Harvest Festival, St John’s.


by Rev Ellie.

(Deut 8:7-18, 2 Cor 9:6-15, Luke 12:16-30)

What does Harvest mean to you? What does it mean to town dwellers? What do you think it means to those who live their entire lives in cities? Who perhaps have never left the council estates? Don’t tell me that no one ever lives their lives like that because there are families, generations who have never seen the countryside. There are ministries and missions that aim to take children into the countryside, to give them, quite literally, a breath of fresh air.

Because there is something that no one can really identify and put their finger on that aids are relaxation, allows us to ‘chillax’ by taking a walk through the countryside. Something that grounds us, seeing plants and trees grow without hindrance, nurtured yet untamed.

Perhaps it is primaeval, knowing that plants just get on with growing, or a turn into a state of dormancy over the winter months without the need for constant input from humans. Of course, there are very few parts of Scotland that are truly wild, that haven’t had any input from humankind over the centuries. Most of our land has been improved or semi-improved over the centuries, or perhaps the land has been desecrated and semi-desecrated depending on whether you view it as human progress or human invasion of land and habitats.

Our need for food and a wide variety of food for our discerning taste buds requires evermore exploitation of the land and seas around us. We missed the Sunday set aside for celebrating creationtide, but I think it ties quite nicely with Harvest. Celebrating the good things that God has provided for us. Okay, so the potato harvest for some of us (me in particular) hasn’t been ideal (I have handfuls of small and tiny potatoes). And over the past few weeks we have seen silage, cereals, hay and straw all being either bagged or trussed up ready for the winter.

Our farmers have had a few hard years. Long winters, with extra food needed while livestock has been kept indoors longer than normal, drought, floods, unseasonably cold and dry summers that have limited the root growth of crops, thereby starting growth and the maturity of grains. I wonder how much of that has come to our attention? So what does harvest mean to you? Perhaps you could take your pen and paper and write down what you think it means? 

Our readings today paint a discordant picture… One with ‘entry to the land of wheat and barley, vines and fig trees and pomegranates, the land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing;’ one that is about the cheerful giver, giving as he or she is able; and a reading that decries the storage of more and more for oneself.

Thinking about the Gospel reading where the wealthy landowner has his life demanded from him reminds me of the time that the Jews were in Exodus, and eating manna. If they gathered more than they needed, the manna turned unusable. There was enough for everyone, and no one went hungry. But by all accounts, the manna wasn’t exactly going to meet the desire of those with discerning taste buds. But the people of the Exodus would enter the land of abundance.

If we take the last two readings – 2 Corinthians 9 and Luke 12, and break them down into the basic components, we are left with the attitude with which one views God’s abundance. Either we are cheerful in giving away what God has given us (and this feeds into the parable of the talents were one person buries the one talent given to him/her, and the other two invest their talents) or we become miserly and overprotective of all of what we have. What feeds into that is suspicion, suspicion of others that they might take away what we consider ours.

The harvest, and a celebration of harvest must once upon a time, been such a simple affair – simply celebrating what has come from the land, and what we can store up for the winter. Communities would have worked together – tattie harvesting (labelled by some now as enforced child labour), scything, and so on. The community worked together for the good of the community. Because as a community we have the strength to withstand in a way that isolated individuals cannot. That is why, even with the dispersed and get a church model that we have today, we must continue to check in with one another. 

Harvest for me includes foraging from the hedgerows. For me that starts in summer, with elderflowers so I can make my own cordial for the rest of the year. Elderberries, plums, blackcurrants, cob nuts (if you’re lucky) and so on. What do you do with your harvest?

What else can be considered to fit in with this harvest theme? Let us look at the second reading again.

The point is this: the one who says sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who says bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.

Paul isn’t writing about an actual harvest of greens here. He is writing about the attitude with which one approaches life. Your gain will be little in comparison to the one who says bountifully. God does not judge here – Paul does not say that something sparsely is wrong, but it is how the sewing is done that concerns him. Joyful giving of money, of effort, food, or kind words, of positivity overflows with many thanksgivings to God. I wonder what you sow? What do you sow into each other’s lives?

In our reading in Deuteronomy, we see part of the speech given by God to the people, through Moses.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, the land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters, a land where you will lack nothing. You should eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you. Do not say to yourself, “my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth. “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

Everyone can enter this good land, but not everyone will appreciate what they are given. The warning is there from God: your wealth does not come by the power of your own hand. It is the lord your God who provides for you. Let us give thanks in the words of the apostle, Paul:

You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

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