the penultimate WORD
Series 1999 - Harvest Canon Jim Irvine
"Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy..."

 "Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy..."
Psalm 126: 6


Hope is a tireless companion. It endures a lot. Hope reflects the dimmest light and brightens up the darkest recess of sorrow, having the capacity to transform grief to joy. Hope knows struggles shared and is not a solitary sojourner.

Hope's recognition is realized in the harvest and lending its voice in expressions of joy as seasonal reaping cradles us in a satisfying exhaustion.

Harvest, reminding us of the cycle of life, and death and life again, draws us back to a pattern reflecting Easter hope.

Rogation begins a cycle with the preparation of the soil and the blessing of seed that culminates with the harvesting of crops with a sense of accomplishment and thanksgiving. The cycle begins in Eastertide and is reminiscent of Paul's instruction to the Corinthians. Except this seed die, new life with abundance will not be a reality. Paul draws on this earthy image and sees a parallel to the witness of the cycle of life. In its general application of death and resurrection as a religious hope, Paul identifies the particular witness of the Apostles of Jesus' death and burial, of Jesus' resurrection and commission.

The intellectual premise of resurrection is transformed by Easter morning and faith discovers hope realized in time and place. Paul recognized this and encouraged the community at Corinth. He helped them draw on their experience of sowing and reaping.

He helped them draw on their experience of rogation and harvest.

Paul's insight was a help, and one that has been passed on from one generation to another. We read it still at the Burial of the Dead.

We draw on Paul's image yet, to help grasp the simplicity and the depth of his insight and its reflection of Paschal hope.

The onset of grief lays bare faith made vulnerable in the presence of death. We sow in tears, as the Psalmist affirms. Hope sustains us as nothing else can. We need to summon courage to live through the doubt and fear that accompanies loss. As with the sowing of the seed, we risk all in hope of promise. And having risked, and borne the burden, we reap with songs of joy.

The harvest transforms intentional risk and loss and we discover joy.

Recalling the joy of discovery at the germination of seed, we remember the unaffected excitement that characterized so much of our youth. Not the joy of demand or the joy of expected appreciation, but the authentic welling-up of joy characteristic of song.

Tears replaced and transformed. Beyond loss, beyond, sowing, beyond the harvest of produce and seeing beyond the living to life itself. Joy indeed!

Copyright © 1999 James T. Irvine


Series 1999  | Canadian Harvest Thanksgiving | Thanksgiving Resources