Because most of us have cupboards full of food and easy all-year-round access to shops, we don’t have the same sense of relief and gratitude to God that our forefathers felt when the harvest was safely gathered in with enough to last until next year.
Our annual harvest thanksgiving services teach us not to take daily bread for granted; we are to keep thanking God for all that he generously gives us. Produce is brought to decorate the church (as a visual reminder of God’s good provision) and to be given away afterwards so that we can share with others from the abundance that God has given us.
But as well as reminding us to be thankful, harvest also asks ‘what’s the point of it all?’
One ancient book traditionally read by the Jews at harvest time raises this question:
“What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains for ever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.”*
After a year’s hard labour the barns are once more full; and now it’s time to start all over again for next year. But why are we working so hard just to stand still? Are we going round in circles? The writer wants to burst our bubble and prick our pride. In a thousand years from now why will it matter how you have lived or what work you did? You instinctively feel it must matter but how do you explain that?
You assume your life has meaning and that your work is important. But when you look at cupboards full of food, savings accounts full of money, the mown lawn and the clean car, the children growing up to step into your shoes, what is it all for?
Could you explain what it all means? Really?
* Ecclesiastes chapter 1