Bringing home the harvest

Too busy to blog!? How can this be, and yet it is- a summer of highs and lows, a few trips to the beach but also sorrow with friends and near ones suffering from health problems, a new colleague (hello Cathy!) and saying goodbye to another (adieu Richard!), and of course the beginning of the new academic year for the kids…

Anyway, in the midst of all these things the seasons roll on, both in the world and in the church- and as we begin to watch leaves fall from the trees, so we have harvest celebrations- yesterday we followed a first ever community harvest supper with our harvest celebration, and here’s what I said, based around the text from John’s Gospel, chapter 6, where Jesus has just crossed the lake, after the feeding of the 5000… and yes, I know this picture is of a French type of bread rather than an authentic Palestinian loaf, but it just looked tasty…

Image result for bread

We’re here to celebrate our harvest today… to say thank you to God for the food that has grown- who’s grown any crops this summer- any harvest? We’ve had fruit mostly- straws, blackberries and currants, raspberries and a few quinces, with some taters too, but for some the harvest is much more than a bit of fun for the kids. Our farmers- dairy, sheep, beef, poultry arable and the market gardeners, our fishermen, they work each day to bring in the harvest that the rest of us live on… someone somewhere grows the things that go into our favourite food. What’s your favourite food or drink? Where do the different things in it come from? I love chocolate spread on toast and a cup of tea- the chocolate comes from cocoa farms in Africa or South America, there is milk in there from cattle, the bread for my toast is made from wheat grown on farms maybe in Canada, or in England, and the tea may come from Kenya… all those people working, all those harvests, for my food.

But at the very bottom of it all, it all depends on the harvest. And as everyone who tries to grow crops or rear animals knows, you do your best, but you can’t control everything- the Bible puts it this way- I planted the seed, you watered the seed, but God grew the seed… Basically we have to trust that it will work- we all trust in our experience (what happened last time?), our brain (is this a good idea?), what others around us are doing (nobody else seems to be planting seeds at the moment…), and as Christians we trust in God and the Bible… and when we bring in the harvest, we can then say thank you to God.

Bread and butter… things that are just basic ‘essentials’…  in different parts of the world its different things, for some of us it might be pasta, in Asia it’d be rice… but for centuries bread was the basic first part of any meal… in terms of what the bread Jesus was talking about it looked more like pitta bread, or even crackers- pretty dry…

But the Bible isn’t just talking about food, is it? Jesus did feed people with real food, but Jesus says there’s more to it- don’t just work for ordinary food, that keeps you going for a day, but for something else- food that will keep you going forever… so what do have to do? What kind of work gets that sort of food? Believe in Jesus and you’ll see…

To believe in him means to accept who he is- the son of God, who brings judgement and forgiveness- judgement on those who’re puffed up with self-righteousness and look down on others, forgiveness for those who know they’re broken- Those who think their prize-winning leeks are just down to their work get their come-uppance, those who think they can’t grow a thing see a bumper crop. And Jesus says follow me- work for my father, and I’ll feed you- not just normal bread, not just a snack, but something amazing, and a proper amount- the word here isn’t nibble, but chew!

And here’s the crazy part- he’s just fed 5000 people on a kids picnic, he’s somehow got across a lake without people noticing (though his close friends had had the scary experience of seeing him walk on the water)… and they’re asking for more!! We’re very rarely satisfied with what we have- someone just the other day asked me why God doesn’t seem to be doing much, after all the excitement of the Old and New Testaments… the next morning I prayed for someone to be healed and they were, the fact that I was talking with this person was an answer to prayer, the difference being, I guess, that we’re not reading about it on the front pages… we also look at the Bible and think that these things are happening all over the place- we view the experiences of Moses as normal for the time and forget that no one else in the people of Israel was hearing from God like this… While Jesus was alive on earth there were many miracles, and in the time of the early church this continued- its like that time when you’re ‘in the zone’ whatever you’re talking about whether its playing music, surfing, solving a crossword etc… bang, bang, bang everything slots into place… Those things are as much to do with confidence as anything else… you’re warmed up, you’re excited, you’re confident, you’re relaxed, and you can perform beyond yourself.

If we trust in Jesus for the basics- the bread and butter, then he will lift us up and help us to go beyond what we can do by ourselves. We’re not worried because if it works, its to his credit, and if it doesn’t, its his responsibility… ours is to do our part- to believe in him. Whether he chooses to use miraculous signs or conversations at the bus stop, whether its manna from heaven or prayers over a pint- that is up to him.

This season, as we give thanks for what has been- the harvest of this year, we also prepare for the next season, we fertilise, we till the soil and get ready to sow seed.

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