The Steward’s Harvest

October is traditionally the harvest month for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, farmers across the great American plains have seen crops stunted by drought and intemperate heat. Yet, October brings again the bright yellows and oranges of falling leaves and vine-ripened pumpkins and the invigorating crispness of autumn air. In October, we cannot fail to note the dying of things. The grasses grow dormant; the flowers fade and then yield to frost, the once verdant leaves fall and decay. This year of drought, many U.S. farmers have plowed under dried up corn husks that have yielded no fruit. October brings with it the knowledge that the cycles are ever with us, and that we, too, are part of this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. For many, it’s a challenging lesson. We sometimes turn away from all that this season tells us about our own mortality. But the Christian steward knows that stewardship is steeped in the season of harvest. It’s not surprising that the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with harvest imagery. There is a time for everything, the writer of Ecclesiastes tell us, and a season for every activity under heaven … a time to plant and a time to uproot. From our ancestor’s world, embedded in agrarian culture, we’ve moved to a fast-paced environment where we sometimes ignore the cycles of life, or fail to learn from their implications. Jesus, the offspring of a carpenter and the friend of fishermen, was also deeply attuned to the rhythm of the fields. He observed the seed that fell on rocky soil and the seed that fell on fertile land. He told us the hard truth that unless a grain of wheat dies, it remains but a single grain. It’s good, no matter how old we are, to yield to the lessons of this passing season. How do we approach the harvest? Have we prepared our soil well? What will be harvested from our lives? Where are our first fruits going? Are we comfortable acknowledging that the summers of our lives lead inevitably to their autumns, that all of this is God’s plan, that faith tells us another spring is promised somewhere in our future? October tells us what the heart knows: the harvest and the steward are inexorably linked.