Readings for Sunday, 1 October (Harvest):
Deuteronomy 8.7-18; Psalm 65; 2 Corinthians 9.6-15; Luke 17.11-19
Urban and suburban western living leaves many people disconnected from the source of their basic needs, including food. The idea of harvest is perhaps more easily understood in Menorca, where agriculture is more evident, and it is perhaps easier to understand that food has to be harvested for us to consume it. However, the idea of harvest runs more deeply than the obvious, superficial gathering of food.
Laurie Lee’s novel, Cider With Rosie, describes in a wonderful narration that, for centuries, it took a village to gather a harvest. This points to an even more important harvest: the gathering of community, and collective living.
This has its roots in our families – but doesn’t stop there. Research into the way in which children develop shows that the ‘togetherness’ of the parents influences how much they thrive. A family isn’t simply an aggregation of individuals, and parents have particular obligations to each other for the sake of the children, but that’s not the whole story, certainly as far as the bigger picture of the community of faith is concerned.
This is captured in scripture. While it is true that the spirit of community is rooted in the family, the word ‘family’ is not used in this context in the Bible; instead, the word ‘household’ is used – a term that describes something larger than parents and children: a small community engaged in caring for one another from cradle to grave. In fact, the word ‘economy’ derives from a Greek word, ‘oikonomia,’ that means ‘household management.’
This household model is strongly represented in the new testament, as Jesus fostered the idea of bonds within a community of faith (which came to be known as the body of Christ, the Church) to supplant the bonds within families.
However, this sense of community and communal interdependence runs counter to one of modern culture’s favourite sacred cows: individualism. There are warnings throughout scripture (including Deuteronomy) against living self-centred, selfish, self-satisfied lives in isolation from those around us; we are also warned against claiming responsibility for God-given prosperity. We are reminded to give thanks.
Judaeo-Christian faith is built upon the idea that to be human is to be part of a network of interdependent relationships with one another and with God. We need one another just as much in times of prosperity as in crisis.
The ultimate harvest is that of God’s kingdom in human lives. We are invited to be part of a community of faith entrusted with gathering it, and to be thankful for God’s abundance – spiritually as well as materially.