Some of us in communities around the country, and a number of us within the life of the Church, have been celebrating Harvest time over these past weeks. Gathering in the harvest reminds us of the bountiful provision that many of us have, encourages us to give thanks for this and challenges us to remember those who do not have enough in such a way that we take action to help.
The gathering of a harvest is an end product following the sowing or planting of something, together with the nurture that is lavished on the seeds or plants which enables growth and fruitfulness. At this time of year there are a lot of pumpkins around. I am going to astound you with a bit of knowledge. Here we go! To grow pumpkins you have to plant pumpkin seeds. Yes I know that is astonishing, but honestly it is true. I have it on good authority that if you plant apple seeds you will not get pumpkins. I know that if you plant grains of wheat then it is wheat that you get not pumpkins. Be aware of what you plant.
This lesson that we reap what we sow is found in the Bible. In Galatians 6:7 it says just that - we will reap what we sow or harvest what we plant. That’s a great lesson for agriculture and horticulture and the like, but the interesting thing is that the Galatians passage is not talking about agriculture and horticulture. It is talking about things we sow into our lives which can produce good fruit or harvest or bad fruit or harvest. You see if you plant pumpkin seeds in your life don’t be surprised if you grow pumpkins!
Maybe what works in the world of agriculture and horticulture also works in our personal lives and indeed society. It would be possible to look at various societies and see the way that good or bad things come out of them because of the building blocks, or seeds, that lay at the basis of society. There are societies that seem to be compassionate and others that seem to encourage territorial conflict and even ethnic cleansing. It might be partly because of the kind of things that are planted and nurtured in the minds, lives, and actions of their citizens. If, for instance, from an early age children are brought up to hate certain groups or types of people then we should not be surprised at violence against and between such groups. If so we should be cautious of sowing the seeds that encourage the darker things of life, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
That I think is where the difficulty with Halloween lies. It is not the dressing up. It is not the games. It is not even the pumpkins!!!! But it is a seeming fascination with darker things when there could be games and dressing up and food (including pumpkins) which encouraged light rather than darkness. Of course with shops having an eye to profit there is unlikely to be much discerning from them about what might affect society in a positive rather than negative way (after all look at the sales of cheap alcohol that cause problems up and down the country).
Is British society going to be irretrievably harmed by the “celebration” of Halloween? Are children that dress up going to be traumatised? Let’s face it that is unlikely. However, taking the longer and wider view maybe we plant seeds into society that are not entirely good for it and which might produce fruit that is not good.
I am pleased that in churches up and down the country there will be “Light Parties” which will seek to emphasise the positive and enable children and parents to enjoy something wholesome. I am grateful to those in my own churches who are putting in work to ensure that we run a Light Party on 31st October. After all there are some really good positive things to celebrate. These seeds are good seeds and as they are nurtured they can bring a really good harvest for society. I hope parents might think of ways in which they can encourage the positive at this time of year. Halloween (or All Hallows Eve) coming just before All Saints Day (1st November) and All Souls Day (2nd November) lends itself to focusing on a deep appreciation of those who have gone before us. That is of special significance within the life of the Church but then isn’t that something precious in many families and communities as well. Parents, grandparents, the innovators and inventors of history, those who have built our communities might all prove to be a good positive focus for us rather than that which is dark, even if it disguises itself as a bit of harmless fun.Let’s be careful what we sow at this time of year. After all it might be more than just pumpkins that we grow!