A reflection for Sunday 1st October 2023 Harvest Thanksgiving

I can remember from my early years at infant school loving the hymn; ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ like all young children I sang it with gusto but without a clue at to what it was all about. For someone, like me, a complete born and raised ‘townie’; ‘Harvest’ is a sort of alien concept. As I’ve just said when I was growing up it was something we sang about at School and then ignored it for the rest of my adolescence and early adult life. It was only on returning to faith that I re-encountered ‘Harvest’ the concept that we really do need to give thanks to God for it.

Even then in my re-discovery of this festival;  ‘Harvest’ was sort of only associated with ‘our daily bread’ and not much more. It was all seemed to be focused on the wheat-sheaf loaf placed on the altar. It took me quite a long time to realise that; ‘Harvest’ is so much more than giving thanks for the grain crop being cut before the Autumn rains can spoilt it. Even today, I have to challenge myself to push the boundaries of what I naturally associate as harvest to include all food production on land and sea and all who work to produce that food as well. Let alone the harvest of the city, whatever that might be???!!! !

What is ‘harvest’? What does it mean today? And is it still something we need to be conscious of each year, especially as we now live in a global economy and world where harvest occurs at different times and in different ways?

The simple answer to those questions is YES! Yes! Yes! Even more so today, do we need to stop and give thanks for all we have. 

When you next look at a plate of food try and remember where each ingredient came from. As I drafted this sermon I was conscious of a recent lunch which consisted of:

sea bass from Turkey

broccoli from Norfolk

peas and beans from East Anglia and Kenya

tomatoes from Spain

and almonds from Greece

One plate of food but it had travelled a very international route to find its way to my plate. 

All of it was seasonal to whence it came but not necessarily seasonal to Scotland. So much of what we eat is similar. At home I try to cook and use seasonal produce from Scotland but at times in the year there is only so many root vegetables or salmon one can routinely eat day after day without calling in variety from around the globe.

Without produce from around the globe and the skills and labour of people from different countries and cultures our diets would be ‘same-y’ and boring. Although harvests occur at different times in different places it is VITALLY IMPORTANT that at least once a year we stop, reflect and give thanks to God for all, that the many harvests of the world give to us. In that stopping and giving thanks we also need to remember to give thanks for those who grew and produced the harvest for us in the first place and to work out if we have exploited them in any way. Did I pay a far price for what I ate? Did the farmer get well paid for her efforts?

I have personally, been appalled by some of the big supermarkets and leading brand names pulling out of the Fair Trade organisation and now ‘partner-shipping’ with them, whatever that means? I suspect it means not paying a fair price for the goods and hoodwinking us to believe they still do pay a fair price. It is all down to profit margins over people.

It might seem trivial to us in the developed north of the world but we do take too much for granted at the expense of those who are basically subsistence farmers providing goods for us that they could not afford even to taste. And, as we live in a post-Brexit Great Britain we are also beginning to see some of the negative effects on our own farmers and seafarers and the empty shelves in our supermarkets. Fresh produce cannot now always be guaranteed to be available when we need or want it. 

So we really do need to pray for the Harvest. 

To pray with thanksgiving for the good gifts that God gives us. To pray for the future food production and producers in this country and around the globe. And, to pray for an equal sharing of the world’s resources so that no one goes hungry or watches their children starve before them, especially when they are the people ensuring that we don't starve. 

It is always worth remembering that the world is precariously balanced and that we might not always be as all right as we think we are. You might remember the film; ‘The day after tomorrow’ (it was on Film 4 recently) where the Northern Hemisphere countries get wiped out by a new ice age the survivors are ultimately rescued by welcoming countries south of the equator, whose climate remains warm and able to grow crops but the world has changed for millennia to come!

I believe that our cry today should simply be:

‘Thank you, God!’

Thank you for all the good gifts around us and for all the things you give us to make our lives happy and healthy. 

Never take the Harvest for granted and hold in prayer all those for whom harvest is a hope rather than a reality. All those who are facing a bleak future with a failed harvest or a poor one and ask God how we can support those in need who are so often those who produce the things we need and use.

“All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above, then thank the Lord, 

O thank the Lord, for all his love.”