In Focus Magazine

Thought for the Month

In our house September is Thanksgiving month! It is generally the month where we celebrate Harvest and we have seen this done in so many different ways from traditional wheat in the church windows and a harvest supper in the aisle; to a collection of tins and dried foods collected in school and then sent to the local food bank along side raising money for bee keepers in Africa!

September is such a favourite month for us that we chose it to be the month in which we got married and this time we are especially thankful for the 40 years we have shared with God together. We have learnt so much about life with all its ups and downs, we have learnt to trust him and experienced what happens when we don’t quite manage that! Harvest was also the time at which our first son was baptised. Matthew’s name means gift from God, and that is what he is for us, and Simon too, of course!

Years ago an early harvest festival was celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest. The modern British tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall.

As we have come to rely less heavily on home-grown produce, there has been a shift in emphasis in many Harvest Festival celebrations. Increasingly, churches have linked Harvest with an awareness of, and concern for, people in the developing world for whom growing crops of sufficient quality and quantity remains a struggle. So this year we wonder if you will join us in supporting a ‘need’ for the developing world and also a local need – we would like to help Beacon Christian Fellowship ‘twin their toilets’ as we did with ours a few years ago and we will also be having a Harvest Coffee Morning on 28 September for MacMillan Cancer Support.

God’s people have always been encouraged to give thanks; from very early times the Jewish year was punctuated by festivals – the “Feasts of the Lord”. Some were timed to coincide with the changing seasons, reminding the people of God’s constant provision for them and also allowing them to return by way of offering, a token of all that he’d given them. Others celebrated some of the great events of Israel’s history, and the ways that God had intervened to help his people when they were in need. All were occasions of joy and celebration reflecting on all the good things that God had given to and done for his people, as well as times where the people could come close to their God and ask for forgiveness and cleansing.

We know of course that these festivals were never intended to be observed out of mere formality and empty ritual. The prophets warned the people against reducing these festivals to that level. The real purpose was spiritual – a great and glorious meeting together of God and His people. As we meet together through this Harvest month, we pray that you would know God’s blessing and that together we would all share that blessing with others.

Andy and Sue Willetts