Harvest thanksgiving is undoubtedly my favourite occasion in the church calendar.
The displays of fruit and veg bring a vibrancy of colour to the church building along with the multitude of flowers that fill the air with an abundance of scent. Then there’s the wonderful old harvest hymns to encourage even those of us with zero musical ability to sing out with a joyful heart - all are a timely reminder of God’s bounteous provision through another year.
Living in a farming community makes these services all the more significant too. It’s great to be able to join in worship with those for whom their entire living is dependent on God’s promise of a seedtime and harvest (Genesis 8:22). Coming from a farm where keeping livestock has always been the sole enterprise, my own attempt at growing fodder beet this year has helped me appreciate better some of the challenges and stresses faced by my arable colleagues.
Drilling was delayed by almost a month, due to the wet spring, but it was worth the wait to achieve a good seedbed. Plus the rain arrived within an hour of sowing, so the crop got off to a great start. Unfortunately I then left it too late to resurrect our old sprayer from the shed. Finding it faulty, by the time I arranged for a neighbour to help me out, the weeds were already well advanced in one field. Controlling them became a season-long battle. The yield from this field was, at best, average. The other fields fared much better, however and, despite the dry summer, yields were respectable. Ground conditions were also ideal for harvesting.
Hopefully by the time you are reading this, the last of my crop will be harvested. After harvest will come a time of reflection before preparations begin for next year: How did the crop perform overall? Could I have done anything better? Is it worth growing beet again next year?
In Jeremiah 8, we find ‘the weeping prophet’ reflecting on his home country, Judah. As he considers how the people have turned their backs on God’s love and grace, and with the threat of Babylonian invasion coming ever closer, he declares: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved (Jer.8v20).”
Just like the people of Judah, we can lose sight of God’s goodness all too easily. The seasons come and go, crops are sown and harvested, yet we can forget the One who gives life to the seed, who sends the heat and rain, and without whom our labouring in the fields is in vain. Harvest thanksgiving provides us with an opportunity to reflect on just that.
Yet Jeremiah wasn’t so concerned about God satisfying our physical hunger, nor even the pending threat of invasion. His longing was that his friends and neighbours would look to God to satisfy their spiritual hunger – the result of sin – by confessing that sin and trusting in Him for their salvation.
Jeremiah did not live to see God’s salvation plan ultimately worked out through the death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. But we all share in that privilege, and His free gift of saving grace is offered to everyone, should we choose to accept it – have you?
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.
Ronald Annett works for a local animal feed company and helps out on the family farm in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. He is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel, County Down.
If you would like to talk to someone about this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna at [email protected] or call him on 028 9753 1234.