CLERGY CORNER: Bringing back the harvest

Posted on 15 August 2018 by LeslieM

You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Exodus 23:16 NRSV

The transition from summer to autumn is something we all experience. Even if we live far from the closest farm or in a place where the trees remain green and the weather remains hot, we know it is autumn because school is back in session and football is back on TV. There is an energy that comes with this change of season and we see attendance pick up in church as well.

The word autumn and fall are used interchangeably everywhere, even in places where leaves do not fall from the trees. In rural America, another word can be used in lieu of autumn or fall — harvest.

Harvest brings back memories of my youth in rural Minnesota. My town’s entire economy revolved around the single time when farmers gathered their crops. In the rural Midwest, we put the word “culture” in agriculture because our culture was so dependent on the farms that surrounded us.

During the summer, we followed the crops. I remember my grandma and grandpa, retired farmers, would hop in their car and drive out to the fields just to see how the crops were doing. In the café, you would hear people talk about crops the way some people talked about their favorite sports team.

Looks like a rough year for beans.”

How ‘bout that corn?”

Tough year for sugar beets but I have high hopes for next year.”

Even town people earned money doing work for farmers.

Harvest was a happy time. Even during difficult years, God always found a way to provide and we were grateful. We celebrated in church with worship and potluck dinners. Even though our liturgical calendar did not specify a day of celebration, we artificially inserted the harvest and, truth be told, it was right up there with Christmas and Easter. Well, not quite, but pretty close.

My kids are native Floridians. Even though Florida is every bit as agricultural as any state in the midwest, my kids grew up close to the beach and far from any fields.

My wife and I would joke: “I think they think fruits and vegetable grow in boxes in the produce section of the grocery store.” (If we didn’t make an effort to show them the contrary, they probably would have believed that).

I love the autumn with the change of routine and the slight change of weather. I love the excitement that goes with the beginning of school. Even as an adult, I love the smell of a brand new notebook or a box of crayons. I enjoy a good game of football, as much as the next guy. But I do miss the harvest. I miss the spiritual component of autumn that reminds us all that God’s providence is abundant. And I do believe that it is time to bring it back.

For our friends in the Jewish faith, the High Holidays definitely have roots in the agricultural cycle of God’s people. There is a connection between the New Year and the harvest that is scriptural. God commands his people to celebrate!

When I look at our liturgical calendar, the calendar that sets the seasons of our liturgical year, we are in “ordinary time” until Advent. Ordinary time? Give me a break. Yes, Thanksgiving is generally connected with harvest, of sorts, but it is not officially recognized as a liturgical holiday, at least not for Lutherans.

If we bring back the harvest, we bring a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving back to our culture. We recognize the link between our Creator and the food that we have on the table. We stand to gain and lose nothing in the process. The need to bring back the harvest is so self-evident to me, that I cannot believe that we didn’t do this sooner. God is the Lord of the harvest, let us celebrate as God commands us to do.

It is time to bring back the harvest!

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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