I love Harvest Thanksgiving Services. As I was a gardener before being ordained I need little excuse to be given the opportunity to praise God for the wonders of his creation. There are so many things that we have to be thankful to God for, and this is right at the top of the list.
In praising God for his wondrous creation we think of the usual things, the soil and the sunlight, (and although we do like to complain about it) the weather that brings the life-giving rains. It doesn’t matter where you look, from the planetary forces that drive the whole thing to the micro-organisms that although we don’t realise, we are completely reliant on. We should be humbled by all of this, the intricate beauty that is all around. It never ceases to amaze.
And today we are praising God for the results of his creation. The goodness of food, food that many of us shared on Friday night. The variety of it, how it brings us all together, how we bond over a meal.
Today’s Gospel reading, although not about food as such, can be seen as a comment on how we don’t always act in ways that protect God’s creation, the creation that nurtures and supports us. How we build houses on dodgy foundations, not thinking of the long term effects of our actions, too busy with short term gains.
We gladly behave in ways that does damage to the very systems that we depend on, grabbing more than our fair share whilst others go without. If our children behaved like that at a party, taking the best of the goodies for themselves and letting others go hungry then surely we would have words with them about their behaviour and we would be right, because it is always easier to recognise the greed and selfishness and injustice when it concerns other people than it is to spot it in ourselves.
Today we are going to sing, “All things bright and beautiful”. It reminds us that God is seen in all of his creation. We sing that his will is done on the just reward of labour, in the help that we give to our neighbour, in our worldwide task of caring for the hungry and despairing.
There is one plant that Jesus would have been very familiar with, and that is the Olive Tree and he would have known that it can take up to 30 years before an Olive Tree becomes productive. The ancient Greek philosopher Sophocles described them as, “the tree that feeds the children” not because kids love olives (in my household olives are only beaten by broccoli and Brussels sprouts for just how disgusting they are) but because it took what was then a human lifespan for them to bear fruit.
But as the average lifespan of an olive tree is between 300 and 600 years a bit of long term planning produces big results. The oldest Olive tree in the world is in Crete and it is approximately 5000 years old.
People who grow olives know that it takes commitment, that their foundations have to be built on solid ground. They know that they won’t see the fruits of their labour overnight but it will be others that reap the benefit of their work and perhaps they have a lot to teach us as we try to sow our seeds of faith in God’s kingdom.
Our hope is not just for our children and our grandchildren, just as we are inheritors of countless generations of pilgrims who have gone before so others will come after us. When we work for a world that will show gratitude to God by the way we care for the soil and share the harvest we are building on solid ground.
As followers of Jesus, we have every reason to believe that our commitment and patience and hope will not be wasted but will bear fruit in a multitude of surprising ways, not just in the hymns that we sing, but in the way that we hold God’s creation in our hearts and in our actions.