Paxtonvic’s Blog

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An homily for Lammas – 2010

Here is a reworked and new homily for Lammastide from paxtonvic. I love this time of year and the idea of offering the first fruits of our labours to God for his blessing. Some of the ideas come from various sources Ivefound in the past – sorry I cant acknowledge them!

Lammastide – August 1st.

Gospel reading for the day:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”.
(Reader: This is the word of the Lord – All: Thanks be to God)

Luke 12 v 13-21

There is a Jewish folk tale which tells the story of two men, Shimon and Zev, who went out from their village to work one day in the forest inhabited by bears.  As they were on their way, they walked past the house of the village fortune teller.

When the fortune teller saw them go by, he said nothing. But, in the way of fortune tellers, he had one of those flashes of insight which revealed to him that Zev would die in what was a dangerous forest to be in.  Now, this fortune teller was quite good at his arcane craft, and so he was greatly surprised to see both men return to the village that evening, alive and well.

The fortune teller had been so certain that his vision would be fulfilled, that he asked Zev to take him out into the forest where he and Shimon had been working. There, he thought, he might find some clue to the miraculous reversal of Zev’s fortune.

When they came to the place where the two men had been cutting wood, the fortune teller noticed a few crumbs of bread by a log at the edge of the clearing. “What is this?” he inquired.

“Oh,” said Zev, “this is where we ate our lunch. But, you see, Shimon had forgotten to bring his lunch. He was going to return home alone to get it, but I gave him some of mine.

Then the fortune teller understood that it was because of this act of charity that Zev’s life had been spared, and he said to him, “Your God has high regard for a little piece of bread.”

Today August 1st is Lammas Tide – some of you may recall that it gets a mention in the book of Common Prayer Lectionary.  It has a lot to do with bread – and with thankfulness to God for all we have and a reminder to share what we have with others.

The ancient Celtic peoples had a celebration at the beginning of August called Lugnasad at which they honoured their Sun God  Lugh. It was the beginning of the harvest season, of gathering in the crops and they would give thanks to mother nature for all her first fruits. There was another thread of  pagan  tradition in pre-Christian Europe which was the custom of offering loaves of bread to Ceres the goddess of agriculture on her feast day which was August 1st.

As with many pre-Christian festivals,  these  ancient early August festivals of thanksgiving  for the harvest were baptised into the Christian faith – and by Saxon times the festival had been called “hlaf-maesse” meaning “loaf mass,” which later became Lammas, as we know it today.

It was the day when the first new grain was milled and baked into small loaves of bread, which were offered on the  church altar as thanks giving for the first fruits of the harvest. The very human impulse to give thanks for our food was given a Christian take and God was thanked for the harvest rather than pre-Christian gods.

There are many old customs associated with Lammastide in the English countryside and I wont go into detail now – but rather than having the harvest celebrations when the harvest was done and dusted, Lammas, the beginning of the harvest process, was the time to give thanks to God for the first fruits and to pray for the successful completion of the rest of the harvest work out in the fields.

We have to remember that if a harvest failed or sudden rain wiped out a crop a whole community’s survival was on the line for the coming winter. As soon as the crop was ready in early August there was great haste to get it in safely – all was done manually of course with a scythe – and whole farming communities would stop everything to help with the harvest, knowing that on it depended their survival in the coming winter. Even after the sun had set they would carry on working by the light of the harvest moon until the harvest was home. One old weather lore rhyme says:

If the moon show a silver shield,
Be not afraid to reap your field;
But if she rises haloed round,
Soon we’ll tread on deluged ground.

What a lovely idea – to offer the first fruits of the harvest to God by making a Lammas loaf  which would be used at  mass or HC  near to August 1st. And as it so happens, I asked a couple of our congregation to make a loaf for this morning….. Nick and Sarah would you like to show us your wares and tell us about your bread making?

