It is harvest festival season – but very different this year. No churches packed with worshippers, no schools coming in to churches for their services. But this didn’t stop us from thanking God for the harvest.
In one of my churches we were treated to our youth group’s Zoom production instead of their usual offering of a play. Unfortunately technical problems meant the service didn’t go out live nor was saved. But I did upload the youth zoom to YouTube. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers plus some small scarecrows.
As the schools were not able to come to church, one of them recorded pupils doing bible readings and prayers etc so that my curate and I could put them together as a service in church. I recorded an introduction on my phone to show the decorations. Here it is, if you are interested.
In another of my churches we had our outdoor service and had been praying for good weather. We were indeed blessed.
Last week I started this picture which helped me to focus on what I might say in the sermon slot.
Earlier in the week I met a farm worker from one of the large local estates who said they had packed away their combine harvesters and were starting to look to sowing the next crop.
He also told me that they grow a small amount of Hemp. I was curious. I know that hemp is used as an illegal form of cannabis and for pain relief, so I asked him to tell me more. They are under strict regulations in the UK and can only have 25% of their crops as hemp (I think I remembered this correctly). The seed oil is used in the owner’s wife’s face cream business and the stalks go to make rope as it is the best for it.
A quick Google search turned up this interesting fact:
The UK has a long history of using hemp as an industrial plant. In 1533 it was in such high demand to produce rope, nets and sails, that Henry VIII made it compulsory to be grown on all farms. For every 60 acres of other crops, one-quarter of an acre of hemp had to be planted, or farmers risked being fined. In the past, its vigorous growth and versatility meant that it was also used to make essential products like paper, oil and fabric.
On Wednesday I learnt that my gardener is ploughing this weekend on her farm. Seeds are being sown. The cycle continues
Once more we gather to say Thank You God for the Harvest. We thanked God on Sunday especially for the sunshine (not the rain!). Clear blue skies (with hardly a cloud in sight) and certainly not a rainbow.
Rainbows featured in my school assemblies last week. I took my white ordination stole in and talked about promises made in ordination, baptisms and weddings. Some of the pupils remembered seeing me in church wearing it for a Christening.
I told the story of Noah, which the older pupils knew well. It ends with Noah and his family worshipping God once they are on dry ground again. Their worship involved burning animal sacrifices (I omitted this detail for the children).
Genesis 7: 21 And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
22 As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.’
God is faithful – He keeps his promises even though sometimes we don’t.
In time God created a people for himself: the Jews. He gave them rules to build their lives upon: the 10 commandments and many others.
One of the rules was that the farmers should not harvest right up to the edges, but leave some of the crop for the poor to glean. I saw an example of that recently while walking. It was one of those walks where the map doesn’t actually match the reality. The public footpath wasn’t there so we had to cut along another one to the road. I thought the farmer was being very biblical in leaving so much wheat on the edges. But of course, as my husband pointed out, it wasn’t worth their while trying to get it with the machinery.
Our gospel on Sunday (Luke 12:16-31) has a parable about a rich farmer who had such a large harvest he needed bigger barns. He only thought of himself, not of sharing what he had with others. But presumably if he had a good harvest, then others would too. But let’s not push the parable beyond what it is there to teach us.
The farmer, we are led to believe, was selfish, only thinking of himself and his comfort.
The point Jesus was making was one of priorities. The farmer in the parable had himself as No.1 priority. He didn’t risk trusting in God, he wasn’t rich towards God. God didn’t feature in his life.
Jesus continues to push his point home in the teaching after the parable.
Jesus continues to build God’s people and gave us the memorable summary of the commandments, to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbour as ourselves. He also gave us the Lord’s Prayer, with the lines ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’ and ‘ Give us today our daily bread.’
That daily bread represents all our basic needs. And often we are the answer to that prayer in supplying the daily needs of others who are struggling.
As Christians, we have promised to put God first and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Our heavenly father knows that we need food and clothes. And when we put him as our No.1 priority, seeking first His Kingdom in our lives, then everything else falls into place.
Now, you may be thinking that’s easier said than done. What about when the harvest is a bad one – and I gather this year’s hasn’t been so good, from another conversation with a farmer recently.
I know that farmers can worry a lot about the future of the industry as well as their own situations.
A report in February this year suggests that Mental health issues among farmers are of increasing concern – and have a direct effect on farm safety.
Some 84% of farmers under 40 believe mental health is the biggest danger facing the industry – up from 81% in 2018, according to the Farm Safety Foundation. Farming continues to have the poorest safety record of any UK occupation – and 85% of young farmers believe mental health is linked to the overall safety of farms.
What can we say? Don’t worry? That on its own is not helpful. If someone is worried I think one of the worst things you can say to them is ‘Don’t Worry’…. it is almost impossible to stop yourself worrying.
However, what you can say is…. turn your eyes towards God, put your trust in him. Ask him to help.
Look around you – consider the birds that neither sow nor reap, yet they are fed. And look at the beautiful flowers…. YOU are much more valuable to God than the birds.
If you have made those promises to follow Jesus, then God isn’t simply the creator of all, he is your Father. And what good Father doesn’t provide for his children?
Our heavenly father knows what we need – he knows we need the weather and the right conditions for farming and growing food.
When we put our faith in God, he gives us our daily bread. And he also prompts those of us who do have a surplus to give it away rather than store it up. Our farmers don’t need to leave some for the poor because we have food banks and other ways of supporting those who fall on hard times.
He works through people to support each other when going through stressful times, such as the charity our collection is going to this year. The food donated at the services will be taken to local food banks, something we do on a regular basis. I am also very proud of one of my churches where a team have been cooking cottage pies each week for residents who are in need.
I thank God for the harvest of righteousness that I see around me in Christians helping one another, making an effort with their time, their talents and their money.