Today we celebrate harvest. Harvest is a very special one-off service, a festival that stands on its own and which isn’t given a specific and set date in the church’s annual calendar.
In recent times it has become popular to call harvest creation-tide. There is a significance in this in that it differentiates between creation itself, the created order, and the output of creation; harvest. Harvest itself celebrates the relationship between God and humankind. God is the creator, we are the stewards of creation; God is the creator, we are the created. If this is true, which I believe it to be, then the first of our harvest callings must be towards humility. God is God, the almighty, the endlessly creative one and we are simply his people; the people of his pasture.
The second harvest calling must be towards awe and wonder. The created order should surely inspire a sense of our own smallness and of God’s magnitude? This sense of awe and wonder is something that the psalmist perfectly encapsulates:
‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the work of your hands: you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth,’ (Psalm 8).
This sense of awe and wonder should, when we reflect on it, lead to our third calling: gratitude. We are fortunate, blessed, privileged to live surrounded by beautiful countryside. We should enjoy the created order, the natural environment, God’s play ground. But, we should also seek to cherish, treasure and renew it. As a church we will be spending some time doing this next year. Becoming a greener, more environmentally friendly church, is one of our challenges.
Harvest and creation-tide is also an opportunity to deepen our trust in God. This is the important message of today’s gospel reading (Matthew 6, 25-33). But we need to be careful with the word trust. Trust, in the harvest sense, doesn’t mean adopting a solely stoical attitude, rendering ourselves passive in the faces of the challenges that face us. Trust is, I think, about stepping out in faith, as God’s partners, in the surety that God is both with us and for us. Trust is very definitely an active thing! Trust is something we do, not just something we feel.
Our fifth harvest calling is to generosity. Harvest reminds us that we must be people who both care and share. Our generosity must be of a truly radical nature. The created order and its produce is all of humanities to enjoy and yet so many both near to home, and further afield, don’t get to share in God’s abundance. This is very definitely not part of God’s plan. As Christians we must always look out for the less fortunate, the poor amongst us, the widows and orphans in their distress (James 1, 27). So I am glad this year that we are donating the food offerings to the Milton Keynes Foodbank and the cash offering to Water Aid; please let’s dig deep and sacrificially. Let’s play our part in alleviating food poverty in our neighbouring city; a city where one in five, disgracefully, live below the poverty line and let’s also play our part in alleviating the distress of our international neighbours.
So there you have it, five harvest callings:
Humility, awe and wonder, gratitude, trust and generosity.
If we can live up to these callings, not just today, but on an ongoing basis we will truly be God’s arms of love around a deeply fractured world, and that is our harvest calling. We will become as the Psalmist puts it ‘like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in due season,’ (Psalm 1).