We live in the food bowl of Victoria.
Across the Goulburn Murray dairy, horticulture and viticulture; dry-land farming operations; and agriculture-related industries, such as food processing, packaging, transport and specialist engineering trades provide employment for many thousands of people.
For those of us who work the land, harvest is a time of reward and celebration when all of our hard work through the year pays off.
For the cereal croppers the harvest is now in, some delivered to silos, some still stored on farm hoping for a better price.
Tomato growers are well into their season, as are the stone fruits, apples and pears still have a wait and for grape growers vintage has just begun.
As I write this, I am just hours away from starting the harvest on my little vineyard.
It is the culmination of many months of preparation and nurturing.
It will be hard work.
Harvest is when we work harder than we have at any other time of the year.
The weeks of harvest are challenging to say the least.
We harvest until we feel as though our backs will break and our legs will give out on us... then we harvest some more.
In our churches around this time it is common to have a Harvest Thanksgiving service.
People bring in produce from their farms and backyard vegetable gardens, but also preserves, jams and sauce.
These days some people also bring in commercially packaged goods; the end product of the harvest.
Harvest Thanksgiving services have their origins far back in time.
At their roots is the recognition that as hard as we work we recognise that our achievements are not fully our own.
They have their origins in forces larger than ourselves — God, this good earth, our community and the people who have guided, protected, inspired, and nurtured us.
The German mystic Meister Eckhart is reputed to have said that if the only prayer you make is ‘‘thank you’’, that will suffice.
While few of us are agricultural farmers beyond a small, backyard production, our communities’ survival still rests on the success of the harvest as it did in more ancient times.
Whoever we are we experience the cycles of planning, preparation, waiting and reaping.
The old saying ‘‘You reap what you sow’’ uses the metaphor of agriculture to encourage us to take care with our attitudes and actions.
Not always do we get to reap our rewards as quickly as we would like, and by the same token other people who do bad things often don’t reap the punishments as quickly as we wish they would.
But regardless of when it happens, at some point ‘‘the chickens come home to roost’’, whether in this life or the next.
When we forget this truth we fall into the trap of doing things we will regret later.
We start making short-term decisions to get short-term gain, often at the cost of losing the long-term reward that we ultimately want.
So plant honesty, plant kindness, plant love and one day you will reap trust, reconciliation and friendship.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ... having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:6, 11
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
— Brian Spencer, Minister, Tatura Uniting Church