Bread for Today

bread rolls-webToday we celebrate ‘Lammas’.  It is not something you are going to be overly familiar with unless you have come across it on an old calendar of the seasons.  It marks the beginning of Harvest, traditionally the wheat harvest.  Lammas means Loaf Mass.  At the beginning of the harvest the workers would gather together, 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.
Now the cynic in me might want to suggest that this gathering was contrived to draw the workers together before they were sent out into the fields, and perhaps it was.  It was certainly an offering to God of the first cut of the harvest in recognition of God’s provision of the conditions necessary for good growth.  A good year, and the people must have pleased God.  A bad year and the people clearly had need of repentance.  I dare not look up to the skies with that in mind.  But do we believe now in a God who changes the weather on a whim or perhaps if someone prays hard enough for a fine day?  Is that what our faith comes down to?  For me Faith in God is actually about what we don’t know, for if we knew everything, then there would be no need for faith in the first place.  We surely must continue to question and to re-evaluate what we know and each day we learn a little more.  I’m certainly not so arrogant as to believe that God changes the weather on account of my small needs.  If so we might as well still be offering our loaves of Lammas Bread in thanksgiving that the crop has simply been able to grow.  What then of the faithful people whose crop is washed away due to violent storms or flooding?  Is this some sort of judgement upon their existence?  That doesn’t sound very much like the God of Jesus.  Lammas may have gone out of fashion because theology moved on, though no-one thought to mention this to the complier of the lectionary readings for August!  However we see it, it is still good I feel to bake a loaf and share it among friends giving thanks for Bread for Today.  The Israelites were tested.  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 share and leaving the rest for others.  There are also many biblical suggestions for good land management – some of which still make it to at least some of our fields.
There is something more important I feel at Lammas.  That is to take a simple loaf of bread (and this year it is a very simple loaf as I left one ingredient out) and to ask a blessing and to say – today I am okay.  Let tomorrow worry about itself.  The Bread of life for today.  If we are willing to accept it, then in 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.  Goes the Christian Aid slogan.  Jesus says that those who follow in his path will never hunger nor thirst.  I believe that means more than hunger 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.  When the people experience God they don’t understand it.  We can have a life abundant if we are willing to refocus ourselves onto the path that Jesus trod.
I have baked for you a small loaf to taste after the service today.  We call it bread for the journey – for today.  When you eat it you can reflect on what is missing –  not the missing ingredient, (because for my taste, it is fine without it) but what is missing from our journey.

On sharing a little

bread and fishIt’s not much, it won’t feed them all, but it’s all I have.  Sorry, I should have brought more, but this is all there was.  But, before I give it to you – Can I just say?  That’s my lunch.  I know.  It is a little odd.  But I like bread and fish.  Oily fish soaked into a barley loaf.  Mmm.  It tastes great in the sun, sitting on a hillside.  What is going on today? Well I’ve no idea.  I thought something interesting might happen, but to be honest everyone has just been out walking and following the crowds of people.  And now we are all tired.  I’m not sure I want to give you this.  As I said, it’s not very much and it is just so simple.  Please, you are not to be disappointed.  And be careful what you do with it, I need to take the basket home, I’ll need for another day.  Okay, look I’m going to give this to you.  But before I do, just to say there are so many people here, who are you going to share it with?  Everyone will want something.  I don’t want to be starting a row you know.  You’ll be mobbed if you show them that you have got something they have not.  Look, perhaps I’m not ready to share this after all.  Perhaps I can help to go and get something else, help to carry, food for everyone.  We could buy fish and bread for all these from the market if everyone gave a little bit each.  That’s it, go around and ask, and I’ll help to bring it back.  Oh.  You don’t want to do that, do you?  No.  So it’s just the five small loaves and the two fish then.  Did I mention they were small loaves?  Me mam made the bread this morning, the fish is dried, from the market yesterday, sorry.  We can’t afford the fresh fish.  And anyway, there is no fire, so how would you cook it here?  Yes I see now, funny, how convenient that I brought this.  Okay.  Here, you can have it.  I can’t watch, this is going to be awful.  Wait, what are you doing, what’s going on? Hey, this isn’t so bad.  Look at this, they’re all sharing!  But you took that from me.  Wow, I’m so glad I had something to give, and I brought the right thing too.  Even what I had was useful, me mam’s bread, those small loaves.  And two dried fish.  What would have been the point asking for money, no-one would have wanted to give anything, but this way, they’re all so grateful.  And we could never have carried that much from the market.  I thought there would be a row, but everyone’s had something to eat, and more than enough.  You’ve shared it with everyone, there are so many people here.  That’s my basket, and it’s full again, how, did you manage that, I’ve got more to take home than I brought!  I thought you’d be disappointed that I had so little.  Something so simple.  I can’t believe I didn’t want to give this to you.  I was just tired, out walking in the sun with the crowds of people, waiting for something to happen.  Then eating oily fish soaked into a barley loaf sat on a hillside in the sun, what could be better, I like bread and fish.  I guess everyone liked it today.  I’m glad I gave it to you.  I’m sorry that’s all there was, but in the end, it did feed them all didn’t it?  And I’ve now got more than I started with, so, though it’s not much and it’s all I have, it’s yours, every time, every bit.

A Sanctuary and a Light

header_47Church Hostel Bangor is up for sale.  aka The Anglican Chaplaincy, more affectionately: AngChap or simply for those of us who lived and worked there ‘home from home’.

We were always walking a tightrope whilst juggling the twin identities of this place, Hostel and Chaplaincy.  Whether doing the accounts and applying for money, or justifying the existence of either to churches and dioceses.  We created an intentional community taking 25 or so students, throwing them together in a building attempting to create some form of community for a year.  Some years it worked better than others.

I’ve never been fond of church buildings in general because once established it is very difficult to let them go when they are no longer needed!  Hence the title of the book “Beyond these walls”. Though it is useful to have a place from which to come and go.  AngChap served that purpose well.  I was, however, surprised at the level of emotion welling up when I heard the news that Church Hostel was up for sale.  Hostel and Chaplaincy have for a number of years taken separate journeys in Bangor.  So as Hostel it was Sanctuary.  A home, a place of welcome and of hospitality.  Often with rather wild parties, gatherings and events.  Much like any other student accommodation I imagine.  This was met with Chaplaincy, which offered the Light (to lighten the gentiles).  It was indeed a place to come and go from.  A Sanctuary and a Light.  This twin purpose is perhaps the reason for the emotion.  For it is always in the relationships with others that such memories are formed.  The building for a time was, perhaps, a thin place.  But it was those who gathered there who made it so.  Gathered and scattered, more often than not scattered.  Though we often began at AngChap, we found ourselves around the world in that community.  Sent out to far and near for new experiences and challenges.  To discover new places and meet new folk.  To gather stories and return to tell others.  Every memory comes with people in mind, for it was the folk who gathered who made it what it was, who marked it out as special.  It was a place which spoke of, as the plaque in peace garden testifies, “The Love which moves the Sun and the other stars.”

bbq008I always remember one line from my dissertation written on Chaplaincy.  It was from another chaplain who did not have a building to work from.  He wrote that chaplaincy for them was ‘Abramic’.  One pitches ones tent wherever it is needed.  Perhaps then the tent will be re-pitched and one hopes that there will continue to be opportunities to offer both the Sanctuary and Light that so many of us enjoyed, revelled in and were moulded by in years past.