We plough the fields with tractors,
With drills we sow the land;
But growth is still dependent
On God’s almighty hand.
Will help the growing grain,
But for its full fruition
It needs God’s sun and rain.
All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all his love.
To gather in the harvest
Machines now lead the way.
We reap the the fields with combines,
We bale the new mown hay;
But it is God who gives us
Inventive skills and drive;
Which lighten daily labour
And give us fuller lives!
Then why are people starving
When we have life so good?
And some in crowded cities
Search dustbins for their food;
And even some go hungry
Who farm in distant lands;
Lord, help us learn more swiftly
To share with open hands.
I do not have a Harvest Festival service to lead this year & I am quite sad about it. It is an odd feeling to be honest because until this point in my ministry I have had multiple harvest services every year, in Churches & in the community in different schools & residential homes. Next year I will have to make sure that the plan takes me back into this highlight of the Christian year!
If I did have one I would use the hymn above, an alternative version of the classic harvest hymn ‘We plough the fields & scatter’. I like it because it brings us up to date with the real world & the reality of life of so many of our neighbours who work in the field & with livestock. I like it too because it throws down a challenge to each one of us – if God has blessed us like this, what about those who are struggling?
There has been much rubbish written & spoken about the poor recently, & especially that ugly & divisive phrase the deserving poor. No one chooses to be poor & to struggle to afford the necessities of life or to live hand to mouth. At various points in my life since we entered the Ministry as a family we have struggled & had to rely on charity to help us clothe the children, send them on school trips & even buy food. Asking for help has always been humiliating & we have felt ashamed, & to this point I have never talked about it. I mention it now only because I think these attitudes to the poor need to be addressed.
The poorest in our nation are bearing the hardest burden by far in the austerity measures we now live under & things are set to get a lot worse especially if you are unfortunate enough to be at the bottom of the wealth & earnings ladder. Yet we still get lectured about the deserving & undeserving poor.
Were my family deserving or undeserving? Is the pensioner terrified of the winter fuel bill deserving or undeserving? Is the unemployed middle aged man who cannot find work & has run out of savings deserving or undeserving? Is the homeless teenager on the streets of our cities deserving or undeserving? Are the starving thousands in East Africa deserving or undeserving?
What gives us the right to stand in judgement?
I do wish the old phrase ‘there but for the grace of God’ would tumble from our lips more readily before we make comments about those at the bottom of our society.
Judgemental attitudes towards the less fortunate should not be found in the Christian especially if we are blessed by God to live in positions of comfort & security – they are attitudes that should be alien to any Disciples of Christ Jesus. Remember the warning to each one of us in the parable of the sheep & goats in Matthew 25? We need to make sure that this gospel warning is not ignored, God forbid that judgement would fall on us & our nation & that we would hear this kind of message from Jesus (Matthew 25:41-45):
‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
This Autumn spare a thought, a prayer & if you can some cash for those who are worst off. Write to your councillor & MP, & be one of those voices raised in warning that fairness & justice should not be lost as we cut budgets, & please let’s stop talking about the underserving poor.
God bless you