Let’s tie things up. In the story from the reading this morning we have a man who was obviously a successful farmer and had a wonderful crop of grain. He decided to build huge barns to store it all in and then sat back and  rested on his laurels. Thinking he has it made for the rest of his life and didn’t need to do any more work or think about anything else. Certainly God didn’t come into it his life equation. Jesus, telling the story about this man, concludes that spiritually it’s most unwise to store up material things and cut God out of their lives. Greed destroys our lives – both spiritually and often physically.

Our ancient ancestors often got it right. They had a simple sense of thanksgiving for the essential good things in our lives – whether they were pre-Christian or had a Christian take on things. We need to be constantly grateful for what we have and remember the powerful words used in the service of holy communion  “ everything comes from you Lord and of your own do we give you”

So in bringing loaves to church on  Lammastide our ancestors had a deeply  symbolic way of thanking God for their early harvest.  It’s good to remember too that the bread they offered in thanksgiving became the symbolic bread of Jesus’ body which he offers to us every week in the Eucharist – our thanksgiving to him for all his goodness to us.

This bread looks pretty yummy – let’s all have a piece after the service with our tea and taste of the goodness of Nick and Sarah’s baking and use some too in the HC service which follows.

A prayer for the  Blessing of the loaves

Loving God

We give you thanks for seedtime and harvest

For those who work the land both near and far

For the fruitfulness of the land.

Bless these loaves of bread, we pray

Symbols of the first fruits of the year

And bless all those who share them.

Help us to remember you great goodness towards us

Day by day and make us ever mindful of those

For whom survival is a daily struggle.

Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

Other prayers.

We bless you,
God of Seed and Harvest
And we bless each other
That the beauty of this world
And the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives
And be a blessing to others
Now and always


For the promise of harvest
contained within a seed
we thank you.
For the oak tree
within an acorn
The bread
within a grain
The apple
within a pip
The mystery of nature
gift wrapped
for us to sow
we thank you.

A harvest scene from ancient Egypt:

July 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Like the buses – another blog this time from Great Paxton Church

Here is my final offering tonight – pictures of flowers in Great Paxton Church for a wedding last week.

I think the cololurs and light here are gorgeous – click on the image to get the full effect. I could write a novel based on this image -though probably wont!

There were a lot more flowers by the way…

Some of the happy guests at Jules and David’s wedding at Great Paxton

What a great job – being part of a couple’s special day and helping it to go well.

Its not a job really, its a way of life.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bopping at Little Paxton

A couple of sundays ago we had a fab concert in  Little Paxton School Hall with the St Neots Concert Band and St Beots Big Band – it rocked as my daughter would say. I went at the end of a long day a’t coal face and really enjoyed it.

As did these cool chicks who had organised the refreshments…

June, Jean and Alison

Loads of thanks to Anne and the fabulous bands who gave us such a good night. Who ever said that fund raising cant be fun???

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pews or not pews??

Please dont think that I am obsessed with the pew question – though whenI went on holiday to Norfolk in early July I was fascinated to see a medieval church which had actually taken the pews out and put iflexible chair seating.

In a short space of time, I went into one medieval church ( complete with rood screen and painted saints) which was full of pews and one medieval church ( complete with rood screen and  painted saints) which was all chairs and tables.

What do you think?

North Elmham Church- with pews

Mattishall Church with chairs – loads of flexibility.

Guess which one I would go for? Apparantly on a sunday the chairs are all put in nice neat rows. The ladies how let me into the church apologised for it being a bit untidy!

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climb the mountains..

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

John Muir

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saving Souls

Just come across this little poem – it rings some bells for me:

All this talk of saving souls.

Souls weren’t made to save,

like Sunday clothes that

give out at the seams.

They’re made for wear; they

come with lifetime guarantees.

Don’t save you soul.

Pour it out like rain on

cracked, parched earth.

Give you soul away, or

pass it like a candle flame.

Sing it out, or

laugh it up the wind.

Souls were made for hearing

breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,

remembering august flowers,

forgetting hurts.

These men who talk of saving souls!

They have the look of bullies

who blow out candles before

you sing happy birthday,

and want the world to be

in alphabetical order.

