Harvest – All That We Are, All That We Bring (Give It All)

We come at harvest with the gifts of all that we are: we give of ourselves; this is the meaning I think of these powerfully resonant rituals of giving; that our gift to one another is given with the value of all that we have. This is more than a gift, it is a sacrifice, the gift is sacrificial, our giving costs us.

I don’t rely on the lectionary; (the list of scriptural readings apportioned to be read at each Sunday service) but I gathered that today’s reading is the story found in the three synoptic gospels (that is the three gospels which support one another’s telling of the story of the life and ministry of Jesus), its one of the difficult stories, the hard sayings. Its a toughie. That it is found in all three gospels lends weight to the idea that it really happened: a young man comes and asks what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns, give the money away and come and follow him. The man departs. We assume that the task is beyond him. He doesn’t show up again.

In order to gain eternal life (that’s not life after death by the way – subtle distinction there – eternal life can happen right now) you have to give everything.

We come with lifetimes of experience good and bad. We’re asked to give it all. “refusing the false shelters of resentment, shame and guilt.”

And that is the price of eternal life, lives of meaning which are beyond the temporary.

The price of our lives bought with experience, sometimes bitter experience, and so we are invited to the table with our woundedness, in our brokenness. Not in expectation that we are righteous or whole but in the knowledge that we are human. (My friend Rev’d Warwick Turnbull pointed out to me that in the Gospel of Mark during the conversation with the young man and before he flees, Mark tells us that Jesus loved him).

The lines of our second reading the poem entitled The Cure which Erik read for us say:

Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life without

obliterating, getting over, a

single instant of it.

We don’t get over our losses, our hurts we move with them grow through them bring them at last to the table as gifts and offer them up. Our truest prayer is the prayer of our whole life.

Our communion like our harvest recognises this: the sheaf is a gathering of cut corn, the scythe has done its work. The grain is broken in the mill, and the flour is beaten again, kneaded and shaped into a loaf which is broken and shared.

A week ago we were witnesses to dramatic news footage as two women intervened dramatically in the seemingly corrupt proceedings in the highest court of the worlds super power; holding open a lift door one woman, a survivor of sexual violence challenged the republican politician to look her in the eye and tell her that her experience wasn’t valid. Her voice was the voice of wisdom, calling out, insisting that its truth be acknowledged. Her woundedness, transformed into courage, her survival committed to creating change, her wisdom her witness.

To give everything is not an easy path:

“what is the price of experience, can wisdom be bought for the price of a song – Oh no it is bought with the price of all that a man hath, it is bought at that desolate market place where no one comes to sell”

Blake tells us.

Like the young man in the parable we are sent packing in the main to find accommodation within lives of compromise.

The common goal we share, the goal symbolised by our shared meal, is to transform our experience, from the temporary, into the eternal, to participate in the greater life, of presence and of love.

We recommit to this life, failing, returning, perhaps failing better; returning to love, and being loved.



To read the full service please visit Jo’s blog.


Reverend Jo James was appointed to the ministry of Mill Hill Chapel in Autumn 2014. He is a  minister on the roll of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. He trained in Unitarian Ministry and Theology at Harris Manchester College, Oxford and Study of Religion at the University of Cambridge.

Inspired by poetry, theatre, film, performance, art and music he has qualifications and experience in Ministry, Theology, Study of Religion, Drama, Counselling and Co-counselling. He is an experienced worship leader and communicator. As well as Sunday worship and mid-week services he also leads rites of passage, baptisms, weddings and funerals and offers pastoral support and counselling at point of need.

Before ministry Jo worked for over twenty years in theatre including work at the RSC, National Theatre, Old Vic, Royal Court, Almeida and the Centre for Performance Research. He directed new writing and devised work at festivals in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cardiff and internationally, and lectured, taught and directed at universities and accredited drama schools.

He is a committed advocate of equal human rights, an LGBT ally and supporter of asylum seekers & refugees. He is involved with the Homeless Charter in Leeds and a supporter of Carbon Neutral Yorkshire.

He has two children and is married to Ann, a ceramic artist.

Please contact:


Recent Sermons