By Rev. Don Green
As a young child, the Harvest Home Festival was one of my favorite worship services to attend. Throughout the summer, I had helped my mother and grandmother can cases of jars filled with green beans, red beets, corn, tomatoes and applesauce. All were grown in our garden or orchard.
On Harvest Home Sunday, a multi-tiered wooden display was erected in front of the altar. The display was filled with squash and pumpkins, baskets of fresh apples and pears, cabbages and onions; to the sides were stacked the wooden cases that congregants had prepared for the Lutheran orphanage. Mom’s cousin provided huge baskets of dahlias, along with some corn shocks and colorful gourds. The sanctuary was filled with the fragrances of the harvest.
Times have changed! We don’t have orphanages anymore; but we do have homes that care for developmentally disabled, physically handicapped or emotionally disturbed children. Health safety laws prevent us from sharing the bounty of our gardens with home processed fruits, vegetables or meats.
Now, at most, we bring some staples from the grocery store to church on Sunday for the local food pantry. Food offerings and special offerings no longer cover the cost of services to the young or the aged; now we look to tax dollars in hopes that politicians will fulfill the common good for the least among us.
As I write this article, Congress has recessed until after the election in November without enacting a Farm Bill. There is no federal relief for farmers suffering the massive crop losses from this summer’s drought. Nor will there be any increase in SNAP (food stamps) in the foreseeable future for the hungry poor. Forget a Harvest Home celebration for the hungry or the victims of natural disaster!
Legislators in Harrisburg find favor with constituents by chasing after supposed fraud by those served by or those providing services to children, youth, families and the aged. Yet, DPW (Department of Public Welfare) cannot document blatant cases of abuse to justify their special audits; meanwhile reducing payments to those individuals in need or those who care for and educate these most vulnerable citizens. Forget any Harvest Home bounty for the kid with autism spectrum disorder or the nursing home resident who has exhausted her funds!
“Come, You Thankful People Come” is a hymn we love to sing at the Harvest Home Festival or at Thanksgiving. But, it is first a hymn about Christ Jesus’ final harvest; “Gather all your people in, free from sorrow, free from sin. There, forever purified, in your garner to abide.”
Until that ultimate Harvest Home celebration and God’s perfect shalom, you and I continue to have a call and an obligation to care for our neighbors in need. Certainly charity helps; but government and adequate taxes are essential to their care and protection, even when administered through the Church’s institutions and social service agencies.
The Rev. Don Green is the executive director of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania.