Harvest time is a true sign that fall has arrived as various farm equipment are out gathering and taking off the various crops that are ready. Most popular in south-western Ontario are corn and beans. The harvest marks the end of the growing season, or the growing cycle for a particular crop, and the social importance of this event makes it the focus of seasonal celebrations such as a harvest festival, found in many religions. “Celebrate the feast of the harvest with the first fruit of the crops you sow in your fields.” (Ex 23:16). A Harvest Festival is an annual celebration that occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. Given the differences in climate and crops, harvest festivals can be found at various times throughout the world. Harvests festivals typically feature feasting, both with family and the public, with foods that are drawn from crops that come to maturity around the time of the festival. Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, contests, music and romance are common features of harvest festivals around the world.
Harvest is from the Anglo Saxton word haverfest, meaning “Autumn”. It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. The full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the “Harvest Moon”.
The central theme of harvesting is the gathering in of foods. Food is central to our being, our culture and our relationship to other living things on our planet. Farming is at the core of how each person interacts with their environment. Farmers are a precious natural resource to our lives. Almost every thing we eat comes from a farmer in some way.
“Every one of these depends on you to give them daily food. You supply it, and they gather it. You open wide your hand to feed them and they are satisfied with all your bountiful provision” (Psalm 104:27-28).
The word harvest most commonly refers to grain and produce, but also has other uses. In addition to fish and timber the term harvest is also used in reference to harvesting grapes for wine. Within the context of irrigation, water harvesting refers to the collection and run-off of rainwater for agricultural or domestic uses. “They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herbs diminish” (Psalm 107:37).
There is another kind of Harvest. The word is used as well on a spiritual level.“If we have sown spiritual seeds among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” (1 Cor. 9:11). it also says in Galatians 6:8 “what ever you plant is what you harvest. If you plant in the soil of your corrupt nature, you will harvest destruction. But if you plant in the soil of your spiritual nature you will harvest everlasting life.”
In the books of Luke and Mark in the New Testament there is a parable that uses the farming metaphor to discuss sowing of spiritual seeds and our spiritual lives in the Parable of the Four Soils. “A farmer went out to sow his seeds. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so they did not bare grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times. (Mark 4:3-8)
Jesus goes on to explain the parable to his disciples. The seed in the parable is the word of God. The good soil is us as people who are ready to hear the word and let it sink in and grow in us. The yield of the crop depends on how much seed falls on good soil. As Christians we are also the farmers. It is our responsibility to spread the seed (God’s word and message), but we should not give up when some of our efforts fail. We are to remember, not every seed falls on good soil. We must still make the effort and sow the seeds for God. The planting of the seeds is only half of a farmers job. In Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38)
Jesus was speaking of the crowds that he saw following him and was referring to them as a field ripe for harvest. Many people are ready to give their lives to Christ if someone would show them how. Jesus commands us to pray that people will respond to the need for workers. Often, when we pray for something, God answers our prayers by using us. We need to be prepared for God to use us to show another person the way to Christ. We can’t make excuses to ourselves or others that the people around us are not ready to come to Christ.
As we move through the fall season of harvest and into the winter months I hope that we as Christians will think of the spiritual harvest when we see the physical harvest of the crops around us. That the Christian harvest is plentiful, but God needs more workers in the field to help bring in his newly ripe and ready believers.