A trip around Andalusia is illuminating and inspiring, especially at this time of celebrating Harvest Festival/Thanksgiving. My wife and I have just returned from seeing Seville, Córdoba, Granada and the Alhambra, and we were able to appreciate various forms of architectural beauty, the lessons of history, and the cathedral-mezquida in Córdoba that is a sort of architectural lesson in not destroying one culture to accommodate another. We have also experienced the forests of the Sierra Nevada, the wheat and other corn crops of the hills and plains of the regions as well as cotton fields. We were immersed in a variety of aspects of creation.
This celebration of harvest time is the culmination of the season of creation, which we began at the beginning of September. Harvest is traditionally a time for giving thanks for God’s bounty, which requires both appreciation and gratitude. Appreciation is to acknowledge what we have been given; gratitude is to be truly thankful – in biblical terms, to recognise that one has been given something that one can in no way repay. We are rather inclined to present ourselves to God when we are in need, but often forget to give thanks when we do well.
Andalusia, as an iconic representation of the environment in which we live, reminds us of the blessings of the natural world, which we are responsible for tending. Forests and agricultural terrain are areas where we can see how humanity can apply productive, yet responsible stewardship. But in addition, the way in which we manage our collective lives together, the places and buildings in which we live and conduct all aspects of life, can illustrate how we handle our own situation within the created order. We are an integral part of it, not distinct, even if we do have special responsibilities.
The nature of God’s connection to humanity is part of an ancient covenant, one which Jesus came to restore and reconstitute. Jesus shows us the ultimate form that humanity can take: all that is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, of excellence and worthy of praise was distilled into this human form.
Jesus came along and fed people. He fed them most dramatically by taking a few loaves and sharing them amongst thousands. He also fed them by teaching and healing – which was not always fully appreciated. He also fed them by devoting his life as a sort of lived parable, or example. When Jesus said that he was the bread that gives life to the world, he was talking about giving his life to feed the world – in all those forms.
The ways in which Jesus fed people span all aspects of human living: food for the body, for the mind and spirit; bread that gives life to the world in many ways. As the body of Christ in the world, we are to pick up the mantle of feeding our neighbours in these ways. We are to sow seeds in agriculture; we are to sow seeds of hope and justice; we are to sow compassion and love. In our communities, beginning with our families, we are to become reflections of the love that God has bestowed upon us abundantly, focusing on Christ.
This is all rooted in an ancient covenant that the people of Israel were instructed to recall through repetition, remembering that, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor …” Our ancestor was a wandering Aramean who along the way became the beneficiary of an enduring relationship with God for all of us. That is the primary sustenance of our existence; nurturing that relationship will draw us towards making sure that the air, water, food, medicine, and all the other elements of our sustenance will be available not only to us but to those who follow.
At this time of Harvest Thanksgiving, let’s do our best to appreciate all that we have been given: in the wildness of nature, in the benefit of good stewardship of the world around us, in examples of human endeavour that inspire and encourage. Let’s be thankful for the harvest, in its broadest sense. Let’s be thankful for the communities in which we live and love and are loved. Let’s take our blessings and find a way to make them be blessings for others – individually and collectively, working together to build a true community of faith.