September and October are often beautiful
months here and they are also, of course, the
months in which we celebrate Harvest in our churches.
One of the regular Scripture readings for Harvest is the passage from the 6th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’….. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’
I often find these verses to be a ‘hard sell’ if you like. Am I telling people that they mustn’t worry about putting food on the table, or clothes on their back because God will provide? Well, yes. Of course, this might be a crude reading of Jesus’ words and in our churches most of us don’t really have to worry about these things. But how can we say this to the people who come to the Lord’s Larder, those for whom it is a genuine struggle to put food on the table, or to those living in refugee camps, or those who have lost everything in the wake of hurricane Dorian?
Firstly, I could say something about anxiety and worry. We all worry. We all are anxious and sometimes afraid. And faith in God and being a disciple of Christ is not a cure for anxiety. However, there are things that we legitimately do need to be worried about and what a Christian faith can do is give us a sense of perspective and proportion. We can get our priorities sorted out and focus on what is important.
Secondly, the idea that God will provide for our every need? Well, yes, it is true. But as we celebrate Harvest, we can acknowledge that God provides for us through others. It is through the work of others that God provides for us through others. It is through the work of others that God provides. Farmers and other food growers, shopkeepers, manufacturers and those who transport our food. And, just as they provide for our needs, so we have a role to play in providing for those people who come to the Lord’s Larder, homeless shelters, those in refugee camps and others through our care and generosity. We are called to share. As those who have been given much, so we have an even greater responsibility.
Thirdly I was recently reading Psalm 126 and was struck by the line: ‘Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.’
Sowing with tears and reaping with joy. But sowing and then reaping takes time, it is something that needs care and attention and is in tune with the seasons and with the rhythms of the earth. Sowing and harvesting are part of the natural cycle of things. We, with all our anxieties and worries, need to set what is not important aside, leave our anxiety with God and go about the business of sowing God’s kingdom here on earth, most especially through the care and generosity we show to one another. We may not see the result, we may not be there to reap all we have sown but this is not a cause for anxiety, but a cause for trust, hope and joy. Just as God faithfully clothes the lilies and feeds the birds, so he will faithfully provide for us. It will not always be in the way we might desire or aspire to, but in the way that gives us life in all its fullness and builds his kingdom here for all.