Make Bread, not War

IMG_0760Make Bread not War.  If you receive the weekly news sheet from the Diocese, ‘StAR’, you’ll notice a proliferation of services, vigils and the like for today, tomorrow and the coming weeks to mark the beginning of the First World War.  And here we are celebrating Lammas, Loaf-mass,  Make Bread not War.  It makes me slightly uneasy to see so many services marking the centenary of the outbreak of the 1stWW.  It marks yet another chapter of human history when bloodshed and violence won out over conversation and compromise.  Like the old poem that begins “Back to back they faced each other.”  Without eye contact or conversation or compromise, there is no hope of reconciliation and violence comes all to easily to solve the world’s problems.  Make Bread, not War.  There is something about a shared loaf of bread that offers hope.  I was listening to Radio Cymru a few weeks ago.  Carol Parry Jones was interviewing three or four generations of one family who had made kitchen and bakery catering size equipment and machines for the same length of time.  She remarked that she remembered them from Davies Bakery here in Ffynnongroyw.  It set me wondering how much a village loses when the bakery closes and whether we should once again be baking bread here.  As a community enterprise, not-for-profit, offering a simple, fresh, loaf of bread.  There is something so very simple about fresh bread, perhaps it is the smell or the feeling that this is how life should be.  It is just I suppose that there are not enough hours in the day, so we make do with something less than perfect and our children grow up to expect bread to be something woefully short of real fresh bread straight from the oven.  I know.  I’ve baked bread with school children with the wheat they grew and ground into flour themselves.  They kneaded their own rolls and baked them.  Not one of those rolls made it home at the end of that day.  They held on to them wrapped in layers of kitchen paper as if they were priceless treasures.  This is how special bread is and should be.  I’m sorry if you are now getting hungry!
Lammas used to mark the beginning of the season of harvest, the wheat harvest in particular.  I wonder though, if was more about gathering the folk together in order to cut the wheat than in celebration and thanksgiving.  Certainly, a loaf was baked with the first fruits of the harvest and presented at the mass in thanksgiving as we have done here today, but it would also have marked the point at which the workers gathered from hamlets around to gather together helping each other cut and bring the wheat into the stores, the straw gathered for roofs or bedding.  As we gather together in this place, perhaps we need to reflect on what our common task is or what our common task should be.  Is our common task still to gather the wheat into the barn in some way?  Perhaps our common task should now be to feed the hungry?  To give a little hope to those in despair?  To offer into the hands of children bread – food for body and soul.  In baking and offering bread we feed not only the body, but our spiritual needs as well.  There is something very special about fresh bread that transcends boundaries.  Perhaps it is just that with our mouths full we are not able to offer a word in anger, or with a full stomach we have no appetite for argument.   But Bread itself is a symbol of something deeply profound about our society and about our life with God.  We pray with it, we use it in our sacraments, we read stories about it in the bible.  Daily Bread.  At the end of the service you’ll be offered bread.  Eat one, and take one away with you.  Offer it to someone.  Tell them where it came from and ask them if they would come also and bake bread with us.

Beit Lahem – The House of Bread

Midnight Mass 2013:  Beit Lahem – The House of Bread.

beit lahemIt’s not Christmas without the ‘Christmas Special’.  Call me old and past it if you like, but – they don’t make them like the used to!  Except perhaps for Dr. Who and we’ll have to wait till the evening of Christmas Day for that.  The timeless episode of Fr. Ted springs to mind where the Priests out Christmas shopping inadvertently run into the largest lingerie department in the country – apparently.  Complete with unwanted Christmas guests and an award or two.  Of course the Jewel in the crown of Christmas specials in my opinion dates from Boxing Day 1977, the last but one aired episode of The Good Life.

Christmas – according to Margo came in a van – but owing to the fact that the tree delivered was 6 1/4 inches too short meant that the whole delivery was sent back.  Christmas – come the day itself has not been delivered, at least not at the Leadbetters.  With Jerry down with a dose of political chicken pox Jerry and Margo accept the invitation to Tom and Barbara’s for the day.  Typically, the Good’s Christmas is simple, yet simply the best they have ever had, especially with the absence of Mrs Dooms-Patterson on the social horizon.  For Jerry and Margo, Tom and Barbara’s Christmas was a Beit Lahem – a house of bread.  A place of hospitality and welcome, where one was able to let one’s hair down, even if chased into it by Tom with Mistletoe!  Bread is a symbol of hospitality.  We break bread and share a cup of wine this night.  It makes sense this night of all nights as a symbol of the Hospitality of God come to earth in the form of a child.

Terry Pratchet wrote in the Hogfather on Hope.  Whilst Death, (impersonating the Hogfather to keep belief alive) is giving children what they want for Hogswatch, (similar to our Christmas) Albert (David Jason) impersonating an elf suggests that you shouldn’t give children what they ask for because then there is nothing to hope for.  If all your hopes are realised in one day, then there is nothing to hope for tomorrow.  Bread today fills today’s hungry bellies.  But bread promised for tomorrow, now you can sell that forever. Death disagrees and fills the child’s stocking.

The hope for the future that is promised at Christmas in the God-child is a hope for a brighter future – one based upon the kingdom that Jesus taught of and lived out in his own life.  Jesus taught to live each day as it comes.  If we live according to his kingdom, bread everyday can be a reality.  That’s something worth hoping for, especially with the growing poverty here in the UK.  At the end of the film Hogfather we see Terry Pratchet the author in a cameo role as the toymaker selling Death the carved wooden horse that Albert hoped for all his life.  Hope for tomorrow means little and leaves us empty without bread for today.  As you leave tonight you’ll be offered a spiced sweet bread.  Bread for the journey, for today.  Full of eastern promise for tomorrow.  (checks watch) Merry Christmas.