A Summertime Thanksgiving: Celebrating the gifts of the garden

Prelude

Welcome and Announcements

Call to Worship

"The days are coming," declares the LORD,
"when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from the hills.
I will bring back my exiled people Israel:
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine:
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
[Amos 9:13-14]

Hymn: "Sing to the Lord of Harvest"
[PsH 458]

Greeting

We Greet One Another

A Summertime Thanksgiving

Narration:

Then the Lord planted a garden, in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man he had formed. He made all kinds of beautiful trees grow there and produce good fruit... a stream flowed in Eden and watered the garden; beyond Eden it divided into four rivers. Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it.
[Genesis 2:8-9,10,15 (paraphrased)]

Hymn: "Morning Has Broken"
[PH 469]

Narration:

What is it about our gardens that we love? Is it a sense of coming home to where we belong? Is it a place where God's goodness is so close that we can see it and touch it?

Maybe we feel a little embarrassed by the sentimentality of it, but the old song "I Come to the Garden Alone" contains a gentle truth: that so often the most humble garden can be a place where God is especially close to us.

Hymn: "I Come to the Garden Alone"
[HLC 398:1]

Narration:

Today, as we look at the gifts from the garden, we hear Jesus say, "Do not worry, saying, "Where will my food come from? Or my drink? Or my clothes? Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things."

But God doesn't feed us with just a lowly potato or a nice practical cabbage; he lavishes us with peaches and strawberries and grapes.

And God doesn't feed us a few meager onions or a tiny helping of corn; he lavishes us with bushels of tomatoes and enough zucchini for the whole neighborhood.

Our hearts are filled with thanks for the abundance of his love.

Hymn: We Plow the Fields and Scatter
[PH 560, PsH 456, RL 17, TH 714]

Narration:

Today we thank God for all the gifts of summertime: The sun is so warm that we can feel God's face shining on us. Travel and vacations unfold new wonders of God's creation. Open windows let in breezes and bird songs and the busy chirping of crickets. Everything that has breath seems to say, "Praise the Lord!"

Hymn: "How Great Thou Art," verses 1-3
[PH 467, PsH 483, TH 44]

Narration:

Throughout our praise, we remember that tomorrow is Labor Day, and summer is unofficially over. The hectic world of school and work will drive us away from our gardens. Frost will turn our green pasture to brown, and the quiet waters will crackle with ice. The tables before us will hold fast food instead of a sumptuous picnic.

And so we ask our loving Father to care for us in all times and seasons. We ask God to bless our busy days with good work and jobs well done. We ask God to keep us in the warm hollow of his hand even when the snow flies. And we ask God to light our way as the days darken. Father, hear our prayers.

Silent Prayer

Hymn: "The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life"

Verses 1 and 2: All voices
Verse 3: Women—sing parts
Verse 4: Men—sing melody
Verse 5: All voices and descant
[PsH 23]

Morning Prayer

Hymn: "This Is My Father's World"
[PH 293, PsH 436, RL 14, TH 111]

Offering

[The deacon picked up on the "firstfruits" theme in announcing and leading the offertory prayer. The service of the Word followed. After the sermon, a hymn, benediction, doxology, and postlude concluded the service.]

Notes on the Service

Labor Day Sunday used to be dreaded at River Terrace Church: so many people were gone, and those of us left behind felt like cottage-less losers. Now people tell me they stay in town for the service and that they and their children look forward to our Summertime Thanksgiving.

On this Sunday we invite the congregation to bring in garden produce and flowers, and these are arranged in front of church right before the service.

Our citified membership comes up with mountains of produce, flowers, honey, and eggs. After church, all are invited to fill bags with produce and flowers. The beautiful gifts of the garden set before us on Labor Day weekend present a clear picture of how God blesses all our work, so the service naturally flows from Thanksgiving to Labor Day themes. The sharing of the produce afterward has almost a communion sense about it.

This service was submitted by Kathy Prince, director of music at River Terrace Christian Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan.

The hymns in this service were selected from the most recent editions of the following hymnals: Hymns for the Living Church (HLC), The Presbyterian Hymnal (PH), Psalter Hymnal (PsH), Rejoice in the Lord (RL), and the Trinity Hymnal (TH).

Kathy Prince is director of music at River Terrace Christian Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan.