Today was the Harvest Festival at church. Now, Harvest Festivals sometimes get bought up in a list of things that are out-of-date and irrelevant – maybe because we’re all townies now – but, being a contrary old sort, I actually think the Harvest Festival has the potential to be one of the most important services we have, at least in terms of relating to the wider world. In a world where millions of people live in poverty, where the environment is under threat, where we get around half of our medicines from rainforests, where GM crops and farm subsidies and everything else are issue, the celebration of the harvest, an acknowledgement of a spiritual component to the natural world, the need to thank God for the world around us and to carry out our duty in taking that harvest to those who need it most, is vital. Only yesterday Oxfam sent out a press release concerning the plight of Niger’s nomads.
Just because we’ve shifted from an agrarian economy to an information society, doesn’t mean Harvest Festivals become an anachronism. That shift just makes them more important. There’s a need for Christianity to embrace these changes, I think, to retain the services that have eternal relevance, to adopt new persepectives on traditional festivals, and to figure out new ones. Jesus often seemed interested in how we share our resources – Harvest Festivals should remind us of that, not just on a personal level, but geopolitical as well. “Love your neighbour,” He said, and in the global village everyone’s your neighbour. The task of the 21st Century is how the Church can help make that a reality.