Modern technology has brought us blessing and curse. Apples are available in the spring, asparagus in the fall. Bananas ripen on the windowsill, having made a long journey from — well, from someplace far away. Seasons are rendered meaningless by the global marketplace. Harvest, shmarvest.
Often now, something’s wrong with the food. People are getting sick. Is it the tomatoes this time? the Romaine lettuce? the strawberries? We squint to read the fine print and wonder if the produce has been genetically modified. Can we afford to buy organic this month?
Even in the city, we are vaguely aware that we can only reap what we sow — and that’s the problem. That is exactly the problem.
HENRY ALFORD’S BELOVED HYMN
The verses of “COME, YE THANKFUL PEOPLE, COME” strongly associated with Thanksgiving, were written in 1844 by a fourth (maybe fifth — sources differ) generation Anglican priest, London-born Henry Alford (1810-1871), then rector of a church in Buckinghamshire, England.
His mother had died when he was very young, but his father encouraged young Henry to express his faith in art, music, and verse.
Later, Alford became Dean of Canterbury Cathedral. By the example of his life, he modeled for us the ways we were to tend the gifts sown by God, so that they might bear good fruit, wholesome grain.
TIME OUT FOR GRATITUDE
In Jean-François Millet’s painting The Angelus, two workers pause in a potato field for evening prayer. We see the church steeple in the distance and know they hear the bells ringing, calling believers to bow their heads.
This image is so alien to our hectic, technology-driven lives as to be rendered almost nonsensical. Depending on our faith practice, we pause in our busy lives now and then to evaluate whether we are producing something toxic, trivial, unsatisfying or something nurturing, beautiful, sustaining.
Daily, we plant seeds, and then, either intentionally or quite by accident, reap what we have sown, often having forgotten to pause to give thanks or to experience the wonder of nature’s abundance. Our lives are God’s harvest. Remembering this, let us sing the songs of a thankful people.
TO GO DEEPER
“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” hymn lyrics and music on the Hymnary website
“Henry Alford — Author of Thanksgiving Hymn ‘Come Ye Thankful People Come” on the Christianity website