Today we celebrate ‘Lammas’. It marks the beginning of Harvest, traditionally the wheat harvest. Lammas means Loaf Mass. At the beginning of the harvest the workers would gather, bake a loaf of bread with the first cut of the harvest and offer it at the Mass as a thanksgiving for the years growth. It was an offering to God of the first cut of the harvest in recognition of God’s provision. However we see it, it is still good to bake a loaf and share it, giving thanks for the Bread for Today. So that’s what we did yesterday. Among friends and gathered around an open fire we took a simple bread dough wrapped it around a stick and baked it over the flames. Watching the dough rise and cook in the fire we told each other stories about bread. Bread for today, the bread that sustains us and the bread of life. The story of the Israelites receiving manna in the desert, bread from heaven, bread, just for today tested them. Were they willing to put their faith in God? Would they gather more than a day’s bread? There are many lessons here about taking our daily share and leaving the rest for others, a lesson I rather feel we’ve often overlooked with supermarket shelves packed full – perhaps the shelves being less than full these past months might begin to teach something about abundance. At Lammas, we take a simple loaf of bread to ask a blessing and say – today I am okay. Let tomorrow worry about itself. The Bread of life for today. If we are willing to accept it, then it means giving up all of our needs and wants into God’s hands and living a strangely simple life. Live simply so that others may simply live. Jesus says that those who follow in his path will never hunger nor thirst. I believe that means more than hungry for food. Jesus reprimands those who follow him after eating the loaves and fishes. This is not what he means at all – no wonder we see Jesus take himself away from the crowds before and after these encounters. Even when the people experience God they don’t understand it, they just remember being fed. We share more than just a piece of bread when we gather, we share bread broken, symbolic of the brokenness of our lives and the life of Jesus broken for the life of the world. Unless the bread is broken it cannot be shared. As we gather we share in each others brokenness and slowly we can be made whole once again. As Richard Rohr says “We live in a finite world where everything is dying, shedding its strength. This is hard to accept, and all our lives we look for exceptions to it. We look for something certain, strong, undying, and infinite. Religion tells us that the “something” for which we search is God. But many of us envisioned God as strong, complete, and all-powerful—a God removed from suffering. In Jesus, God comes along to show us: “Even I suffer. Even I participate in the finiteness of this world.””1 We can have the life abundant if we are willing to refocus ourselves onto the path that Jesus trod. Yesterday we baked a small loaf over an open fire to remind us of the Bread for today. Here we will remember God’s blessings given through Jesus as we partake of the Eucharist bread, broken for the life of the world. Later, at Llanrhychwyn We’ll share bread for the journey – bread for today, the bread of life that sustains us.
I’ll begin with a very old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is near – Does it make any noise? Alternatively: If Jesus was raised from the dead, but no-one saw it happen, was he really raised from the dead? You can think about that for a moment or two. Two weeks ago we began to celebrate Easter. I say began, because the season of Easter is not one day long, but runs right up to Pentecost and we continue to celebrate the resurrection throughout this whole period. It tells us something. Something that our readings for this season tell us as well, that Easter was not one moment, but many many moments of realisation. Moments of clarity when everything comes into focus. For some it was seeing the empty tomb. For others it was in a locked room or walking along a road. For still others it was sharing breakfast. An experience of life made new. And here again as Jesus is amongst the disciples in Luke’s Gospel eating fish and talking amongst his friends. There are two things that give me comfort about all these experiences. The first is that they are experiences. Something happens. It is not something that they read, as we read their accounts given to us by the Gospel writers or in the book of Acts. No. The first witnesses to the resurrection experienced the risen Christ for themselves. That gives me comfort because if faith in God was only about writing in a book then I’d probably not be here. The second thing that gives me comfort is that there is disbelief and wonder and uncertainty. Not everything was understood. Not everything was easy. Not everything was immediately plain to them. They had to work it out from what they experienced.
So I come back to my tree in the woods. The tree falls in the woods, but no-one is around. Does it make any sound? Well, I don’t know because I wasn’t there! It may have made a sound, it may not. But that is not particularly important. What is important is that when I then go into the woods and see the tree on the ground, I can say that this tree has fallen down. Why? Because I can experience for myself the tree lying in the forest, it’s roots lifted up from the ground. From that experience I don’t go back and say to others I’m really not sure whether that tree made a noise falling down or not. What I can report is that there is a tree fallen. This is the problem we often have with Easter. We need to get the experience right. We need to experience the risen Christ for ourselves rather than to hear about it. I can tell you about it, or you can read about it in the bible. But it really doesn’t capture anyone’s imagination until it is experienced. Now if you then go out into the woods to look for the tree that I discovered, I doubt that you will wonder if it made any noise falling down. You might however marvel at the sight. The opening in the canopy perhaps where the tree stood. The other trees that were damaged as it fell over. The space that was created by this one tree falling. The possibilities for new life as one life comes to an end. Just so, we need to go out and experience the risen Christ for ourselves. I can point you in the right direction, and for some this may be a tree fallen in the woods, for some this may be amongst refugees and homeless. For some it may be in kind words from a stranger. The risen Christ continues to be experienced and whether in broiled fish or in bread and wine or in conversation or even in a forest, we need to be on the look out for the Christ as we continue to celebrate, but most of all we ourselves become witnesses to these things.