'Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful.’ Joel 2:23
Brothers and sisters, I want you to imagine you’re a farmer living in Africa. You eat whatever you grow, and if you don’t grow it, you won’t eat. So you plan your fields in great detail. You plant all the seeds at just the right time. You make sure they get enough water; you weed them; you take of your fields and your plants as best you can. However, once you have done that all you can do is wait. How do you think the farmer feels as he waits? He feels worried! He needs his plants to grow if he is to have enough to eat. But then the farmer starts to see green shoots, he starts to see something growing. He is still worried—lots can go wrong—but something at least is happening! In fact, He is worried until he sees the first fruit, until he sees the first vegetable. When he sees the corn ready to harvested, when he sees the cabbages ready to pick, he knows that everything has worked out, that God has taken care of him. The farmer still can’t see the carrots and the potatoes—they are underground—but the farmer stops worrying. Now he knows he will have enough to eat. And once that happens, he brings the first food—the first vegetables which are ready—he those to church to celebrate the Harvest, and to celebrate that God has kept His promises.
We’ve all had a difficult year! Each one of us has had a frown over the past 12 months. We’ve been worried, we’ve been stressed, and we’ve had times of upset. ‘When will COVID end?’ we have been thinking. We know that God is with us, and we’ve been looking forward, looking for signs, looking for the green shoots of recovery. Oh yes, we’ve been frowning, and yes we’ve been worrying! However, our bible passages today—picked for this service many years ago before Covid—remind us that if we follow God, that we do not need to worry, for God will bring us through anything. In Psalm 126 it says:
Yes, we will be happy because the Lord did a great thing for us.
So, Lord, bring back the good times, like a desert stream filled again with flowing water.
The Psalmist knows that there will be struggles in life, but that God’s people can be happy despite these—that we can turn our frowns upside down—because we know God will bring back the good times; now or in eternity. In our first reading, from Joel chapter 2, the prophet speaks on behalf of God and he speaks to us as if we’re farmers, farmers looking forward to the harvest. Joel says:
Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
The threshing-floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
Joel reminds God’s people, Joel reminds the Church that the harvest is a sign of all the good things to come. Therefore, we can rejoice, we can have a party, we can celebrate because God will bring back the good times; now or in eternity. We’ve seen some green shoots ourselves as the first vaccines were given to the elderly. We’ve seen the first fruit—the first harvest—as we’ve been able to go back to school, go back to work, and sing in church. We’re not there yet but like the worried farmer who starts smiling when he sees the first part of the harvest, so we can turn our frowns upside down because we know that God will see us through, that God will bring us to the end. When we remember that God is in control—that He is with us and will guide us through—we not need to worry, for we know He has everything in hand. As Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 6:
‘I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?’
Because we know and trust God, we can be sure that He will see us through, and so we should not worry. Instead we should smile, and celebrate, and look to see how we can spread this hope with the people around us. For as Jesus says, at the end of today’s Gospel reading:
‘seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [you need] will be given to you as well.’
This morning, then, as we celebrate Harvest, as we’re reminded again that God provides for His people, let’s reflect upon what He has done in the last 12 months; how He has brought us through a very difficult time; and let us turn our frowns upside down, smile, and take God’s Good News to the world. Amen (from Fr Mike)