Harvest Thanksgiving

Martin Luther in his Large Catechism (written for pastors and teachers and also sections of it were read as sermons) said in relation to ‘daily bread’ in the Our Father …

Here we think about the ordinary bread-box – our physical and material needs. It’s a short and simple phrase, but a far-reaching one, too. When you refer to ‘daily bread’ to ask for it, you are asking for everything you need so that you can have bread and eat it every day. You are also asking God to remove everything that prevents you from having it. So you have to let your thoughts range more widely, and think not only of the oven or the flour bin, but also of the open fields and the whole countryside which produce and provide our daily bread and all kinds of food for us. If God didn’t make the grain grow and didn’t bless it and look after it in the fields, we could never take a loaf from the oven to put on to the table.

To put it briefly, this petition includes everything that belongs to our whole life in the world, for this is the only reason why we have to have daily bread. Now, life isn’t a matter of having food and clothes and all the other things our bodies need. It also includes our need to get along in peace and harmony with all the people with whom we live and spend our time in our daily business, in our contacts, and in all kinds of circumstances. In short, our life includes everything that relates to the running of our affairs at home and in our mutual relationships in the community. For where these two areas are prevented from functioning as they should, our basic needs are interfered with, and, in the long run, life itself can’t be maintained. So what we need most is to pray for the secular authorities and the government. For it is mainly through them that God keeps on providing our daily bread and all of life’s comforts. Although we have received plenty of everything good from God, we can’t keep any of it, or enjoy it safely and cheerfully, if he doesn’t give us stable, peaceful government. For where there is conflict, disharmony, and war, our daily bread is taken away or at least it is at risk.

[Luther then goes on to talk about stable governments and how they need to remember their role regarding daily bread and what it all includes. He talks praying this petition to thwart the devil and then concludes …]

You see in this way God wants to show us how he cares about everything we need and faithfully looks after the very food we need to live. Although he gives this generously, even to godless and wicked people, and keeps on looking after our physical needs, he still wants us to ask for it so that we realise that we get it from him, and experience in it his fatherly goodness to us. For when he takes his hand away, nothing can thrive or survive in the long run, as we see and feel every day. Look at all the trouble that there is at present in the world simply because of counterfeit coins. In fact, look at the strife
caused by the daily growth of financial burdens and exorbitant rates in ordinary business dealings, trading, and labour on the part of those who do as they please, oppress the poor people, and take their daily bread away from them! We may have to put up with it. But these people had better be careful that they don’t miss out on the Church’s ‘common prayer’ [a phrase which means ‘lose the respect of the public’] and watch out that this little part of the Our Father doesn’t turn against them!

Yes, there is a lot to consider when we view a harvest thanksgiving table!