Monday, 19 September 2011

An Alternative Harvest?

This is a copy of my church magazine article for October

In Psalm 65, the writer says to God: ‘You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with corn, for so you have ordained it ….you crown the year with your bounty…’

This is the time of year in which traditionally, we thank God for the harvest. We bring offerings of produce from the land and display them in our church building. We sing traditional hymns such as ‘We plough the fields and scatter, the good seed on the land’. We make an offering to help bring a harvest in another part of the world.

I love to do all of these things, but I wonder if the time has come to ring the changes? Personally, I have never ploughed the fields nor scattered seed in them. I do not regularly work the land and what I have tried to grow in the garden has rarely come to much. The supermarket where I buy produce (OK, usually where my wife buys it!) seems remote from the fields that are celebrated at harvest time.

Of course, I know that God provides for us, but it is rarely through our own sowing and reaping of crops. We work in churches, schools, hospitals, factories, shops, offices and the like. It seems strange to bring an offering at harvest time of things that we did not produce. Perhaps we should bring an offering of something that symbolizes what we do, through which we gain an income and by which the Lord provides? So the office worker might bring a piece of office equipment, the shop worker might bring a shopping basket, the factory worker might bring a product made (if practical), the doctor might bring a stethoscope, the teacher might bring a lesson plan and, yes, the minister might even bring a sermon! The retired person and the unemployed might bring a symbol of the ways in which they are able to serve. The children might bring an example of something they like to do – a story or a painting, perhaps. We can bring these as a reminder of the gifts and jobs that God has given us, and be reminded that we are called to offer them and ourselves back to Him. We can remember that this is our produce that provides for us the things that we need.

God is so good to us, and provides for us all that we need! Of course, I think we should still bring offerings of fruit and vegetables as signs of his providence. It’s just that I think there is so much more that we could and should bring in thanksgiving to Him.

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