Whilst I usually try not to follow the blogging trendy topic of the week I can't help myself with this one. Harvest Festival - love it or hate it? Church Mouse and Charlie at Always Hope amongst others are on the case this week. Who would have thought the humble old harvest festival would be such a big deal?!
Look, I live in a rural village, surrounded by farms, so for me it is still perfectly relevant and ought to be more so - as Church Mouse says, half the inner city kids have to have the whole thing explained to them, but how sad is that? that they don't even know where their food comes from? And I'll not hear that old, 'well they have never been to a farm' argument - I have never been to a car factory but I know how my car works (well sometimes..) It should be part of the curriculum.
But anyway I am digressing. What I really wanted to say is that I think we all need to think a bit more around the subject. I don't disagree that in some places it could do with a bit of updating, but equally I don't agree with the negativity about buying plastic razors for the homeless (or sleeping bags at the church I was at last weekend!). I bet you that the homeless shelters and local charities who distribute all the produce brought in from these services don't gripe about it. I'll bet they are very thankful that with that extra input they can help so many more people. Yes it might not be your home grown apples or potatoes but these gifts are inherently more practical in the 21st Century. What we have is already a more up to date version of the Victorian Harvest Service.
I am also sure that traditionally churches used what they had in their local area to decorate the church and give out to people. So why not take that to the next level? What is in abindance on your area? Is it tin cans? get creative! And if you are in an affluent area where people would rather go buy stuff from the supermarket, or an area where razors and sleeping bags are more practical for your neighbourhood, then thats great.
But also I feel more importantly that we should be looking at this in a far wider sense in the 21st Century. And I don't mean in terms of carbon bloody footprints - what a nonsense that whole idea is anyway - its like saying, well I've just used up the entire forestry of one nation, in the process causing wildlife to die and affecting the balance of the area - but thats ok, I'll just go plant a few more trees, or better still, I'll pay someone else to do it for me and then I don't even need to get my hands dirty. (sorry bit of a pet hate...) ANYWAY what I was going to say is that we should think about the Harvest of Souls. 'Harvest' is a term bandied around a lot in Christian circles and it isn't usually referrring to the local apple trees, but more about the harvest of souls. Even the hymn (come on we love it really...) 'We plough the fields and scatter', whilst obviously talking about the literal harvest could be seen to be talking about a more spiritual harvest:
We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land, But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand:He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.
Look at this verse above - we might be the ones doing the work, sowing the seeds, but it isn't us that brings people to God, it is Him. He is the one who feeds and waters us - 'by Gods almighty hand'.
It isn't always easy, there is the seeping cold of the snow, the really low times; there's the warmth of the sunshine, the good times when we feel God is right there with us; the breezes of things passing through; and the 'refreshing rain'. We get it all in life and it is God that guides us through it.
I like to think that at Harvest we are not only thanking God for the literal harvest around us, whatever that may be in our own areas, but also thanking Him for saving us - thanking Him for the souls he has led us to, to plant seeds in their lives. I'm sure we have all been in situations where you feel drawn to someone, you feel God has led you to them, you share a word, or the whole gospel maybe, but nothing comes of it. That person does not instantly receive Christ as their saviour. BUT a seed has been sown in their hearts and it is God that will use others to water that seed, to send it warmth, to feed it until their time is right to grow and flourish.
So perhaps there is more to harvest festival than pumpkins and plastic razors...