It is now over six months since I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma; I have had the chemotherapy sessions and now await a scan to see how effective the treatment has been. Obviously I hope for and want a clean bill of health. The chemotherapy does its work on the cancer cells but it also damages the healthy body as well so I am slowly rebuilding energy and general health.
In the meantime, and over these six months, each family will have had celebrations and issues; inflation and rising prices affect us all; holiday makers hope to avoid extreme heat, severe floods, or airport crises; the wars continue in Ukraine, Yemen, Ethiopia, as does the violence in so many parts of the world. Criticism of (or loyalty to) government seems to become more shrill and it is hard to know what is “proper” news or a “accurate” reporting. We want to know whose fault it is, and those in power deflect both criticism and blame. In and through it all, our local churches continue to offer worship, prayer and welcome to those who come.
One question is whether the local church should be a place of stability and comfort and security within and despite all that is going on, or whether we need to be more engaged. Both have a point – maybe the answer is finding a balance. We are getting to Harvest-tide and Creation-tide. My childhood memory of Harvest, is of wondering how big the marrow would be that would take centre-stage in church in the midst of vegetables, flowers and a loaf of bread. A suburban church once a year was bedecked with fruit and vegetables, though I think much of it was actually grown in gardens. Do we still hanker for a decorated church, even as most of us are less and less connected to the food we eat? Nowadays we bring tins and boxes of food which will go to charities, and on to the needy, though our hymns still reflect the ploughed fields etc. It is less attractive but more “useful”. Some are concerned (also) for where our food comes from, the ethics of farming, Fair-Trade, sustainable produce etc – do we know how much water almonds and avocados need? Do we need foods flown halfway round the world so we can indulge our tastes? Do I know what is being done to get food to where it is most needed in those forgotten parts of the world? Do I contribute or only take?
There is definitely still a place for Harvest Thanksgiving – gratitude to God for all we have, and thanks to all those – farmers, delivery drivers, factory workers, shop-workers etc – without whom we would not have food on our plates. The world today is much more complex than it was in the time of Moses when the first Israelite Harvest feasts were developed – in those days almost everyone was directly involved in the production of the food, in a way that we are not.
We should be grateful that the annual rhythms are constant, but alert to the disruption our overheating is causing to the seasons. We can feel tired and overwhelmed by all that is happening, but we cannot be complacent as the West continues to over-consume and over-waste. We are part of a complex world but God is concerned both for the world AND for each of us, individually. This autumn, this Harvest season, this Creation-tide we face up with thanks, we look within to consider our response and we face outwards concerned for others and God’s world, and Yes, we can enjoy the beauty and colour and variety of the fruit and vegetables we celebrate, and be grateful for tinned produce, glad it is going to where it will be needed.