This morning we start our Harvest season in the church. And I think it is really important to celebrate the agricultural year in the Church. Not least because our human connection to the Land is central to the Bible helping us understand our God. Think about the number of times God is revealed in the events of agricultural crisis or blessing in the Bible. The Jewish and Christian Scriptures give wide ranging expression to the creative power and wisdom of God through the events of nature.
There has always been a natural instinct for worshipping communities to develop patterns of worship and prayer around the agricultural year. But perhaps now in the modern world we have become disassociated with the Land to such an extent that we feel it is more important to have truck drivers to deliver food than to have the weather required to grow food. Reflect on this for a minute … we depend more directly on supermarket shelf stackers than on farm labourers to have enough to eat. Whilst there might be enough food grown in the fields we require that it is processed and delivered to our shops in order that we can purchase and eat it. And so our headlines around agriculture are hidden amongst the headlines about petrol and worker shortages. Where can we see God in these headlines we might ask .. headlines which are about human struggle rather than Divine provision.
So whilst ancient society lived close to the land, and therefore it is no surprise the ancient Jewish festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread, Weeks and Tabernacles all have agrarian roots, where and how do our worries and concerns find expression in religious life? Our sense of a proper humility before God as source of all things, which in turn leads to gratitude for his goodness, and responsibility in stewarding the resources of the earth, are hidden behind our human headlines. And this it has to be said diminishes our spirituality. IN fact I have heard it said that a degraded environment leads to degraded humans. Might this be true .. that our loss of connection to the agricultural activities in our world leads to a loss of connection to our humanity. And if so the important question is WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Jesus offers an invitation to us in the Gospel reading which I think might address our question of connection this Harvest time. For he invites us to ‘look at the birds of the air’ and to ‘see how the flowers of the field grow’. It is a direct invitation to be connected with nature and to observe the habitat and environment around us in order to understand our relationship with the Creator. We must look beyond the headlines of human efforts and concerns and turn to nature and the agricultural world to truly see God’s presence amongst us. And if we do this we will be able to see the creative power and wisdom of God in ways which enhance our life.
See the birds Jesus says and how they live .. as you watch them let it change your tendency to worry and be anxious that develops when you focus on human invention and effort. Look at the flowers of the field .. let it change your focus on how you look and what you wear in this modern world. If we allow ourselves to be connected to the world around us we will worry less and care less about appearance and status. The ancient communities knew the importance of our connection with the land not just for provision but for perspective.
But what about all these things we worry about and get anxious about. What about the future and all that it holds by way of enough fuel and enough tins of food and enough workers?? Again we turn to our readings and find an answer. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 37 invites us to trust that the future is in God’s hands. It is the same message Jesus gives us about worry. Do not be anxious about the future. In the Psalm we read ‘I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.’ For God’s people we need not worry about the future because we can trust God ..’the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.’
This is the message of our ancient forefathers and mothers to us a this time or Harvest. Celebrate and give thanks for all that you have received. Understand our connection to the Land and not forget this. Look at the birds and the flowers of the fields and take heart. God provides for all. And this truth will allow us to trust that the future will be one in which we are not forsaken by God if we put our trust in the Creator of all things. Let us look at the world and see that our humanity is bound up in the trees and the soil and the animals .. and in observing and celebrating his as our scriptures instruct us let us find freedom from fear and joy in provision.
Psalm 37 v 22-
Matthew 6 v 25-34