The approach of our Harvest Festival Celebration on Sunday 13th October gives us an opportunity to reflect on what being ‘fruitful’ means for us as individuals, for us as a church and for us as members of a society which has so much, compared with those living in societies which have so little.
Harvest is a word which comes from a cluster of Germanic language words (Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Old High German) for Autumn and the season of reaping and gathering in ripened grain. The age-old purpose of harvest is to build up stocks of foodstuffs against the coming winter. It is a time to build up a store of energy to be used during the time when sources of energy would otherwise be scarce.
To a large extent we as individuals have become divorced from the necessity to make such provision in relation to food, since we can so easily obtain it from a supermarket at any time of the year. Many of us, however, will have paid into a pension pot in some form or other in our working lives, and some of us are no doubt now using such provision to sustain us.
How might we apply this ‘harvest’ principle to our spiritual lives? Each of us has been given gifts by God, and St. Paul tells us that such gifts are for the building up of the body of Christ. These gifts are a storehouse of spiritual energy for use by the church. Our individual task is to identify and then nurture our gift or gifts – whether it is for encouraging, or discerning, or teaching, or serving, or leading or even administering (all gifts of the Spirit according to Paul) – and when they are mature and ripe, to put them to use in the building up of the church.
However the church in its turn should not be keeping this storehouse of energy to itself but sharing it generously and hospitably with the world. Church schools are an excellent example of the way in which the church seeks to use its gifts for the blessing of the society in which it lives. Food banks are another. Here at St. Paul’s we have built up during the last three years a sufficient storehouse of financial resources to be in a position to start to spend them on mission. Initially we have extended Emma Dennehey’s contract to include the co-ordination of our outreach to families and the vulnerable in our parish. Fun@4 has become a new way for us to engage with families and enables them to take part in worship and learning which is shaped to their needs. This harvesting of our resources is enabling us to plant new seed for the future.
We are planning other initiatives over the coming months and I would like to encourage all of you to pray and to consider how God is asking you to use your resources – your skills, your time, your energy, your ideas and your money – to support and build out from these initiatives. I look forward to discussing this with you over lunch after our Harvest celebration on the 13th, at which we will be joined by Katy Wardle from Cre8’s Project Grow who will speak to us about her exciting new scheme to deliver food around Macclesfield.