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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Come, ye thankful people, come;
raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker, doth provide
for our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple come;
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field,
fruit in thankful praise to yield,
wheat and tares together sown,
unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade, and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear.
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from each field shall in that day
all offenses purge away;
give the angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast,
but the fruitful ears to store
in God’s garner evermore.

Henry Alford’s “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”
(tune: St. George’s Windsor)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

I consider one of the benefits of getting older to be an increased appreciation for things I long took for granted. For example, sometimes I’m absolutely awed by the produce of our earth—the beauty of a simple lemon and the multitude of ways a lemon can be used; the wisdom of hard outer coverings for certain fruits—like watermelon; the delicacy of some other fruits meant to be enjoyed right away. My list could go on and on.

The hymn by Henry Alford makes me yearn to have felt God’s provision firsthand on a farm—in the fields—during the harvest. I suspect that all of us would appreciate our food much more if we had been responsible for planting, growing, harvesting, canning, preserving. We would know firsthand the truth of the words “God our Maker doth provide.”

The second stanza of the hymn makes an analogy that I think is meant to help us understand God’s transformative power in our lives. The assurance is that our process of growth is slow but steady, like the process of the growth of a stalk of corn. First the blade and then the ear and then the full corn appears. Not overnight. Not in an Internet instant. But slowly and steadily our growth proceeds. The prayer at the end of the stanza is a prayer voiced to the Lord of the harvest. It is a prayer that we— like a stalk of corn, hoping to bear good grain—would become wholesome and pure grain through the process of growth and prayer, by experiencing both joys and sorrows, in the hard work of germination, pushing through the hard earth, and reaching up toward the light.

By God’s grace, I hope to remember that growth and transformation is a process—sure and steady. And by God’s mercy, perhaps the fruit we produce will be useful and lasting, wholesome and pure.

Gracious and good Lord, help us to hear your invitation—“Come, ye thankful people, come!” Let us come before you, Lord of the harvest, entrusting our lives to your tender care, and making our hearts full of trust and praise. Amen. 

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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