Thursday, 3 October 2013

Harvest Service

Our harvest thanksgiving service readings
Good morning and welcome to this short service of appreciation for what we have received. When compiling this list of readings, it became obvious that harvest is a nostalgic event and that to-days high tec. Farming has virtually wiped out the traditional idea of harvests that we all hold dear. So to day we celebrate the past and the world of nature around us, starting at the beginning - -

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 And God said “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  And it was so.  God called the dry ground ‘Land’; and the gathered waters he called ‘Seas’: And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds”: And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds, and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 

Then God said, “Behold, I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the air, and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it  -  I give every green plant for food”. And it was so.  
God saw all that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Hymn  447.    Morning has broken like the first morning.



And Jesus taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching said, “Listen. A farmer went out to sow his seed.  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 away because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns; which grew up, and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.  Still other seed fell on good soil.  It came up, grew, and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”

Weeds in a garden

I spent this morning hoeing in a part of the garden which had run to weeds very miserably.  Thistles, nettles, chickweed, and a multitude of other undesirable growths had taken possession and extinguished every decent inhabitant of the soil.  There are few more depressing spectacles than a garden that has fallen on evil times and has become a sort of slum of nature, where everything that is beautiful and wholesome has been trampled out of existence and everything that is coarse and worthless riots in profusion and triumph.  As I hoed the weeds up I reflected on the generosity with which Nature looks after the weeds and the meanness she shows for the more delicate and beautiful of her children.  Nature must love the weeds, or she would not have made them such sturdy fellows and given them such a lusty hold on life.
Hymn  705.   We plough the fields and scatter.

The Harvest Moon

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.

Harvest on Jura in the 1920s

In the golden days of autumn, usually the first week of October, when the sun seems all the hotter for the night’s hint of frost on the high ground, the hay harvest was carried. 

The hurdle was lifted off the big gate, brushwood bases were set out for two big stacks – oblongs as long as the byre and parallel with its wall.  Away up the bay a procession of carts was winding along the road by the shore – everyone was coming to help.

Soon the carts were bringing in their loads of sweet-smelling hay.  When the first layer had been laid on the brushwood and the two elders in charge had got it settled and squared off to their satisfaction, the women and children climbed on to it and started the tramping, firming the hay down smooth and even, slow and steady up and down the length of the stack, turning clockwise at the end, never withershins.  One of the elders was on top to control the trampers and the other was below, endlessly combing down the sides and ends on the stack to keep them vertical.  Salt was sprinkled on the warm hay – not too much and not too little – as up and up the stack went until a ladder was needed to get up and it was a long reach for the forkers even from the carts.

There was laughter and wisecracks and an enormous feeling of wellbeing and rejoicing.  Pails of buttermilk and baskets of girdle scones with butter and jam were brought out, and everyone was expected to both eat and drink.

Tramp tramping up and down, never too near the edge but near enough, keeping well clear of the forks as they brought the hay up to the builder and came away clean and shining.  Gradually the top of the stack grew smaller and smaller as they brought it in to a slope steeper than the byre roof.   Now we slithered down leaving the old ones to do the finishing while we started on the next stack, tramp tramping while the heat rose from the hay in a shimmer and our noses twitched with scents and dust.

The stacks were allowed to settle before they were thatched, just like a house but not quite so thickly, and then carefully roped.  A rope went the whole length along the ridge and was fastened to a big stone almost at ground level.  Then ropes were thrown over from side to side, about five or six of them, again secured to big stones; other ropes going over between these were fixed to the stacks by twisting then into the hay on the vertical sides. Then, starting from near the ridge, ropes were threaded through the whole length of the stack and made fast to the main ridge rope at the gable ends.

The harvest moon rose red and huge over the sea, the stacks cast dark shadows, the owls called in their new hunting ground, while the cows in the byre rattled their chains as they tossed the sweet hay.  The harvest was home.

Hymn 121.  Come, ye thankful people, come

From The Village, in 1947

Harvest is literally the crown of the year for us who live in the cornlands; all the months lead up to it and upon its success or failure depends all we know of prosperity.  No sooner is the stubble ploughed in, than the drill advances over the field, scattering the new seed, first the winter wheats, whose frail green straws will lie buried under the snow, and then the oats and the barley.  To casual eyes it all looks much the same throughout the spring and early summer; but as it ripens, the differences become more obvious.  Barley in ear is like fur, like a soft pelt, and it ripples like water as the wind blows over it.  Gradually, as harvest time draws nearer, the ails begin to bend over, till at last they point back to the earth instead of up at the sun.  But to the very end the wheat heads remain erect and proud.  Both fall at last however, to the binder whose clatter is the best counterpart we have today to the sibilant scythe.

Diary of a Church Mouse.

Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meager frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes ... it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.

Hymn  26.  All things Bright and Beautiful.

Moonlit Apples.

At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green.  There goes
A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep,
And stiller than ever on orchard bough they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
On moon-washed apples of wonder.

The Meadow and Hedgerow in Autumn

Mushrooming early on an autumn morning is perhaps the best of all expeditions if the mushrooms are there to be found.  But blackberrying too is great fun, and one can be surer of finding brambles; also, one can eat a fair share while picking.

When the harvest has been cut, the stubble fields stand wide and empty before ploughing begins.  The weeds of harvest are still blooming among the sweet-smelling straw – poppies that have escaped being cut, scarlet pimpernel, the little yellow ball-flowered hop trefoil, the knot grass and the beautiful fluellen, like a tiny creeping antirrhinum with a vivid yellow and purple flower.

The swallows and martins begin to gather for their long, dangerous flight south. The lines of dark birds whistling, fluttering, flying short distances and returning, obviously preparing for their great adventure in a state of mounting excitement, are a sight with which everyone is familiar along autumn lanes.  The willow warbler often stays later even than they, but by early October he will be gone too, taking away with him that best of all weathers, a fine September.

Over the earth  

Over the earth is a mat of green,
Over the green is dew,
Over the dew are the arching trees,
Over the trees the blue.

Across the blue are the scudding clouds,
Over the clouds the sun,
Over it all is the love of God,
Blessing us ev’ry one.

Hymn:  Guide me, O thou great Redeemer

The service then continued with a short communion lead by Ted Self

Our thanks to those who took part in the service, Alexander Hamilton, Polly Hamilton, Brian Blench, Margaret Armour, Ted Self & Kate MacDonald

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