stop mildew or fungus affecting them in storage. Then, once planted they are spayed with herbicide to keep weeds down. They are also sprayed for blight control. And then, prior to harvest, they are sprayed with a dessicant to remove the leaves and a second spraying that removes the stems so that it is easier to harvest them.

Is this what we are giving thanks to God for?

Wheat – there has been an increase in the number of people who are intolerant of wheat and a lot of people think it is down to gluten intolerance. Many people think otherwise. Since the 1980s, besides all the usual herbicide and pesticide spraying, there has been an increasing trend to drench wheat and barley fields with glycophosphate containing sprays such as Roundup several days before harvesting. This toxic chemical applied in large amounts will eventually kill the plant but first it causes the plant to release more seed resulting in a slightly great yield. It also acts as a desiccant helping to dry out plants. Catherine and I saw this  in Northumberland this summer where most of the crop was dry ready for harvest but small patches of crop that had been missed was still green. This chemical, glycophosphate, is increasingly being linked with the disruption of the function of beneficial bacteria in our guts weakening our systems and making us more vulnerable to other damaging chemicals and  toxins in our environment. And much of our wheat is drenched in it!

Once harvested most wheat is used to make white flour, a process that removes much of the wheat germ and bran – the most beneficial parts of the wheat.

Traditional bread is made from flour, yeast, water and salt and involves allowing the yeast lots of time to work on the flour. Most of the bread that is made from this wheat is made using the “Chorleywood Bread Process”,  a method depends on high-speed mixers, chemical oxidants, calcium propionate, amylase, chlorine dioxide and L-cysteine hydrochloride along with solid vegetable fat, lots of commercial yeast and water, which produces a loaf of bread from flour to sliced-and-packaged form in about three and a half hours, a loaf of bread with an extended shelf life.

Is this what we are giving thanks to God for?

Palm Oil – palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit grown on  the African oil palm tree. In total, 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually, supplying over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production. This single vegetable oil is found in approximately 40-50% of household products such as baked goods, confectionery, ice cream, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste. Because it flourishes in hot, wet areas rainforests are cut down to make way for it. Areas with a high biodiversity become an area of monoculture that supports little wildlife.

Is this what we are giving thanks to God for?

I could talk more about vegetables, fruit, flowers, the clothes we wear, the electronic gadgetry, the packaging, the waste – some of these topics I have covered before, and will no doubt cover again!

Reading 2: Parable of the sower (two voices)

A farmer went out to sow and sowed a field of maize,
and as the farmer scattered the seed
it bounced as it landed on the earth.
Some fell on the pathways where the soil was packed hard
from the long walk of refugees,
some whose land was now dry and infertile,
others whose land was now owned by large industrialist for mono cropping.

Some fell on rocky ground where there was little soil.
Ancient forests had been removed for ranch farming
and while the corn grew for a year or so, soon the soil was exhausted
and the land became a desert, and no crops could grow.

Some fell among thorn bushes that choked the plants,
because there no one was there to farm the land.
Conflict or subsidy had left this land fallow
letting those in other countries export their crops to the fallow lands
while they had little enough for themselves.

But some seed fell in good soil,
and the plants produced corn,
some a hundred grains, others sixty, and others thirty
and this was used to produce ethanol for cars
and high quality feed for cattle and chickens.

And the world sowed the seed
but was listening to the wrong kind of profit.
© Roddy Hamilton, 2008

So much of what we are giving thanks for is the product of an industrial system designed to treat everything as a commodity and us as the consumer. The purpose of the “market” is to make a profit by processing everything. The Earth and all its produce is raw materials to feed into a factory that churns out processed “stuff” that is supposed to be designed for us.  And the advertising is there to convince us that it is good, wholesome and that we must buy it. The machines that process it are operated by a few folk who are there to make sure it is functioning eg £60,000  machines that identify if the vegetables are the right colour or shape. Or we employ people on low wages to do monotonous, soul destroying  tasks such as removing blemished misshapen fruit.

Or the sweat shops where our cheap clothes a produced that we wear a few times and then throw away.

And we convince ourselves that this is the right thing to do because we need to be able to feed, clothe and house our growing population

So many of our consumer items embody energy, embody destruction, embody suffering, embody violence against nature

Money rather than community has become our primary source of  security. We have moved from a place where belonging matters to a place where belongings matter.

Are these the things that we have come to say thank you to God for?

When I read the Gospels and the Old Testament prophets I find a Jesus and a God who stand for something so different. To Jesus people mattered. Their quality of life was more important than the quantity of wealth. He spoke of a God, a Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children. He spoke out against the systems that were only interested in power, in creating wealth and profit, that turned God’s beautiful creation into raw materials for its businesses, that trampled over everyone.

Jesus and the prophets told a different story, of a world where love, justice and mercy were available in huge measure. Where no one would be in need, where people live in peace with each other and with nature. Where, as we heard last week, God is our lover. Where the rich and the powerful are challenged and changed. A story of revolution and transformation.

And we tell a different story every Sunday when we come together as a community. Our liturgy tells the story of how we have failed to live in peace with each other and nature but our Creator God is providing a way to healing, restoration, re-union.

I feel that we are so disconnected from nature and from what we consume.

We aren’t separate from nature, we are part of nature. But we behave more like a cancerous growth, out of control and destroying all the rest of life, and ourselves as well.

It is time we listened to the prophets and not the profit

As I’ve said before, I believe passionately that there is more than enough for everyone in the world if only we were to re-write the story and we were to live more simply and share more equally. If we were to act justly, to love mercy and to walk more humbly with our God.

Then we would really recognise the beautiful abundance that God has given us and really be able to give Him the thanks and praise that He deserves.

Permaculture ethics


PrayerCreating God

Additional prayers and liturgies used during the service were from:

Dancing Scarecrow
A Heart for Creation

Other links:
The Shocking truth about bread
Glycophosphate in bread
Say No to Palm Oil

4 responses to “Harvest Thanksgiving Sermon 11th October 2015 – Paul Magnall

  1. rev michael jibrin Dogo

    Wonderful exposition of the word God be with you

  2. There is more about Palm Oil and the effect on people and the environment at:


  3. Thanks Paul

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