Currently the churches and schools across the parish are in the midst of the Harvest season, so I thought that I would share with you the tale of St Kevin and the blackbird which I have been using for school collective worship during this time.
St Kevin was an Irish Saint said to be born around 492 AD, he used to go to a tiny stone chapel to pray which was so small it was difficult to pray in it. That’s because in those days, in Ireland, when a monk prayed, he didn’t clasp his hands together. Instead, he held them stretched out at his sides, to make the shape of the cross.
In fact, the chapel was so small that Kevin couldn’t even stretch out his arms, so he knocked a hole in two walls. Whenever he prayed, he stuck his arms out through the holes!
One day, Kevin was busy praying, with his arms poking out through the holes in the walls, when a blackbird came and landed on one of his hands. Kevin didn’t mind and he continued praying. Six hours later, when he stopped praying, he realized that not only was the blackbird still there, but it had started to build a nest.
What was he going to do? Should he pull in his arm and scatter the twigs of the nest? Or should he leave his arms sticking out?
What would you do? Kevin decided to leave his arms where they were.
Imagine what Kevin must have felt like as the hours passed . . . and the days. It takes about two weeks for the greenish-blue eggs of the blackbird to hatch. After that, it takes about another two weeks for the chicks to grow, develop wings and leave the nest. So Kevin would have had to stay like that for about a month!
Kevin didn’t flinch, even though his whole body must have been in agony. He stayed in the same position until the tiny blackbirds had hatched and left the nest.
There are lots of stories about St Kevin in which he is kind to the natural world around him. In one story, he even refuses God’s offer to flatten some mountains so that a monastery could be built because, as he said, ‘all the wild creatures on these mountains are my house mates, gentle and familiar with me, and they would be sad’ at the loss of their home.
During the Harvest season traditionally we give thanks to God for the harvest and all the wonderful gifts of creation he has provided for us, but it is also a time when we should ask for God’s help to enable us to take good care of his creation and St Kevin is an example of someone who did not just take from God’s Earth as he tried to help the Earth and support it, even when it cost him greatly. Maybe we ought to follow his example and do all we can to take good care of our world, not just for us today but also for those who will come after us.
Harvest is a time to celebrate. Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God for all the beautiful things that he has given to us on Earth. It is a long psalm, because there are lots of things to thank God for, so here are just a few verses 10-18. As you read these verses imagine all the things that are described and how we need to be wise stewards of God’s creation not just during this Harvest season but throughout the year.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.