I guess like many churches we are celebrating Harvest this weekend. As I left the building this morning folks were bringing in flowers and foliage to decorate the Sanctuary - creating a bit of the countryside in our worship space.
Amersham blends town and country rather well. As a 'townie' I enjoy living here - a compact community at the end of a London Tube line! Yet drive just a couple of miles outside of town and you are immediately in the rural context of 'leafy Bucks'. I realised that more than ever on the Churches on the Hill walk one Sunday evening over the summer - we wandered through fields full of corn and it was simply beautiful!
Although I enjoy the countryside I'm not really sure that the quietness of a village would be my cup of tea. That said I'm transfixed by Thomas Hardy's accounts of rural Dorset life in the middle of the 19th century. He paints both the charm and the challenge of living at that pre-industrialised moment in history.
One of our folk at AFC has given me their own version of the Harvest hymn, We plough the fields and scatter - or at least verse one - and it goes like this:
Our food is grown by farmers
Who harvest all the crops
And most of us do little more
Than buy it in the shops
We take it all for granted
And rarely pause for thought
How seeds which have been planted
Become the food we've brought
Behind the humour there is the truth that most of us are quite divorced from how a harvest actually comes about.
This festival throws up many issues.
The Psalms often extol a Creator God as in Psalm 8. And to many people they do feel 'closer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth'. Yet it's also true that the natural world is 'red in tooth and claw' and not always the calm idly we pretend. In fact sometimes the sheer force and seeming brutality of the natural order hardly seems to point to a benevolent God at all.
These are complex issues. This week a quietly spoken Pope reminded a powerful President of the need for wise and careful stewardship of the planet. And the unfolding human drama of the refugees isn't one with an easy or straightforward solution even if it is an issue that should begin with a spirit of compassion and generosity of spirit.
At this Harvest time it seems to me that we not only celebrate an abundant and beautiful world around us but we commit ourselves to sharing with God in its stewardship - even its 'recreation'.
All good wishes,
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