Reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity and Harvest.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field….you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.” Leviticus 19:9-10.

“The most powerful social media ….is not the internet…it is food. This connects all human beings.” Alex Atala, chef.

The book of Leviticus was probably written about three thousand years ago and this part of it indicates that provision must be made, literally in this case, for those in need and the stranger. All these years later, some may not be as closely attached to the land as used to be the case but shops and supermarkets are still places where donations can be made to local food banks and where food is sometimes pre-packaged for just that purpose. It’s a sign of the times in which we live that donations are diminishing in some places as people struggle with the cost of feeding their own families but, still, provision is being made for those in need and unknown to each other. 

At this season of Harvest Festivals, the services are often followed by a harvest supper, an echo of the time when those living locally would have worked together to gather the crop and then celebrate it. Storage of the crop would also be important – the reason that the firstborn died during the ten plagues of Egypt was because, as the eldest and heirs, they would have received a double portion of the grain that was going mouldy due to previous plagues. Today, it’s estimated that one third of all food produced is lost or wasted, about 1.3 billion tons worldwide, with 9.5 million tons of this in the UK despite 8.4 million people being in food poverty here and much of the food still edible. 

In the valley, the land’s yield has been taken in a different way as the trees on the hillside by the Centre have now been harvested. 130 lorry loads of tree trunks have been taken – the the skill and hard work of the harvesters has been impressive on so steep an incline and the thousands of trees felled will provide wood for all sorts of purposes. The harvesters have heavy machinery to do much of their work and, when they began, the beauty here seemed at first to have been devastated but, as in Leviticus, some areas have been left alone. That’s to leave areas for animals and birds to use or because the trees are inaccessible to the machinery and already new growth has appeared where the first trees were felled.

Harvesting takes many forms and, as terrible suffering unfolds in Israel and Gaza, Ukraine and Russia and other places of conflict or disaster, it can only be hoped that the food, water and basic supplies which are being withdrawn or running out will be restored on a humanitarian basis as so many displaced and traumatised people seek help. The author Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but the seeds you plant” but these fine words involve longer-term plans and outcomes. Food, supplies and help is needed now – what on earth can be done and what bitter harvest is being sown?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.