This morning we held a joint service at Furlong Road Methodist Church in Bolton-on-Dearne and celebrated a harvest festival with our friends there.

Getting the harvest display ready:

Getting ready at the start of the service:

Last year’s children’s slot asked us to think about what fruit or vegetable we would like to be. This year we were asked to imagine what the fruit and vegetables would say about themselves! Jeannette suggested that the spaghetti would tell us ‘I stand tall and straight, but when I’m cooking in water, I’m a big softy.” Other suggestions were from ‘sardines’ (“I swim in the sea and go on toast for tea”) and ‘bread’ (Mark reminded us that bread is good for the body but God’s word is the bread of life to us) and ‘apples’ (“an apple a day keeps the doctor away”!)

Dave preached from Matthew 25, looking at the need for a harvest festival nowadays, when locally grown produce mingles with produce from abroad and seasonal food seems a thing of the past. We are no longer so aware of our dependence on God and can become quite complacent about our food and lifestyles in the West. In the past, some of the practices associated with harvest festivals have not always seemed very Christian (corn dollies, for example), but the concept of thankfulness to God and offering Him our firstfruits goes right back to Genesis. Cain and Abel gave offerings to God in Genesis 4, as did Noah in Genesis 8. The Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23) shows how the Israelites were commanded to celebrate the firstfruits of the harvest, and whilst the idyllic picture of rural England depicted in Constable’s painting ‘The Haywain’ may no longer seem relevant to us, the principle of sacrificial giving and gratitude to God remain applicable to us today.

A Harvest Festival reminds us, therefore, of all God’s gifts to us and encourages us to cultivate thankfulness and gratitude in return. We are also encouraged to give to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. The righteous who were commended in Matthew 25 did not realise that their service to others had actually been service to God. As we help other charities and churches who serve the poor, we were challenged to make this an ongoing offering and service, not just something to be done once a year at a Harvest Festival. The poor, Jesus said, will always be with us, but we become His hands and His feet when we serve others.

After the service, we enjoyed the hospitality of the Methodist church with a harvest lunch: