Sunday, 9 October 2016

A Harvest Story

This story was written for an all-age harvest service, and told on Sunday 9th October 2016. I enjoyed writing it, but it was tricky to ensure it appealed to (and had a message for) the adults and the very young children in the service.I hope I managed to get the balance right, and that you get something out of it too!
 
ONCE Upon A Time...
many years ago; before you could order a takeaway from an app on your smartphone, before battery hens or McDonald’s cows, back when all fruit and vegetables were organic, and all animals were free-range, back before potatoes were made into chips, before tomatoes were made into ketchup, or before meat was made into sausages, before even supermarkets were invented, there lived a small tribe of desert people. They lived – these desert people – in dusty desert tents, unsurprisingly, out in the hot, dry desert, near a great big mountain, as tall as the sky itself.

Now, because supermarkets were not invented yet, this tribe of desert people could not just pop into town when they were hungry to buy some food. In fact, it wasn’t just the lack of a supermarket that made that impossible – town itself hadn’t been built yet – not in that great desert, and no-one had come up with the idea of ‘money’ either, so even if they had got there, they wouldn’t have been able to buy anything anyway!

Instead, the desert people in that tribe kept their own goats and sheep, and grew their own fruit and vegetables, and they drank the milk of the sheep, and ate lamb and mutton, and whatever food they could grow from the dry, dusty ground, and what they couldn’t grow, they couldn’t eat.

It was not an easy life. It is very easy for us now to go to our kitchen and make a cheese sandwich when we are hungry, but when you first need to grow and grind your own wheat to make the bread, and milk the sheep and churn the milk to make butter, and turn it into cheese, it becomes quite a bit more difficult.

For that reason, this tribe of desert people were hungry for much of the time. And they were very, very happy when they managed to grow some food to eat – so happy, that each time they did, they threw a big party, right next to that great big mountain, and they danced and sang through the night, under the desert moon, until the sun rose again in the morning.


The desert people had a God, and he lived on top of that mountain. Sometimes, very holy men and women were allowed to climb the mountain, and they went to the top, and spoke with God. When they came back down, they told the rest of the tribe what God had said. The people didn’t always listen to the holy men and women, though. The desert people, like us sometimes, were not always good at listening. Sometimes, when the people did listen, they didn’t like what the holy people told them. And soon, men and women stopped trying to climb the mountain; it was difficult, and there were other difficult things, like growing food, to concentrate on instead – especially when people stopped paying attention to what the mountain-climbers had said.

One day, when it had not rained for months, and no-one had climbed the mountain to speak to God for many, many years, the time came for the people to gather their crops and plan their party. When they brought together all that they had, the leaders of the tribe saw that they did not have much at all. The fruit and vegetables were small and withered, and only a fraction of what they normally grew. Only a handful of lambs and goat-kids had been born, and they were small and weak. The leaders realised they would have to cancel their usual party, and carefully share out the food that they had to make sure everyone got something to eat, and nobody starved.

The desert-people were unhappy. They were all very hungry, and they knew that they would get hungrier and hungrier as the year went on. They held a meeting to work out what they should do.

As they all met up, at the bottom of that great big mountain, someone looked up, straining to see the top. As he looked up, he suggested that God must be angry with them. No-one had been to the top of the mountain to meet with God for many years, and that must be why, he said, their harvest that year was poor. The people of the desert tribe agreed. They had to make sure they had a good harvest next time, or they would all die, so they decided they needed to do something to stop God being angry.

They were all too weak to climb the mountain – and besides, no-one had climbed it for so long, nobody was sure about the way up – about which was the safest way. So they came up with a plan.

They looked at their carefully shared-out food, and they took a small amount away from every portion, to make another share, which they brought to the bottom of the mountain.

This is for you, God,” they said. “Please don’t be angry. Now we have given you food, you must make sure it rains so that we have enough to eat next year, and we can give you some more food then.

And so it went on each year, with the desert people leaving food for God to make sure he would not be angry with them, to make sure he made it rain.

Until one day it all changed. 
One day, God decided that if the desert people would no longer go up to see him, he would go down to see them. 
One day, God came down the mountain.

The desert people were surprised to see God walking among them. They were also afraid. But God spoke to them.

Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Come and eat with me.

And he sat down with the desert people, and shared his food with them.

While they were eating, God looked up. “Why do you share your harvest with me?” he asked them.

The desert people thought for a while and answered. “Because we are scared of you,” they replied. “And because we need you to send us rain. That’s why you’re eating with us now, isn’t it? Because we shared our harvest?

God shook his head. ”No. That’s not why.

Then why do you share your food with us?” they asked.

God picked up some bread, broke it, and passed it around. “Because I love you.” He said.

The desert people were puzzled. “But what do you want in return?” they asked.

God poured some wine and gave it to them. “Nothing,” he said. “It is free.

The desert people found that hard to understand and went to sleep that night thinking hard about it. They could not see the point of helping someone and expecting nothing in return. When they gave something away, it was because they wanted to get something back. When they invited someone to come for tea, they expected to be invited back to theirs. When they said ‘thank you’ for food, or drink, or good weather, they expected more to come in future.

By the time they woke up in the morning, they saw that God had gone back up the mountain.

He had not left them empty-handed, however. They saw he had left behind the bread and wine from the meal they shared. A small note was left beside them; “A gift,” it read. “It is free.

The months rolled on, and the people drank the wine and ate the bread. There was plenty to be had; it never seemed to run out. As they ate the bread, and drank the wine, they continued to think about that meal they ate all those months ago, and what God had said to them about love. Some of them even started training regimes, so that they would be able to climb the mountain to talk to God again.

Eventually, harvest-time came round again, and the desert-people planned their party. They gathered all the food, and all the drink, and – just as before, they put aside a share to leave at the bottom of the mountain.

And they danced and they sang all through the night, under the desert moon, right next to that great big mountain.

And if you looked carefully, by the light of that desert moon, you could see that this time, the people had left something extra with the food and the drink at the bottom of that great big mountain; a small note, left beside their harvest-offering. “A gift”, it read. “It is free.

THE END

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