What Are We Sowing?
A harvest celebration
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To compare the processes of sowing and reaping with development in the activities in which we are involved.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (What Are We Sowing?) and the means to display them.
- Have available the YouTube video ‘We plough the fields and scatter (all good gifts)’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.55 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha628Pj_Rns
- Optional: if you have a school allotment or garden project, consider bringing in carrots that have been harvested from the project. Alternatively, bring in some shop-bought carrots to show.
- Have Slide 1 showing as the students enter the room.
Show Slide 2.
Ask the students if they can estimate how old this tree is. Ask them to share their answers with the people near to them. Then, gather a few answers from the students and state who is closest to the correct answer.
- The tree is estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. In fact, it is believed to be the oldest tree in the UK. It is a yew tree and, over the years, its trunk has split into several parts, so it no longer looks like a single tree but many. It can be found in a churchyard in the village of Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland, and is so large that funeral processions are said to have passed through the arch formed by its split trunk in years gone by.
- Point out that because this tree is at least 2,000 years old, it is likely that it was already growing at the time of Jesus. Point out that it is hard to believe that this huge, ancient tree began from a single, small seed like these.
Show Slide 3.
- Ask the students to consider who planted the seed that grew into the tree that we see today.
Perhaps it germinated naturally, or perhaps someone planted it in their garden. However the seed got into the ground, through the years, over many centuries, there will have been individuals who tended to the tree, who chose to incorporate it into the churchyard and who ensured that it carried on thriving. Most of these people are not alive now to see the tree as it is today, to see the fruits of their labours.
- Of course, some seeds that we plant grow more quickly. Many crops, such as carrots and beans, take less than a year to go from seed-planting to harvest.
Show Slide 4.
Carrots grow in a matter of months, but it still requires work and effort to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water them regularly, keep competing weeds at bay and eventually harvest them. There is something very satisfying about tasting produce that we have grown ourselves.
- Show Slide 5.
At this time of year, many schools and churches are celebrating harvest, which is the time of the year when lots of crops are ready to be picked and eaten.
- Harvest festivals and celebrations have been part of the UK calendar for a long time. In days gone by, gathering the harvest was hard, physical work and needed to be done quickly, before the cold, wet weather set in. At harvest time, lots of help was needed to gather the crops, and harvest festival was a time to celebrate the food that had been grown on the land. The community came together to gather the crop, and then celebrated bringing it in by holding a generous feast called a harvest supper. The centrepiece of the table would be a goose stuffed with apples and served with vegetables. It was a time of plenty, with good food for all to enjoy!
It wasn’t until Victorian times that churches in the UK began to hold harvest festival services. These involved prayers of thanks being offered and hymns celebrating the provision of the harvest being sung. Then and now, churches are often decorated with home-grown produce for the harvest festival service.
- One of the hymns that became very popular in Victorian times and is still sung today at harvest time is called ‘We plough the fields and scatter’. The words of this traditional hymn remind us how the crops that we eat are produced from the hard work and weather conditions of the previous year.
Let’s listen to an excerpt from it.
Show the YouTube video ‘We plough the fields and scatter (all good gifts)’.
Time for reflection
Nowadays, a lot of our food is mass-produced and few of us are involved in gathering in the harvest each year. The food that we eat regularly is more likely to have come to our plate via a supermarket, a lorry or plane and a factory to process the crop. Perhaps the hymn that we have just heard sounds a bit old-fashioned to us. Maybe we wonder if it is really relevant today.
However, let’s pause to consider the idea of sowing seeds and seeing the results at harvest as an analogy. It can be an analogy for the hard work that we devote to our daily activities, studies and relationships.
Some of the things that we do will bear fruit; they will produce results. However, it may take years before the results are evident. In fact, it may not even happen in our lifetime – a bit like the yew tree that is over 2,000 years old. It can be hard to trust that the kindness we show to someone, the conversation we have or the work we do now might one day in the future produce positive results.
Show Slide 6.
This girl is called Greta Thunberg and she is a schoolgirl from Sweden. She has been working hard to raise awareness about climate change and how we treat our environment. We could say that she has been planting seeds into people’s minds about the importance of the environment.
Show Slide 7.
Some of those seeds have produced results already: Greta has been able to see the fruits of her hard work. Many people around the world have listened to her message and some people are now thinking more carefully about how they can care for our world. For example, in the UK, the government has committed to introducing rules that mean there will be fewer single-use plastic items such as drinks straws for sale.
Show Slide 8.
As humans, we need the encouragement that the hard work that we devote to our daily activities, studies and relationships can produce more immediate results. We want to see these results in a matter of moments, days or months. Such results help us to have hope that what we do in this life matters. In the same way that carrot seeds that are planted today can be harvested in a few months’ time, we need the chance to see that our efforts have produced results. We need to notice and celebrate these results with an attitude of gratitude. In a way, that is what our school rewards assemblies are all about: a chance to notice and celebrate the fruits of our labours, to celebrate reaping what we have sown throughout the past few months. If we never stop to notice what we are achieving, we can easily lose hope.
For many of us, we also need the chance to recognize the role that God plays in supporting us and equipping us for the hard work that we devote to our daily activities, studies and relationships. Christians believe that God gives us our gifts and talents, he inspires us through the Scriptures and he gives us strength and wisdom when times are tough. The hymn ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ celebrates the ways in which God has provided the harvest. Today, we can reflect upon the ways in which God supports and equips us for our daily activities and relationships.
So, although times have changed since that hymn was written, there is something important about stopping annually to appreciate the results of the previous years and the ways in which God has provided for us. If we do not do so, we may never have the courage to hope that some of the seeds that we plant today may have long-lasting results.
Let’s take a moment to be quiet and still and to reflect on the idea of harvest.
Pause to allow time for thought.
Let us consider the seeds that we will plant this week: the actions that we will engage in and the relationships that we will nurture.
Pause to allow time for thought.
Let us consider how we need to be able to hope that the seeds that we plant today will generate results, perhaps soon, but perhaps a long way into the future. Let us hope that God’s love can equip and sustain us.
Pause to allow time for thought.
Thank you for the food that you provide for us.
As we celebrate this time of harvest, we thank you for the ways in which our lives are producing fruits.
We think about our positive achievements and the ways in which we show kindness and compassion to others.
We pray that we will be full of gratitude to celebrate our own and others’ positive achievements.
We also pray that you will guide us and sustain us with hope that our lives can make a difference and produce fruits worthy of celebration.
‘We plough the fields and scatter’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha628Pj_Rns