RS Thomas’ poem The Bright Field is over quoted perhaps, but maybe with good reason. It touches on the nerve endings of faith, the places we are anxious to itch, but are unable to scratch with conventional religion. So when the sun broke through the clouds to illuminate the small field on which the Coda Festival was held this past week it would seem churlish not to suggest that here we might have been able to find something to treasure. (Thanks to Neil for being there to take the photo – who knew you would be sermon inspiration!) For those unacquainted Coda is a small festival of arts and action born out of a desire to connect those in Wales who are doing the little things, Pethau Bychain, for the good of the kingdom, or just for the good. As the Orthodox Christian might suggest our task is to illuminate the grace and beauty already present in the world. The task of Coda is to encourage that illumination with music, poetry, art, storytelling, discussions all of which came together this past weekend at Dol Llys Farm, Llanidloes. Unlike Thomas’ poem we have not gone our way and forgotten it. Those there were ‘Gathering Hope’ (the theme for the weekend) were encouraged away with new discoveries to explore what it might mean to live in this hope connected with those who inspire, liberate, lament and meditate. The heart of Coda is a diverse network of folk across Wales and beyond which cuts through denomination, even faith. As Daphna Baram suggested in her comedy show, we need to have a fat heart. A heart generous and welcoming; humble and connected. The desire to be on that journey to bring close the kingdom values of peace, reconciliation and justice grows with a real hope. So as we read the story in John’s Gospel at the aftermath of the feeding of the five thousand in what might feel like a lean week after the feast of the Coda festival, we too can be liberated from chasing the dream of the dazzling light. The crowd wanted the same again, their fill of the loaves. Yet the real beauty comes in our response, in the quiet change, in the poetry, musing and reflections that follow on from a protest against injustice. The gathering of hope need not be deflated, (thanks to Dith and her space-hoppers) but can be inspired. This is it. This is the work of God, Says John’s gospel that you believe in him whom he has sent. The honest testimonies of the heart, of austerity, traditional melodies and heartfelt lyrics of Coda allowed us to connect with that God in a myriad of creative ways. The real experience however begins as we discover that journey with justice, breathing humanity in all its imperfections. The heart of the gospel then is to believe that the way of Jesus is the way of God and the way of God is not through great signs and wonders, but simple, quiet faith, creative resistance to the powers that oppress and a liberation of our identity not as belonging to distinct communities, but seeking a common asylum with those who also are dispossessed. The challenge of Coda laid down is for us to confront our identity. Perhaps we are holding on too tight. Coda can be a place to allow us to let go, to be broken and yet made whole. The bread of life is broken that we might be made whole. Such a breaking of bread occurred at the feeding of the multitude, the crowd didn’t get it and wanted another. When the bread is broken, the sharing can begin. Will we take the chance offered to us in the breaking of bread to enlarge our heart into the way of God?
And if you missed the weekend, don’t worry, for Coda is coming to us in Betws-y-Coed on the weekend at the end of September for a Gŵyl Bach Mihangel featuring local choirs, musicians, two of Coda’s award winners Jane Sutcliffe and Cass Meurig and to end on the Sunday evening, the final Male Voice Choir concert of the season with Côr Meibion Caernarfon.