Giving Thanks for God’s Gifts this Harvest
This Harvest season, Fr Mark Broadway, of Parish of Newton Nottage Porthcawl, reflects on how we can turn blind to the gift of God in creation and our reliance upon His generosity.
It’s something of a cliché that, for children, food comes “from the supermarket”, raised by a butcher, I did not have the option of believing that. By and large, we live in a world where consumption is divorced from production. Of course, that is not the world that we find in our Bibles. For people who lived in Biblical times, the world looked very different. To understand how they would have seen things we need to challenge ourselves to think differently. The Old Testament passage, which many Christians will read on Harvest Sunday, forces us do that. Here is a snippet:
When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. Deuteronomy 8:12-16
Sometimes we might spiritualise these passages to make them easier to apply to our own lives. We might imagine that the arid wilderness represents something; for example, the time that we spent in lockdown year. We might say the snakes and scorpions are like the various things that allow little fears to creep into our lives. Some of us will find that watching the news before bed or spending too much time on social media is like this.
When reading the Bible in this way, we must be careful not to let our imagination blot out a simpler reading of the text. Although this passage might have useful things to say about our inner life, we miss out if we ignore what it has to say about our connection to the land, and our reliance upon God to sustain and bless that connection.
In the modern world where we live divorced from the fragility of living off the land, with ready-made food, and others to labour for us, we can become blind to the gifts of God in creation, and the extent to which we rely upon His grace.
There is a passage from the Bible, which has made its way into some of our traditional prayers, that says “For all things come from thee, and of thy own have we given thee”. This is the Christian response to the wonder and fruitfulness of the natural world, through which God provides for all our material needs. As we are met with God’s great generosity, so we respond with hearts of thanksgiving.