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Harvest festival – we must share the goodness

harvest vegetables SX402Rev Andrew Bryant challenges us to share the planet’s blessings when we celebrate our harvest festivals this month.

It is frightening how easily we have learnt to live with the injustices that beset modern life.
In the supermarket, we carefully select the cheapest milk on offer, ignoring memories of farmers protesting that they are not paid a fair price for the milk they produce. As we leave the supermarket we drop a few tins in the box for the local food bank seeming to accept that such institutions are now a necessary part of life.  Walking back to the car park we carefully avoid those huddled in the shop doorways bedding down for another night. Returning home we turn up the central heating with not a thought for the increase in carbon emissions and those already suffering the impact of climate change.  We sit snacking in front of the television whilst watching images of the famine in the Yemen.  As we snuggle down under the duvet, there is no thought for those shivering in an over-crowded, leaking boat in the middle of the Mediterranean, wondering if tonight the sea will be their grave.
Those who lived through rationing in the Second World War learnt the importance of “waste not want not”.  They tried to pass this message on to the next generation, but we have grown used to the idea that there is plenty, and have forgotten how precious food is.  Levels of wasted food are now shockingly high.  Because we are used to there being plenty, we barely give a thought to those in our own community who may be struggling to afford food, let alone those in other parts of the world for whom finding enough food is a daily struggle.
When we are confronted by these uncomfortable truths, we say we feel helpless and that we do not know what to do.  We claim the problems are too many and we try to our bit.  We argue that “they” (who ever that might be) should do more, should do “something”.  We shake our heads in sorrow and admit it is not right… but nothing changes.
We have seemingly come to accept that inequality and injustice are part of life… but that acceptance is only because it is not our lives on the line.
It is right and proper that we continue to celebrate Harvest.  It is fun to decorate our churches and to sing with joy “We plough the feeds and scatter”.  It is good that there is an annual occasion when we stop and give thanks for the fruitfulness of the earth and remember our farmers and all involved in the food industry.  But thanksgiving is not enough.
As we gather for our annual harvest thanksgiving, we need also to renew our commitment to challenging the injustices and inequalities.  If we are truly thankful for all the many blessings of our lives, we will also want to ensure that the good things we enjoy are shared with others.  Celebrating Harvest Home is not so we can be glad there is enough for us but rather acknowledging that, rightly shared, there is enough for all.  It may be I have to learn to have slightly less, but there is enough for all.
The only good harvest is a shared harvest. God has blessed us with this fruitful and bountiful earth in order that all people may share in its goodness.  When some, few or many, are shut out from this goodness, then we have failed in our stewardship of all God has given us.  We must never accept inequality and injustice as a necessary part of life.  The call to grow the Kingdom of God on earth is a call to strive for peace and justice for all.  Until the Kingdom of God does in deed come on earth, no harvest celebration can be complete without a renewal of our commitment to feed the hungry and let the oppressed go free.

Harvest vegetables image is courtesy of Chris Johnson at http://www.freeimages.com/photo/harvest-1329043

Andrew BryantCFThe 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.

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