Harvest is a time to give thanks
Rev Andrew Bryant explains why we should be especially thankful at this time of year.
I go into the fruit and veg section of the supermarket and stand in front of shelves stacked high with apples and feel disappointed because my favourite type of apple is not there. I move on a few aisles and look at the long rows of jams and feel let down because the particular make I like is not there.
Moving on I am drawn to the tempting smell of freshly baked bread but despite standing there for several minutes end up putting nothing in my trolley as the particular kind of bread roll I was hoping for has sold out. As I pack up my purchases at the checkout, I wonder whether I might do better to try a different supermarket next time.
Later that day I sit watching the television news with a report from yet another refugee camp. The camera focuses on some children scrabbling in the dirt for the last few grains of rice on the floor of the distribution centre.
And I feel ashamed. How dare I be so fussy? In any supermarket, I walk pass more food than most people in the world can even dream of. What does it really matter if I cannot have the particular apples, jam or bread I like - to have any choice at all makes me a very fortunate human being.
To wander into any supermarket should be an occasion for great thanksgiving for all the food that is available to us. However we have become so used to living in a time of plenty that instead of learning gratitude we have become fussy, picky, choosy, coming to believe that this plenty is ours by right.
And this is precisely why we need the celebration of Harvest more than ever. We need a moment amidst all this plenty to stop, pause and think. Most importantly we need to stop to remember how very fortunate we are to live amidst such plenty and give thanks for this blessing. And alongside that to give thanks for all those who help grow, transport, manufacture and distribute the food we enjoy. Every time we eat we are being linked to a myriad of different people who have played a part in bringing the food to our plate.
But Harvest thanksgiving is also a time to pause and listen to the farmers around us and to hear their stories and, sadly, often their struggles. And we also need to pause and consider how providing inexpensive food all the year around can impact on the economies of other parts of the world, distort their food supply and can impact on the environment.
It is time too to become mindful of the needs of others, reflecting on why the need for food banks in this country is growing. And it is time to consider how we can live amidst so much plenty while so many have so little and children have to scrabble in the dirt for a few grains of rice.
Harvest should be a real celebration and a time of profound and deep thanksgiving, acknowledging the riches of creation and the wonder of the Creator. It should not be about making us feel guilty in the face of the needs of others, but true thanksgiving is about ensuring that we do not take the blessings of our lives for granted. It is also about wanting to share the blessings we enjoy with others who may not be so blessed. Remember with blessings come responsibilities.
So, this autumn, take yourself off to the local Harvest festival; join in the celebrations, say a loud "Amen" to the Harvest prayers, and if you are lucky enough to meet one of our wonderful local farmers, shake them by the hand and say "thank you".
And next time, and each time, you wander into your local supermarket look around you and say a little prayer of thanksgiving.
Harvest vegetables image is courtesy of Chris Johnson at http://www.freeimages.com/
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his new Twitter account @AndyBry3.
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users.