It’s Lammas – the midsummer feast. We’re right on the cusp of the wheat harvest. In years before now, our ancestors had a much keener awareness of their dependence on the land and her rhythm of producing a harvest. In the spring, the grain reserves from the previous year would normally run out. There’d be something of a bread-less period (referred to in Ireland, apparently, as ‘July of the cabbage’) of waiting and hoping for a new crop to succesfully grow and survive to harvest. When the first sheaves of wheat are brought in from the field then, it wasn’t just a matter of saying ‘oh nice, something grew’. Instead, a community would celebrate that the harvest was coming – that there would be grain to feed them through the autumn and winter – that they wouldn’t starve. In one moment there’s a profound sense both of gratitude but also of hope. This first sheaf let’s me know that it’s going to be ok.
It’s not surprising then, that our pagan ancestors on these isles, just like the Hebrews of our scriptures, found profound spiritual meaning in the start of the wheat harvest. And if we allow ourselves to enter into it – there’s an invitation to us, too.
As you read these words, either by yourself or with others, find some bread / something wheaty (or a gluten free equivalent – it all works!) and have it in front of you. In the middle of this prayer, there’s an invitation to sit in that mixture of gratitude and hope. Gratitude for the ways in which your life bears witness to God’s kindness and provision. Hope, because as individuals, as humans, and as a planet, we know that the peace and justice and wellbeing that we’re longing for isn’t here yet. But maybe there are signs of it. Maybe in our hour of need there are yet hints that love is nurturing life again.
The earth is the Lord’s
And all that is upon it,
Created and creative things
Fruit and Fruitfulness,
Springtime and Summer
Seedtime and harvest.
For the promise of harvest
contained within a seed,
We thank you.
For the oak tree
within an acorn,
within a grain,
We thank you.
within a pip,
The mystery of nature
for us to sow,
We thank you.
(this is a good moment to consider two things. First, something you’re longing for / hoping for. It could be something incredibly personal or local, or it could be something societal or global. Try to listen deeply to your body and your soul for this longing. Secondly, some way, however small, that this longing is beginning to be met. Be honest – it might be nothing / nearly nothing. Again, give yourself a moment to reflect and name it.
(From Joel 2)
Do not fear, O soil;
be glad and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
For all these gifts and more,
We thank you.
For all that is in our hearts, spoken and unspoken,
We give you thanks.
Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life; those who come to me shall never be hungry and those who believe in me shall never thirst.’ John 6.35
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation;
you bring forth bread from the fields
and give us the fruits of the earth in their seasons.
As we share this loaf,
made from the harvest of your goodness,
let it be for us a sign of your care.
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
worthy of our thanksgiving and praise.
Blessed be God for ever.
God, we share in this bread and wine as a reminder of your provision,
A reminder that your abundance is always available to us.
We share in this bread and wine as a reminder of your presence with us,
A reminder that we can always find you, in each other.
We share in this bread and wine as a reminder of your hope,
A reminder that you are the bread of life who sustains us.
Lord, bless this community as we enter into the beautiful history of remembering you in this way.
May we know your provision, presence and hope, as we share in this ritual together.
(Share the bread and juice as communion together)
Thank you Lord, for the blessing of remembering you in this way,
We pray that all would have the freedom to worship as they desire.
Thank you for the food and drink which you have provided for us through your creation,
We pray that the world may learn to share your abundance as intended.
Thank you for this time to feast together as a community,
We pray for all who hunger and all who are lonely at this time.
In Jesus name,