Autumn is beginning to show its colours in our part of the world, and I’m reminded of how the seasons change. Who can say it happens by chance? We know to expect beautiful colours on the trees before the leaves fall.
In my childhood, March was the time for the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival in our church. I remember jars of fruit, fresh summer produce, and lovely flowers in the sanctuary at those special Sunday services. Our family brought many things during the week to add to the bounty. We all had gardens, and our mothers bottled fruit, and made jam and pickles. Our fathers grew vegetables and harvested their fruit trees. My Dad’s sweetcorn was delicious! The eggs his chooks laid were abundant, and Mum’s cake-baking filled our kitchen with the aroma of home.
I wish I had a photo of our church display. Some of the online pictures don’t match up, in my mind, but I still cherish my memories. There was a decorative basket filled with produce, a cornucopia, spilling forth God’s abundance. I’d never seen so much food in one place! One of the church members was a baker and he always supplied a special plaited loaf as a centrepiece. I used to wonder if he thought about God while he was kneading the big bowl of dough!
Appreciation for the Lord’s bountiful supply was the main purpose of this festival. And secondary to it was the provision of a full pantry for the Aged Care Homes that the church ran in the district. Some of it also went to other needy people in the area where we lived.
I wish in a way that we still had a Harvest Festival in our modern church. These days we have a spacious walk-in pantry, more like a shop, where destitute people can help themselves to free packets, jars, and bottles of merchandise. As well, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are sourced from other suppliers. I’m sure it’s all appreciated by the recipients, but it doesn’t seem the same as that uplifting emotion I felt on Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday. That inspiring array made me want to lift my arms to God who had supplied it all!
As I think about all this, I wonder if my attitude is equally inspired at our everyday meals! When we give thanks for our food, do we sense that literal inspiration at the Lord’s great blessing on us? After all, he’s the one who makes our produce grow, and who brings the rain and the sun to feed the plants with nourishment.
Centuries ago, the ancient Israelites had their own Harvest Thanksgiving Festival. Each year they gathered their first-fruits and brought them to the Lord – an offering to provide for others, and to remind themselves where it all originated. It’s not only the eating and drinking, but the sense of joy, and the regular time of fellowship, with all the festivity that accompanies it. It’s as if the Lord of the harvest comes along and enters in with his own spread. It’s like an exuberant dance!
And David, king of Israel, also composed this song so that generations of his people could sing it in times to come. You can find it in Psalm 65, where we read of David addressing God: You crown the year with good blessings and you leave abundance in your wake.
I wonder if little children still experience the wonder of giving the fruits of the harvest to their God? I’m thankful this joy has never left me, and it gives me a heartfelt thrill to this very day!