October 4th 2020

Reading: Deuteronomy 8:7-17

It is easy for us, who have enough to eat, to celebrate the good land of our earth. Whether we live in the countryside or the city, the good land is what provides for us. We may buy most of our food these days in shops and supermarkets, but someone somewhere has grown it or produced it for us. Some of us may be fortunate enough to have gardens in which to grow our own fruit and vegetables, and some may well remember stories of the war and immediate post-war years when every available piece of land was used and sometimes transformed into land that could grow crops or keep certain animals or poultry.

Today’s passage reminds us that we should be responsible stewards of the land given to us, so that it can produce enough food for everyone, not just ourselves. God’s will is that the land is made better by our caring for it and harnessing its potential to provide and satisfy. This fact is true for all of us, wherever we live in the world.

Good land does not discriminate between rich or poor, hungry or satisfied, for the land produces what is planted. However, it is true to say that wealth or lack thereof can influence what is grown on the land, and more particularly, who is able to possess the best or easiest pieces of ground on which to work.

One excellent example that I can think of is a rural community in Northern Malawi. When I was working at Ekwendeni, we had several mobile health clinics that went out from the hospital visiting the most remote communities once a month. One such community was a place called Euthini. Euthini was difficult to reach at the best of times, but during the rainy season the road was virtually impassable. One of the other reasons we visited this area regularly was that we had a particularly high incidence of children and sometimes adults too, being admitted to the hospital with severe malnutrition.

This was not because of lack of understanding about nutrition, or what was necessary for the healthy growth of children. It was because the area was remote, the land was incredibly dry and the people were living in real poverty as a result. Nothing was easy to reach or find, or obtain, and everything came at a price.

A number of years ago, I was able to visit Euthini once again, and how things have changed. With the help of a grant from Christian Aid, the community were able to source a water spring which they were to then use as a source to create a reservoir. Irrigation systems were set up so that the land roundabout could be transformed into land that could grow food.

What interested me most of all though was what the villagers did with this new and valuable resource. The best land, the ground closest to the reservoir was allocated to those who were most vulnerable. The community themselves decided this. And the results were amazing. When I visited, the hospital teams were able to report that they no longer needed to carry food supplies to support the community when they came, it wasn’t required. For no longer did children or adults suffer from malnutrition as they had in the past. The villagers were healthier in so many ways and even richer in their friendship and fellowship. Their gratitude to Christian Aid was understandable. Their gratitude to God was palpable.

Deuteronomy describes how land that is care for will bring an abundant harvest to satisfy the needs of all people, not just those who can afford it.

But there is more to be done. We too have a responsibility to maintain good land, to steward it deliberately and carefully. We can play our part by participating in God’s work and mission to make all things new, by caring for creation, no matter how close to the land we actually live.

Above all, the passage in Deuteronomy emphasises to those living in abundance that they must not forget the Lord in the time of affluence and prosperity. Particularly (but not only) at Harvest time, we must pause to remember and give thanks for the food and abundance we know. With gratitude we bless and honour God by taking care of the land and ensuring that everyone can eat their fill. By contributing to the local Foodbank with however little we can manage, by sharing what we have so that no one goes hungry, by doing whatever we can, be it great or small, we are In some way contributing to those looking to meet the needs of those who do not experience the abundance we know.

God is faithful, in times of prosperity and scarcity, and we in turn must be faithful to God. “You shall eat your fill” is a sure promise, and one that offers hope to those reading it in a time of scarcity. But those of us who already eat our fill on a daily basis have a role to play in fulfilling God’s promises for those who are not yet filled or satisfied.

So may we too play our part in bringing about the fulfilment of God’s promise, sowing seeds of transformation by giving generously for the needs of others. AMEN

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