Harvest is such an evocative time of year. For farmers, the hard work of harvesting their crops is finished. There is, of course, much else to be done, but the big push is over – the sheaves have been brought into the barns, as Psalm 126 puts it. During this time of year, we shift away from the happy noise and bustle of summer, the bright flowers in the garden – and the long days that seem to go on forever.
The poet, John Keats, wrote an ode to Autumn, calling it the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. I thought of that poem this morning when I woke up to a misty sky diffusing the light of a watery sun.
Harvest is a time for giving thanks – especially for all those who produce the food we eat. It is a time to think about the people who grow and tend the fruits, vegetables and grains we eat, the livestock, dairy and poultry farmers, and all those who then bring us beautiful fresh produce or who turn the raw materials into flour, yeast and sugar and all the other ingredients needed even for a slice of buttered toast or a biscuit with our tea.
And along with our thanks to all these people, we also give thanks to God, for providing for us, and for providing not only for our physical and material needs but also for our spiritual needs. Jesus told his friends that he had come to bring life – life in all its abundance. Harvest reminds us of all kinds of abundance in our lives, and encourages us to reflect on the nature of the One who is the Source of all abundance.
We did not come up with the concept of our material or spiritual existence. We didn’t invent the elements necessary for life on earth to exist. Our planet, our lives and the existence of all other forms of life, is a gift. Every breath we take is a gift. Every dawn we see is a gift. Every loved one is a gift. Even in the inevitable times of suffering, our lives are a gift.
This year, perhaps we could reflect on the kind of harvest we are producing. Have we been growing the fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22, including love, joy, peace, patience and gentleness? Have we been growing in steadfast faith and trust in the One who made us, loves us and sustains us? Have we been cultivating a generosity of spirit, a compassionate outlook and an obedient heart?
Autumn reminds us of the seasons of life and of the passing away of some things, just as it reveals the fulfilment and ongoing life of other things. Our lives are always changing, and we know that some years are more challenging or more fruitful than others.
This year, how do you feel as you lay your personal harvest before God? Can you approach God as a trusting child, confident in God’s love for you? Can you sense God’s delight in you, as you delight in all God’s good gifts to you? Will you let God praise you for your bright blooms of cheerfulness? Will you accept God’s pride in your bumper crop of faithfulness and courage? Will you blush as God congratulates you on your huge marrows of generosity and kindness? This Harvest-time, let us give thanks for the bounties of the natural harvests we all rely on. Let us also give thanks for the harvests that each of us, by the grace of God, has been producing, harvests perhaps known only to God.
The Revd Christina Rees