Today we're having our harvest services, as many churches are, but like many urban churches it is often a little surreal, as our church sanctuary becomes transformed, for one day only, into a giant greengrocer's shop. That isn't happening in our own church this year as we have asked members of our congregation to either support the Belfast Vineyard Church's "Storehouse" programme by bringing along unperishable foodstuffs, or to support our "Nets for Nets" Fundraiser with financial donations, to help purchase mosquito nets for Zambia. This has caused a little disquiet among some of our older members, particularly those with a farming connection, as it won't quit seem like a proper harvest service for them...
But if harvest services were to truly reflect the nature of farming in Northern Ireland these days, the piles of fruit and veg at the front would be largely supplanted by large plastic wrapped bales of silaged grass!
Increasingly though, those of us not living, working and worshipping in a rural environment have no real understanding of the importance of harvest and the sense of relief that comes with a harvest "safely gathered in." We take for granted the fact that we can get fruit and vegetables from our supermarket shelves 24/7 all year round, in season and out of season. It's one of the joys of a global market. New Zealand strawberries in December - no problem! Brussels Sprouts from Bylorussia in August - straight away!
One year, when I was attending a church in inner city Edinburgh, they managed to forget the harvest services - and the thing is, no-one noticed.
We are sadly out of tune with the natural world; out of time in relation to the rhythm of the seasons. That is one of the reasons our environment is in such a mess.
But harvest services are not just a matter of giving thanks for a local harvest safely gathered in, but for the very fact of harvest... and we should not restrict ourselves to one Sunday in the year for such thanksgiving, but should live our lives in thankfulness to the God who gives all good gifts.
But this day may we give thanks for the fact of harvest, recommit ourselves to share God's good gifts more fairly, and take care of this wonderful world that he has entrusted to our stewardship.
This is an adaptation of a "Just a Moment" written for Downtown Radio, broadcast on Friday 9th October 2009.