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All is safely gathered in

This is a bold, confident statement in one of the most popular harvest hymns. It is a song of thanksgiving at the conclusion of the harvest – our barns are full, we have food to see us through the winter, all will be well! Thanks be to God.

The next line, however, casts a shadow over this idyllic scene: ‘ere the winter storms begin’! In this line we are not thinking about possibilities but certainties. There will be winter storms! The severity of these storms is not the point: it is the inevitability.

To be caught in the midst of a storm is to experience the sheer power, the force of nature; a consequence is to realise the vulnerability, the fragility of human life. I watched in recent days the video footage of hurricane-force storms that battered and devastated islands of the Caribbean and hit the eastern seaboard of the USA. People were injured, some died; many lost their homes and everything that they owned. For those in Mexico who experienced the recent earthquake (think of a storm within the earth erupting on to the surface) the resultant situation was equally dire.

Hurricanes and tornados do not really feature in British weather reports; earthquakes are both rare and, if they do happen, generally quite small. But winter is still a time of insecurity, of vulnerability: cold, wind, rain, floods… For the most vulnerable in our society (the homeless, the poor, the aged) winter storms are a serious concern.

So, what can we make of this confident statement ‘all is safely gathered in’ that we sing in our harvest hymn? First, it is a song of assurance. God had blessed us through the summer months (the season of growing) and he will not abandon us through the dark months of winter. Secondly, it is a song of the community. It does not say ‘my larder is full: I’m alright’. The fields which provide for the community have been harvested and it is from those communal barns that the community will be fed. Thirdly, it is a hymn of thanksgiving to God: he knows our needs and will provide. But there is the challenge for us, as a community, to ensure that there is provision for all – especially the most vulnerable.

As the colours of the trees mark our transition through autumn into winter, let us never cease to give thanks to God for his goodness but also not to forget the needs of vulnerable people in our communities.

Come, ye thankful people, come,

Raise the song of harvest home!

All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter storms begin;

God, our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied;

Come to God's own temple, come;

Raise the song of harvest home!

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Sep 14, 2023

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