From the vicarage
West Bromwich lies at about the middle of the Birmingham and Black Country urban sprawl. Life here could not be much more different to my rural upbringing, in a Scottish village of 2000 people, nestled in a valley, surrounded by farmland. Today, we can buy almost any vegetable at any time of the year; strawberries in March, flown over from Israel; asparagus in September, from Peru. And so our attachment to the land and the seasonal food it produces may be a thing of the past but harvest is still an important festival and we will be celebrating the harvest at Holy Trinity on 18th October.
In Psalm 67 God tells us why we should celebrate the harvest by praising him:
May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
As the people praise God, God blesses his people and as God blesses us, the people of God fear, honour or respect, him.
Fear of God is a good and healthy attitude for people to have. We used to call some men “God-fearing”; “He’s a God-fearing man” we’d say. We see from the Psalm that there is a link between praising God for the harvest and fearing him. If our praise leads to blessing then our lack of praise must lead to cursing. And so, every time we sit down to eat, we should praise God for giving us what we are about to receive from him. As we praise him, God blesses us and so we find we and others fear him.
There is another good reason linked to harvest which God gives us to help us develop a healthy fear and reverence for him.
In the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus teaches us that this world is a mixture of good seed and evil. The two grow together and Jesus’ farmhands are keen to do some weeding, they want to get rid of the evil. But Jesus says, don’t pull up the weeds, because you’ll damage the wheat. Wait until the harvest is ready. When we bring in the harvest we’ll save the wheat and destroy the weeds in a fire.
Harvest is a time when we remember that God will one day harvest billions of souls from the world and throw the rest in the fire. In the mean time, God allows good seed and evil to grow together. Jesus came into the world to make bad seed like me and you into good seed. He did this by dying on the cross for our sins. If we know that we are by nature bad seed but that the death of Jesus makes us good seed in God’s eyes, then the fear of God turns into love for him and for Jesus. As the apostle John writes:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19.
This is my prayer for many people in West Bromwich this year: that harvest will remind us of the goodness and blessing of God, that we will fear him more, and remember the seasonal harvest is a sign of a spiritual reality to come. As so, as we remember God’s ultimate harvest, I pray that we’ll turn to Christ again and love him for making bad seed good by his death for our sins on the cross.
With love. Neil