Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.
A gardener was leaning on a fence, having a breather.
A passer-by paused and admired the beautiful garden in all its glory. Almost lost for words, she said, “Isn’t it wonderful what you and God have achieved together?”
The gardener gave a snort and replied, “But you shouldha’ seen it when ‘e ‘ad it to ‘isself.”
The passer-by could be said to be dealing in certainty. What then do we make of the gardener’s reply?
With September we move into autumn with its glorious colours and the opportunity to celebrate another year’s harvest. We tend to think that, if we went back 200 years or so, it was all simple and obvious; thanksgiving was offered to ‘God in his heaven’ and to the local farmers and their labourers who had worked the land. Everybody agreed on what harvest meant and where appreciation should be directed.
Nowadays it is surely very different. Produce is shipped in from all over the world and we are no longer limited to what happens to be in season wherever we live. We are also much more aware of the other world religions than people were 200 years ago. The concept of harvest thanksgiving appears more problematic, especially if we are people who want to live with certainty.
What do we make of the gardener’s reply? Is it dismissive of God altogether? Possibly so, or simply pointing out that co-operation is a key idea of harvest time. Modern life, with foods transported from all round the globe, with so many people involved in the supply chain, means that on the human level co-operation is something to be celebrated. We are indebted to people whom we will never meet and whom we can never thank for our daily food. That is a certainty that can be generally agreed upon.
The other point we could take from the opening scenario is that God welcomes and invites co-operation from human beings. Nothing is simply handed on a plate to people whether they seek to follow God or not. There is always an element of mystery involved, and of hard work. Harvest is something obvious which is universally appreciated. It is also an invitation to consider afresh the mystery that is God, and to do our bit towards making the world a better place.
Robert Draycott (Rev)