Harvest has surely been celebrated ever since human beings first planted seeds, cut the heads of grain and stored them to use through the times of scarcity. When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land and left off their nomadic existence in the wilderness, they adapted the agricultural festivals being kept in the Promised Land and these have come down to us today.
The Gospels are full of allusion to agriculture and harvest and although early Christianity was arguably a faith of the cities people were clear about the provenance of the food that they ate. At the time of Christ it is estimated that around 90% of a person’s time would have been spent producing and preparing food. Since the very early days the Christian Church has historically played a key role in reinforcing the connection between people and the land, particularly through the Harvest Festival which really came into its own during the Victorian era. Today harvest is second only to Christmas as the most popular time for ‘going to church’ and is still one of the most popular celebrations, both in town and country.
Eating food is one of the few things common to all human experience. What type of food we consume and how readily available it is to us may vary widely. But we all eat. In our society the meals on our table will have been brought there through the contribution of many different people working in a variety of environments. This food chain typically involves farmers or fishermen, processors, retailers and those who purchase and prepare the food to eat.
Harvest is a wonderful opportunity to connect in people’s minds the growing focus in our society on environment, health and food with God. It is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the production and consumption of local food. It is a wonderful opportunity to give thanks for all the wonderful gifts of creation and to reconnect with our place as stewards of that creation. It is also an opportunity to pray for and with the farming community, many of whom are struggling to make a living in today’s global economic climate.
God of the heavens and the earth,
You call us to share in the care of your creation
and to bring food and fruitfulness from field and farm.
Hear our prayer for all who make their living on the land
and make us grateful for the work of their hands
and for the generosity of your provision.
We ask this in the name of Christ.
You made the goodness of the land,
the riches of the sea
and the rhythm of the seasons;
As we thank you for the harvest
may we cherish and respect this planet and its peoples,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From Common Worship
Additional Collects © Archbishops’ Council, 2000
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.