It's my pleasure to share this short article with you during a season of the year where people from all over the world typically give thanks to their god or gods, depending on what their understanding of that may be.
My name is Alastair Donaldson and I am Church of Ireland Curate to the Bishop within the Roscommon Group of Parishes including Lanesboro.
I live with my wife Elise in Roscommon Town and we moved to this area 13 months ago. It is truly one of the loveliest parts of Ireland.
As does happen every year, Lanesboro Church of Ireland will be celebrating the goodness of our Lord by means of a Harvest Thanksgiving service. This year's date will be Sunday, October 9 at 3.30pm.
We look forward to welcoming visitors, members of the community and parishioners alike and once again, anybody reading this is most welcome to attend and be warmly received. We are looking forward to music from the 'Longford Voices United Gospel choir' as well as some well known harvest hymns sung by the congregation.
The service will include some prayer and a bible talk from our guest speaker for the day - the Rev'd Ian Horner (Bailieboro). Afterwards people are welcome to stay for some tea and refreshments and have a chat with one another.
So what is the idea behind a harvest thanksgiving service and where and when did the tradition take hold within the Church of Ireland?
Well, in one sense it is obvious.
The name itself, as explained above, tells you what the purpose is.
Many different churches and denominations have their own way of marking such an occasion and indeed various towns and communities may choose to have celebrations of a more secular nature.
Within the Anglican tradition (of which the Church of Ireland is part), the practice originated in 1843 with the Church of England minister the Rev'd Robert Hawker, Cornwall. The practice subsequently spread.
Throughout the Word of God, in scripture, harvest is a regular theme in a variety of different ways.
For example, within the Old Testament in the book of Leviticus, the Lord God Almighty gives instruction through Moses to his people Israel telling them to always remember the refugee or the person who has nothing to eat by 'not reaping to the very edges of the field' before putting his stamp of authority on the command by stating "I am the Lord your God".
So we can see from earliest times, the Lord who created the heavens and the earth wanted his people to remember and love their neighbour through acts of generosity.
This was in part how the other nations and peoples would see the distinctiveness of God's chosen people. One example of this in practice we can find in the book of Ruth where indeed Ruth, a refugee foreigner, was permitted to glean around the edges of Boaz's field, the first stage of a relationship which led to them being married and their descendants included King David of Israel and ultimately Jesus Christ himself.
Speaking of which, the harvest theme was also used by Jesus many times as he sought to explain to his disciples and indeed detractors the 'secrets of the kingdom of God'.
For example, passages of Scripture very popular within Harvest Thanksgiving services include 'The parable of the Sower, the 'Wheat and the Tares' and the passages where Jesus commands his followers to 'pray that the Father - or Lord of the harvest - would send labourers into the harvest field' (Matthew 9:38). This was in reference to the harvest of human beings for salvation and such workers being given the task of teaching and sharing the gospel message of 'Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15).
Finally the whole metaphor of harvest, as with the wheat and the tares parable, is consistently used to express the truths of final judgement of the Lord Jesus Christ and the consumation of Christ and his Church. This is the sure and steadfast assurance we are promised within the Bible as believers where someone who has confessed 'the Lord Jesus with their mouth' and believed in their heart that 'God raised him from the dead' will be saved and inherit the glorious riches of eternal life in God's presence.
So that's a bit of the background to the reason why the season of harvest is so important within the Christian Church and why we are called to celebrate and remember God's goodness 'from whom all blessings flow' (Psalm 103). God bless