Harvest 2020 Year A Sunday 4th October
For someone, like me, a complete born and raised ‘townie’, ‘Harvest’ is a sort of alien concept. Harvest when I was growing up was something we sang about at Primary School and then ignored throughout the rest of my adolescence and early adult life. It was only on returning to faith that I re-encountered ‘Harvest’ and came across the idea that we really do need to give thanks to God for giving us a harvest.
Even then, when I first re-discovered it, ‘Harvest’ was sort of only associated with ‘our daily bread’ and not much more. It was all focused on the wheat-sheaf loaf placed on the altar. It really did take me quite a long time to realise that ‘Harvest’ is actually about so much more than giving thanks for the grain crop being cut before the autumn rains can spoilt it. I still, today, have to challenge myself to push the boundaries of what I naturally associate as harvest to include all food production on land and in the sea and all who work to produce that food as well. Let alone the harvest of the city, whatever that might be?
So 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! Even more so today, 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. A recent supper for me 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 before me. 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. Such as that taste of asparagus at Christmas, never as good as springtime asparagus but it is a taste to savour none the less.
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 and 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 large food sellers pulling out of the Fair Trade organisation and ‘partnering’ 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 what will happen in this post-Brexit Great Britain to our own farmers and seafarers has yet to be fully discovered. So we really do need to pray.
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.
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 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 as they so often produce the things we need and rely upon.