Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
Two thousand and eighteen will be remembered in farming for its long periods of dry weather, hours of sunshine and exceptional autumn grass growth.
The month of July raised many questions and doubts as many farmers grew uneasy about the effect of drought on grass growth and crop yields.
Last month Storm Ali left acres of maize blown over or flattened - 2018 was certainly a different year. But as we arrive at the end of October, we can look back and say that there was a good harvest. The goodness, generosity and faithfulness of God is amazing as he delivers on his promise to our world in Genesis 8:22 that, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest...will never cease.”
You will have been able to see with certainty the verses of Psalm 145:8-9 performed by God time after time. The Psalmist writes, “He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”
We can see God and the Bible in action before our very eyes. Just as farmers care for their livestock, so God cares by providing the feed for them. How much more must God love us as people, who are created in His image, if He cares for cattle?
This year to remind our local community in Rathfriland to give thanks at our Harvest Thanksgiving weekend, a team from our congregation erected a church built from bales of straw in a field. Many churches like ours hold Harvest Thanksgiving Services to say a big ‘thank you’ to God for the crops and the fruit of the ground. Just as we teach our children to say ‘thank you’ when they are given something, we are encouraged to give thanks to God for the harvest.
Now the straw church has been removed, the Harvest Thanksgiving Services are over and the evenings are ‘dropping down’. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah (8:20), “The harvest is past, the summer has ended...” you may find yourself nodding in agreement. That same verse ends with the words, “...and we are not saved.” Maybe you find yourself quietly agreeing that you don’t have a saving faith in Jesus Christ?
The chorus of the hymn goes, ‘The harvest is past and I am not saved/How fearful the cost for a soul to be lost.’ Maybe you have been to church to give thanks for the harvest and the preacher told you about the man Our Lord Jesus spoke of who had to build new barns to get all the harvest stored?
It is great to hear about farmers doing well and expanding, isn’t it? But there is a twist to this particular story found in Luke’s gospel, as the farmer didn’t live to feed his animals that winter!
I trust that this autumn, if you don’t know Jesus as your personal saviour, that you might recall the harvest hymn, ‘Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves’ and remember that the Bible tells us that the angels in heaven will also be rejoicing when you put your trust in the Lord of the Harvest, Jesus Christ.
Trevor Boyd is the minister of First Rathfriland Presbyterian Church in the rolling County Down countryside. Married to Barbara, the father of three is an ex-sheep breeder and previously sold animal health products across Northern Ireland.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.