“…Gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the
bread of life. Gather the hopes and dreams of all; unite them with the prayers we
offer now. Grace our table with your presence, and give us a foretaste of the feast
to come.” – Let the Vineyards Be Fruitful (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #182)
Dear friends in Christ,
These are the words of our offering hymn this fall. Despite singing them week after week, I
wonder whether in the rhythms of our year and of our daily lives we sometimes fail to pause in appreciation for the abundant gifts that have risen up among us. It is the season of agricultural harvest: the remaining crops are being gathered before the first frosts, my farm share pickups have turned decidedly toward fall squashes and root vegetables, the wild animals are now noticeably stocking up for winter.
And we are singing week after week about the harvest in church. To some extent we do so as a
way to honor the natural seasons, the rhythms that feed and sustain our created, bodily selves. But we sing about harvest, too, because it speaks to us about God’s work among us. The harvest time points us back to the spring when seeds were planted, when we had some vision of what we might expect, but when we did not yet know the breadth and depth of what would emerge. It speaks to us a reminder of God’s fundamental work of death and resurrection, of bringing new life out of what has been buried in the earth.
Three years ago, Immanuel completed together a process to identify our vision for expanding
and supporting our ministry in the community. When we set those goals and that vision, we didn’t know where it would lead us, how we and the community around us would change and grow, or what God really had in store for us. But we set out in faith with some plans and the ability to be flexible. As it took shape we accomplished a lot – we put in a new, safer, more
accessible playground for our kids, made some updates (like LED parking lot lighting) to our property and began assessing long-term needs in order to better steward our physical resources, we worked to learn more about service and justice work in our community, and we continued experimenting with old and new in worship and music. Not everything grew as we expected,
but other things have surprised and delighted us.
As we enter this season of harvest, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the fruit of these years. But
we also gather something else in the harvest. When we look back to see what God has already done among us, we often have a fresh ability to look forward with hope. Even though we don’t fully know what the future holds or what is next for our congregation and our community, we go forward trusting that God will continue to lead us and surprise us with fresh and new growth.
That is the basis for our stewardship theme this year: Harvest of Hope. Over the next weeks the
stewardship team, council members, and I will be inviting you to opportunities for reflection on where we have been and on how you will be able to participate in preparing for another season of planting with your time, energy, ideas, and financial resources.
As we do that, I hope that we will grow together as a community in our awareness of the abundance that surrounds us and the excitement of what else is yet to come in our lives together at Immanuel.
And we will keep singing about the harvest, about the ways in which God harvests, too.
Gathering our hopes and dreams, uniting them with the prayers that emerge from deep in our souls. And gathering around a table full of the fruits of the harvest and full of hope for what God is yet to do.