I will spend my soul

playing it out like sticky string

into the world,

so I can catch every

last thing I touch.

by Linda Underwood

Just off to singsome songs in a Nursing Home with a few of our choir members. Its been such a busy few days with little spare time to play with my blog – but I hope to put some nice photos on later.

I did watch the new Sherlock Holmes series on BBC 1 last night – thought it was fantastic – though didnt sleep too well afterwards! Late night dramas arent the best thing for me to indulge in when I want to get to sleep…

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mary and Martha

Martha and Mary – Luke 10 v 38-42

I begin this morning with a little rhyme:

“ Lord of all pots and pans and things,

Since I’ve had no time to be,

A saint by doing lovely things

Or watching late with thee,

Or dreaming in the dawn light

Or storming heavens gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals

And washing up the plates.

The parable of the Good Samaritan, which we heard last week, is immediately followed by the story of Martha and Mary.

The parable of the Good Samaritan extols the virtue of rolling up one’s sleeves and getting stuck into the work that needs to be done, however dirty that might be. The Samaritan had to clean and dress the wounds of the man, lift him onto his donkey and walk alongside to the inn. Even when he got there, he continued his care; only leaving him the following day after ensuring the continuing care of the innkeeper by paying him some money, and assuring him of further reimbursement if necessary. This practical attitude is contrasted with the ‘other worldy’ and wholly inadequate attitude of the priest and the Levite.

This week in the story of Martha and Mary, Martha is the one who gets stuck in, up to her elbows in dishes and cleaning, it is she who acts like the “Good Samaritan”, but it seems she is not commended for her activity.

Mary on the other hand is the listener, the one sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing the word of God. She is not helping anyone, just basking in the graciousness of what Jesus was saying. She, unlike the priest and the Levite of the parable, is commended!

Martha wanted Mary to help with the work, the inference is that Mary was being lazy. The prayer of Martha was ‘Tell her to help me.’

Perhaps we sometimes feel the same, that others are lazy and we end up doing all the work.

Jesus doesn’t answer Martha’s prayer and get Mary to help in the housework, but this is not because Jesus wants to justify unfair working practices, neither does Jesus support the exploitation of some as a result of the idleness of others.

Many people use this passage to juxtapose two types of people. One very spiritual and contemplative the other very practical and down to earth.

And the message today seems to be that it is alright to be spiritual whilst other people get on with the pressing work that needs to be done. Maybe there is some truth in the expression that  “ we can be so spiritual that we are no earthly good’. But I don’t think this passage is saying that the contemplative life is superior to ordinary mundane life with all its daily chores and necessities.

The answer is surely that there is no real conflict and real spirituality is not divorced from reality and does not flee worldly affairs. How often was Mary to be found at Jesus feet? The answer is probably ‘not very often’.

So here she was using this rare and precious opportunity to listen to Jesus. Jesus was very dependent upon the ministry of women and he also depended upon them for his physical support – this was a vital and important role. (See Luke 8:1-3.) They gave to him practical acts of loving service. Real commitment and obedience demands service. Mary was turning her focus upon Jesus in a rare opportunity.

There is even more than this going on. The words used  imply that  Mary was ‘sitting at Jesus feet.’ This is a phrase used in Acts 22:3 ‘under Gamaliel’.

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

It was more than just like sitting in front of the TV.  It was to be in the role of a disciple. Here was Mary being taught by Jesus as a disciple. It is unusual for women in the first-century Judaism to be accepted by a teacher as a disciple. Jesus was showing that we must all be conscientious in setting aside time for our spiritual growth and development.

The priorities for Martha at that precious time of Jesus’ visit  time were the wrong ones, hence Jesus tells Martha that her life at that point in time  was  crowded with too many things. She needed to make space for Jesus’ presence, to give her whole attention to him.

The world of Mary and Martha in their own way was just as busy for them as our lives may seem today. Many of you know how hard I find it to go away from here incase something happens that needs my immediate attention – or that if I’m away for too long there will be a huge pile of stuff to catch up when I return. It’s so easy to fall into that “ I’m indispensible”  trap. Clergy are very good at that!

