All or nothing
“…if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (NRSV, Galatians 6:8)
In ancient times when a conqueror took possession of a country he signified it, not in modern fashion by running his flag up on the chief government building, but by receiving the gift of earth and water at the hands of its now subject king. The country itself might be vast in extent but it was all comprised in that token offering of earth and water contained in a golden dish and ewer.
So the harvest gifts which we bring to church are a token that all the produce from the farms and gardens and allotments of our parish, and indeed of the world, belong to God. Indeed they are God’s in a far truer sense than any conqueror’s lands because it is God who has created them. He has imparted life to the seed and furnished the sun and the rain for it to grow and mature.
So, far from any of the things which “we grow”, as we put it, being our own work, we do not even fully understand how they grow. That is why a Harvest Thanksgiving is a good corrective to a Horticultural Show – the major credit is given to whom it belongs.
And just as these gifts are a visible token and acknowledgement that everything which the earth brings forth belongs to God, so also our parish church is a token that the actual earth itself is his also. We cannot give all the harvest to him because we need most of it for our own use. And the same is true of the land. Therefore we set part of the land aside for him, God’s Acre with God’s House standing in it, as a sign that the whole “earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is” (Psalm 24:1).