Psalm 67: Ecclesiastes 3 v 1 – 8
It’s Harvest – Again
At the time of writing this we are at that time of year when we traditionally celebrate our Harvest Festivals, a time when our churches are adorned with large quantities of harvest produce, spread out in all its glory across the pulpit, window sills and festooned around the communion rail, and I love it.
Unfortunately this year, due to the COVID restrictions most of our churches look somewhat devoid of the usual seasonal displays and put together with the absence of singing voices, our thankful praise is more from the heart than from our eyes and lungs, but never the less I have conducted three harvest services in as many weeks.
Perhaps it is due to my interest in farm tractors and having a grandson who is a farmer, that I seem to receive regular request for harvest services but as I love the thanksgiving I relish each service. I love the smell of the produce, the different colours, and the abundance of the produce particularly the local vegetables and flowers brought in from someone’s garden or allotment. In fact I love the whole concept of harvest thanksgiving.
I always think of a story in one of my ‘Yorkshire’ books. It is about a young Vicar who was appointed to his first, very rural parish. When harvest festival was approaching he was desperate to impress his worshippers, so he toured round his parish and visited all the farms requesting the farmers to contribute to the church’s display and to attend the service.
On the day of the festival he was in the church early to help the parishioners set up the displays containing great volumes of carrots, turnips, corn stalks, platted bread, peas, beans, cabbages, in fact every kind of harvest produce you could think of. His visits to the farms had certainly paid dividends, the church looked and smelt magnificent and everyone was delighted.
It was all going really well until, the doors at the rear of the church opened and farmer Green drove three sheep down the aisle. He was closely followed by farmer Smith who drove his prize winning pig down the aisle being chased in hot pursuit by farmer Johnson driving three young heifer calves.
The sheep spotted the carrots and made a dash across the front of the church to reach them, while the prize winning pig made for the cabbages. The young heifers preferred the floral displays, so lovingly arranged by Mrs. Higgingbottom, who almost fainted to see her artistic creations being devoured by the bovine juveniles.
Just when our young Vicar thought it could not get any worse, farmer Jackson entered the arena by leading his giant horse through the West Chancel. The animal, which was usually placid, presented almost one ton of Clydesdale muscle and sinew that had a particular passion for turnips and had spotted the display from the first pew. Nothing was going to stop this giant beast from reaching his favourite lunch, and nothing did stop him. Chairs, tables, vases all went off in different directions while farmer Jackson hung on to the horse’s reigns as if nothing was happening.
Finally everything settled down and even Mrs Higgingbottom had been consoled to enable the young Vicar to deliver his sermon on ‘God’s Gifts’ and after a hearty rendition of, ’We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ a successful evacuation of the church was achieved without further mishap. Everyone agreed it had been a great harvest celebration and there was an abundance of produce left to distribute to the needy in the parish.
As our young Vicar reflected on his sermon, it did cross his mind that he wished God had shared a gift of constipation on the various farm animals present as it took over six months to rid the church carpets of the smell.
Although I have never had any similar experience I have used my tractor on several occasions to illustrate harvest, which has caused great excitement among the younger members of the congregation, (and one or two older members).
Harvest, after all is a celebration of God’ gift of the culmination of the maturity of the crops through the growing season. As Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything, sowing and reaping and the whole process is a gift from God.
But is harvest more than that?
H = Hope , – hope for the future no matter how dark the situation is today we have hope and faith in our God and the harvest is a sign of his continuing love for each one of us.
A = Assurance – assurance that God is always with us and his wonder of creation will continue to give us life.
R = Resurrection – as the stalk is cut down it gives new life through the grain scattered for next year’s crop, as Jesus Christ was cut down on the cross his resurrection gives us life everlasting.
V = Vastness – this reminds us of the vastness of God’s creation not just the gifts of food but of all his grace and love that is poured out upon us every day of our lives.
E = Everlasting – God’s love is everlasting and surrounds us for all time even in our storms of life he is there holding us above the waves.
S = Salvation – The Salvation we receive through our Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross so that we can have forgiveness and be one with our God.
T = Trust – Trust in our God, Trust in our Lord Jesus Christ because he will be with us always until the end of time.
There is more to harvest than just the food on the table.
I once parked my tractor outside a church as part of a Scarecrow Festival. A family approached me requesting if their children could sit on the tractor to have their photograph taken to which I agreed. While the mobile phone camera was clicking the father said to me, ‘How did you get the tractor here, on the back of a lorry?’ I replied that it came under its own steam, to which he said, ‘Does it actually work then?’
It’s surprising how quickly you can go off someone.