It’s that time of year again when the harvest has been brought in and we begin to think about the festival that follows. Next to Christmas and Easter, the Harvest Festival is the most popular festival in the year. It’s a custom that goes back millennia – celebrating that the abundance of summer’s produce has been successfully gathered and stored away in preparation for the scarcity of food in the cold months ahead.
Celebrating a successful harvest is a theme that repeatedly appears in the Bible. Having escaped from slavery, God’s chosen people were led by Moses to the Promised Land, where they could finally settle down, bring-up their children, and grow their own food. Gathering in the crops at harvest time reminded them of their good fortune and God’s blessings, so there was much to celebrate and be thankful for.
Jesus often used images of farming and harvesting in his stories and teachings – it was something that all his listeners could relate to – after-all we all need to eat, and in those days the distance between the harvest and the table was very small. In one story Jesus compared us with the crops, speaking of how the farmer must separate the “fake crop” (the weeds) from the true crops, and how the farmer (God) can read our hearts and, despite appearances, he knows which of us are true to him and which aren’t……..it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of this, on an annual basis!
Living in these villages, we are little closer to the land than those who live in towns, however the distance from harvest to table is about the same for both. We buy most of our food in supermarkets and give little thought to how it got there and at what cost. When the harvest is poor, the prices may go up but we are still able to put food on our table. But for about ¾ of the world’s population, a poor harvest has a direct impact on whether there is food to eat or not. Bringing in a successful harvest is indeed worthy of thanks and celebration.
The popular harvest hymn reminds us:
We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand. He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain, the breezes, and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
The Harvest Festival is therefore a time to be thankful to God for the food that is available for us. But these are difficult times and sadly there are some amongst us who struggle to feed their families. This therefore is also a time to be especially mindful and especially generous, donating what we can into food boxes, to food banks and to homeless shelters.
We thank you, then, O Father, for all things bright and good, the seed-time, and the harvest, our life, our health, our food. Accept the gifts we offer for all your love imparts, and what you most desirest: our humble, thankful hearts.
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above. We thank you Lord, for all your love.
Revd Ann Bol, Shingay Group of Churches