Jackie’s Harvest Farewell

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The Sermon
Jackie's Farewell blessing

Jackie’s Harvest Farewell

All the food you have brought - thank you so much. It is all going to the North Enfield Foodbank.

Imagine mixing it all together - opening all those tins and packets and putting it in one great food mixer/processor. It would be terrible.

And each item on its own is fine, but one tin of beans doesn’t add up to, well, a hill of beans as they say.

We need it all. But some of it can be mixed of course - eg making cake, or bread. And what do you need - a mixer/processor - bread maker. To blend all the gifts. And the blending of gifts is something we especially celebrate today.

In this box is Jackie’s present – would you like to open it?

A Food mixer!

We’ve all been through one of these - we are all a mix of various things. Jackie as blend of: Pastor, priest, preacher, friend, pray-er, pilgrim, learner, leader, companion.

A companion: Is one who eats bread with us, and at the Lord’s table Jackie has shared her bread - God’s bread with us. There is no greater bread than that and today it truly is a harvest loaf. The harvest loaf represents the bread we have shared together, and today it is special.

Jackie – you have something for us, don’t you?

Harvest Loaf

The harvest loaf represents all that we are - the farming, the machinery, the skills, the technology, the creative power, the generosity, the sharing that we share with each other, and all given us by God. God does not just give us the harvest produce, but we also give to others. And we are given gifts and skills and personality and most of all, the gift of love.

And today we relate that especially to Jackie, who has given us her love all these 15 years.

So it truly is a harvest thanksgiving today.

Thanks and giving and giving thanks. All these gifts go into the great food processor to be mixed and what comes out is a beautiful mixture of love and joy and sadness and gratitude and celebration and well-wishing and congratulation.

Jackie - you made it!

And you have given us the harvest loaf. A symbol of eucharist of thanksgiving, of sharing, of collaboration, all of which distinguish your ministry among us. In our thanksgiving, we give thanks for you, and all you have given to us. There is no more appropriate gift to us than a loaf of bread. Let me explain why.

For this is the bread of companionship. Jackie has been our companion on the road for these last fifteen years, walked with us, laughed with us, cried with us, prayed for and with us. And the word companion means - one with whom one eats bread - com- with - pane - bread.

Our Lord Jesus gave bread - and wine - to his disciples at the Last Supper, and we still remember that - re-member it - here today. This loaf is the bread of communion. It is also connected to what was called in Old Testament times, the Bread of the Presence. The bread reserved for holy consumption, the bread for priestly use, for just in the House of God - the bread of God. God is present with us now, in this house of God, and we will use - and consume it for holy things. As well as symbolising the gift of God in his presence, and the communion we share, this is a Harvest Loaf.

There could be no better day for Jackie to retire - or rather to move into a new form of ministry. Priests never stop being priests. They are part of the eternal sowing and reaping, the ongoing harvesting of the labourers in the vineyard, the continuing and eternal priesthood of those who represent God to his people and his people to God. Jackie you have prayed many prayers for us over the years, and will continue to do so I know. Whatever harvest of the Spirit you have been part of these last fifteen years or so - and there has been much - this goes on. You have been priest to us, and we your people. For that we thank you and bless you.

And this harvest loaf, fruit of human hands and symbol of divine blessing comes to us from your hands into our hands as a completing priestly gift, reminding us all; that we are all part of the eternal harvest. As we join in sharing it - and today, everyone must eat - young and old - baptised or not - we share together - in communion with each other and with Jesus. Today we shall all eat of the harvest loaf offered in communion. Please do – it is a unique occasion. For today we are all companions on the rood Jackie has walked with us.

And if in doing so, you feel that this is something very special - which it is, I invite you to consider being confirmed and making the sharing of the bread of Christ a regular part of your diet. Because, whatever is going on in our country, our continent, our world - our universe even, the bread of Christ is the bread of God’s presence, the bread of harvest, the bread of companionship, and the bread of life.

And that is what we truly share today and what we truly celebrate today. But I am reminded of how the psalmist put it, 3000 years ago, And translated in Latin nearly 2000 years ago:

Nōn nōbīs, Domine, nōn nōbīs, sed nōminī tuō dā glōriam ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory’.

For all the harvest gifts, and for the ministry of Jackie over these years, it is God whom we thank, and to him that we give the glory. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr Gordon Giles, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 13/10/19