This article was published in the October issue of our parish magazine.
According to Wikipedia, this is one of the most often performed hymns in the U.K. It even features in a shortened form as “All Good Gifts” in “Godspell”.
- We plough the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God’s almighty hand:
you send the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above;
we thank you, Lord, we thank you, Lord
for all your love.
You only are the Maker
of all things near and far;
you paint the wayside flower,
you light the evening star;
the winds and waves obey you;
by you the birds are fed;
much more to us, your children,
you give our daily bread.
3. We thank you, our provider,
for all things bright and good,
the seedtime and the harvest,
our life, our health, our food.
No gifts have we to offer
for all your love imparts,
but that which you most welcome:
our humble, thankful hearts.
The message is simple. Human hard work is essential, but is often in vain without God’s gifts, for which we should give thanks – often. It is down to sheer hard work of farm labourers that seeds are sown, crops harvested and processed into foodstuffs. However without sunshine, rain and workers’ health and strength which God provides, we would all go hungry. This echoes the preface to the Eucharistic prayer that we hear every week: we give thanks for grain and grapes which God caused to grow, and which human hands turn to bread and wine.
It is a great shame that global food processing companies dominate in our supermarkets. Wholesome ingredients are processed beyond recognition and sold at cut prices in bargain stores to those who would benefit most from decent nutrition. It is the supermarkets that dictate what farmers will be paid for their produce (often below cost price), “misshapen” fruit and vegetables are left to rot, and farmers are driven out of business. There are endless documentaries, such as “Super Size Me“, lamenting the rise of cheap processed foods, and the addiction to sugars and fats that come with eating fast foods.
There is another way. Grow your own if you can, and eat seasonally. Strawberries for example are a summer fruit. We’re not supposed to be able to eat them in the winter! Out-of-season fruit and veg has been shipped thousands of miles around the world, at huge environmental cost. Shop locally, and eat locally produced foods. Visit farmers markets and support local businesses – and eat better while you’re at it. You could arrange an outing with friends to save on transport costs. My riding school recently opened a farm shop. The butcher there buys direct from local farmers, bypassing wholesalers. Arguably the world’s best sausages are made on the premises using only three ingredients – belly pork, cereal and herbs. Bacon is cured on the premises, fat trimmed to your requirements, and sliced into rashers of you own preferred thickness.
Enjoy eating nutritious wholesome foods this harvest, and have a listen to “We Plough the Fields and Scatter” while you dine.