By Rev Robert Barthram, Sep 6 2014 10:30AM
I’ve just started writing to the accompaniment of the sound of torrential rain. It is quite apt as my thoughts turn to next month and our harvest celebrations. One of our harvest hymns refers to, ‘soft refreshing rain,’ I may have escaped this shower but was not so fortunate earlier today when I was, ‘watered by God’s almighty hand!’
When we gather for our harvest it is primarily for thanksgiving. We give thanks to God for the material things that sustain our lives and the wonderful world that he has given us that provide these things. Another hymn begins, ‘I sing the almighty power of God that made the mountains rise.’ Viv and I have recently had a reminder of that, having been able to have a holiday in the west of Canada and travel through the Rocky Mountains, with their snow-capped peaks, glaciers, forests and lakes. The word I have used again and again to describe what we saw is ‘spectacular’ and that is what God’s creation is so to quote the same hymn again we should at harvest, ‘sing the goodness of the Lord.’
Our harvest celebrations then are about thanksgiving but over the years I have again and again at harvest services used the word share, for if our thanksgiving is genuine that is what we will do. Again what I have seen recently comes to mind. Not this time at first hand but on my television screen.
Twelve years ago I was fortunate to have a sabbatical that was spent on the edge of Bethlehem. My primary aim was to refresh my knowledge of the bible by being in the lands of the bible and seeing it at first hand with expert teachers and guides. That was achieved but I gained two other things I did not expect: one was an understanding of the injustices suffered by Palestinians over the last century and the other a new appreciation of the Christian Churches of the Middle East. On returning home I joined two organisations one Palestinian Christian but with an international membership and the other promoting contacts between Christian communities in Britain and the Holy Land.
What we have seen on our television screens over recent weeks relates to both aspects. There is Gaza, which is little more than an open air prison where hundreds of children have been killed. There are parts of northern Iraq, which have been Christian since the early centuries where thousands have fled or been killed. We live in a world where the good things are shared so unequally, where sin and evil are at times so rampant.
If at our harvest celebrations our thanksgiving is genuine we will want to share what we enjoy. We can do this locally and indeed should but we must not forget the world where majestic mountains rise and the innocent are slaughtered. If the good things of God’s creation are to be shared there has to be peace and justice and that we must strive for.
Yours in Christ,