The OCTOBER edition of the Non-Subsribing Presbyterian Magazine is available. The Table of Contents appears below.
The Hymns we sang together – No. 4
A selection of virtual worship and inspiration from our Churches’ Social Media sites.
EDITORIAL - REV. HEATHER WALKER
I think October is my favourite month. The autumnal colours hinted at in the last weeks of September burst forth in glorious vibrancy. Fruits and nuts are full and round, ready to be enjoyed. The ground is carpeted in crispy, scrunching leaves, and there is a scent in the air that can’t be described; fecund and rich and unique.
It’s the time of Harvest celebrations in many churches, and again, while these may look different this year, the feeling of gratitude towards a bountiful God and a skilled workforce of food producers remains the same.
Of course the scale of this production may vary: from the vast industrial farms to the small-holding or allotment, the community orchard to the polytunnel in the back garden. But the pride in the harvest remains the same. We rejoice when we see something meet - or even exceed - our expectation. When the potential carried within a tiny seed is fulfilled there is a certain satisfaction felt by those who have had a hand in its husbandry.
It is no surprise then that God is often described to us as a farmer or gardener. Not only does He oversee those who plant in our lives, watching as we are nurtured and watered, as we come through cold snaps and droughts, hurricane and pestilence; but as we continue to grow through these experiences He feels the pride of the gardener, acknowledging that the measures He had put it place to protect us and shore us up proved effective. After all, are we not promised in His word that He, the Faithful God, ‘will not test us beyond what we can bear?’ Aren’t we promised that we can ‘dwell in the shelter of the Most High, in the Shadow of the Almighty’?
The Lord doesn’t tell us that He will take the storms away. He reminds us that He will be with us throughout them. Even Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples in John 17 does not ask for those He calls His own to be removed from the world, but that they would be kept safe whilst they were within it. This protection allowed them to grow and reach their potential, despite the different fruits and crops they represented. Admittedly, some might raise an eyebrow at this ‘protection’, as only one of the twelve is reported to have died a natural death, but again, this was not the shelter that was offered. Each of the twelve died with their faith as strong as the night that prayer was offered. Each, within the time of their service, fulfilled the potential referred to when Jesus first sent them out into ministry: that they would heal the sick, exorcise evil spirits, bring glory to the Name and the Authority of God. That crop was protected, and the fruit brought forth re-seeded communities and countries despite of, or because of, the way their faith stood firm amid the storm - even if that storm was death.
This has been a trying year. Has your faith remained strong? Praise God for the way He has protected and nurtured it! Is it perhaps a little ragged? Its growth stunted by unseasonable frost? Why not check on your shelter? Maybe a little of the polythene came loose from your tunnel. A pane of glass cracked in your greenhouse. Do you think that means it’s the end of your faith’s journey, or your potential to bear fruit? Of course not. These things can be repaired (or re-prayer-ed, if you’re in the mood for a ban pun) by spending time with our Head Gardener. Prayer, scripture, praise and support from others can nurture that crop until it is strong and healthy once again.
Our Farmer Father can give water even from a rock, and replenish the soul’s food like the widow’s flour and oil. Trust Him. Move further into His shelter and shadow if you feel the coming storms will be too much. Love Him, and love His people; tending them with the same care He has lavished on you. Then with strength and conviction we can speak the words of Psalm 73:26:
‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever.’
We cannot know what seeds this fruit of our faith will plant in others, as the cycle of harvest continues.
Yours in Christ,