“Think of a World without any Flowers!”

A Reflection on Psalm 100 by Canon Rob,
2nd October, 16th Sunday Harvest Festival

Psalm 100 is just one of the psalms set for Harvest Festival Services, but the title for today’s Reflection is from a children’s hymn, sung in schools at harvest time and can be found in the hymn book we use at St Dunstan’s [Number 900, Complete Anglican Hymns: Old and New.] With climate change clearly upon us, and the long weeks without rain, it seems appropriate to reflect upon this first line of the hymn, for a few minutes at least. That might seem a strange suggestion for our Harvest Festival Sunday but whilst the hymn asks us to consider a world without many things we take for granted, it is a hymn of praise, each chorus including the line, “We thank you, Lord, and praise your holy name.” Indeed we do praise the Lord each time we worship, but it would be foolish to ignore what is happening in the world around us because of humanity’s abuse of God’s creation. Harvest Festival reminds us that we are called to be ‘stewards’ of all that God has made. We all share a responsibility to care for this earth and all that lives upon it.

Psalm 100 is clearly a hymn of praise and joy. But, as always with the psalms, this praise and joy are not based on false hope or the pretence that all is well all of the time. The author will have known and experienced difficulties and suffering. However, “the bedrock of faith” – as one commentator puts it – is God’s graciousness, steadfast love and faithfulness [see last verses] which “sustain us in good times and bad.” So the psalm is a call to join in the praise of God. As verse 1 puts it: “O be joyful in the Lord all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.” As you reflect upon the words of verse 1 note that the invitation to enter God’s presence is to the whole earth. Unlike in other psalms, which quite clearly are for the people of Israel only, here all people on earth are invited, indeed encouraged, to share in the praise of God. Verse 3 repeats the invitation: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise….” Come and joins us! Everyone is welcome! Here is worship for all people, because all of us reap the endless benefits of living in this beautiful world. Here we find echoes of a promise in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Lord says, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations. The Sovereign Lord, who has brought his people Israel home from exile, has promised that he will bring still other people to join them.” [Isaiah 56.7-8 in the Good News Bible.] God desires harmony between and within all nations and throughout the whole of His creation and it is the recognition of this, as well as faith in the goodness of God, which is celebrated in another hymn we sing, and written by William Keble in the 16th Century: “All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice; him serve with fear, his praise forth tell, come ye before him, and rejoice.” [Number 21, Complete Anglican Hymns: Old and New.]

Without doubt this year will probably be remembered by many as one during which we faced many challenges: the sudden death of our Queen; world peace being threatened; industrial relations under a strain; many families struggling financially and following on from the pandemic, it is not surprising that morale is recognised as being generally very low. But the writer of psalm 100, experiencing much suffering himself, believed that all is not lost. Far from it because, above all, he was convinced of the unconditional love of God which lasts for ever.

“As we enter your presence, O God, with songs of thanksgiving and praise,
may we know that we are your people, chosen to reveal your steadfast love
from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

[Prayer at the end of Psalm 100 in Common Worship: Daily Prayer]

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