But it was good to get away for a few days last week. It was good to take  time sitting in some Norfolk medieval churches – for which I have no responsibility at all- and let God speak to me without feeling I should be answering e-mails or seeing if there are any messages – or worrying about that damp on the walls.

I do recognize the two realities in the story of Mary and Martha- that wish to be busy and make sure everything is done well and efficiently and put on a good show – and that opposing force to just be still, stop directing the action and wait and see what God is trying to say.  We are a very busy little church community – even more busy since starting the CHUFT fund raising. Sometimes I think  we need to take a pause  – well we will in August – and spend  time praying about our funding and timing of the project –we can do that as individuals and  together in our prayer time in church.

This is a great gospel story – a powerful corrective to the business we can all get driven by  without giving enough time to simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening. We do not have to feel guilty if we are not working. It’s essential to take time out to be with God.

And even if sometimes we just cannot stop what we are doing – the little rhyme I began with can remind us that work done with kindness in the service of others in itself can be an act of love to others and to God, a kind of prayer in motion.

How is this for a lovely prayer to finish with – ascribed
to a medieval monk:

Lord, temper with tranquillity my manifold activity

that I may do my work for thee

with very great simplicity”


* With thanks to the ”” web-site

for some of these ideas.

PS- I blogged about these two ladies last year on July 29th – just a few different additional thoughts in this version.

Maybe having these two  ladies remembered in the lectionary on my birthday this year is trying to tell  me something!

July 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Oh Dear,

Paxtonvic has been very busy since returning from a Norfolk sojurn  but here is a little verse which might slow me down ( after a multitude of  occasional offices and other churchy things over the weekend)

Lord, temper with tranquillity my manifold activity that I may do my work for thee with very great simplicity” Attributed to a medieval monk.

Great Paxton Church has its Country Afternoon this Sunday July 18th from 2pm – 5pm in and around the churchyard.

There will even be a demonstration of model aeroplane flying ( in the church if its wet!)

Time for some sleep – and  hopefully  more blogging soon…

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Simple tales from paxtonvic

Here’s a bit of luxury for the beginning of my time off.  Some time to blog and watching a World Cup Match at the same time – Ive manged to bring a little TV into my study so I can keep half an eye on Spain v Paraguay in the 1/4 finals.  I decided to follow Ghana after England were convincingly removed by Germany so I was very sad to see the Ghanians go out  when they were on the brink of winning.

Our village of Little Paxton sported many many patriotic flags up until  Englands last 16 tie with Germany – but surprise surprise many of them suddenly disappeared after the 4 – 1 defeat last Sunday afternoon. One house quickly swopped a mass of white and red flags for an Arsenal one – high aloft and blowing  in the wind.

We had a lovely service of thanksgiving for my mum on June 25th in Little Paxton Church followed by a tasty light buffet in the vicarage garden .It was one of those rare times when all of my immedaite family were together.

Notice the two grand old ladies in the front who are now orphans!

It was lovely to see three cousins all together enjoying looking at old photos of mum:

Adele, Mike and Simon

And Mummy Mildred’s two girls looking as young as ever…..

Finally, one guest that wasn’t invited…..

Ewe get everywhere…

Meanwhile, on June 26th Bishop David came to our St Neots Deanery for a visit  to some of our parishes. One of  fastest growing areas in our Deanery is Love’s Farm in St Neots parish where new housing is rapidly forming a new community. Bishop David took a walk around the Love’s Farm  area with members of the residents association before meeting with reps from our parishes at the new St Neots football club suites. It was fun to see the new football ground and imagine what I might do if I quit managing a Benefice:

Reckon I could do better than Fabio??

Bishop David inspiring us to think creatively about our church buildings – and many other aspects of Christian  ministry.

After opening  Offord Church  Fete, Bishop David visited the model  railway display in Pauline and David’s  Little Paxton garden.

All steam ahead!

I’m still watching Paraguay v Spain – its a bit dull – and no where as exciting as life in the Benefice of Paxton with Diddington.

How about this for action from the recent cricket match at Diddington…. The Vicar’s XI v Mr Thornhill’s XI….

Captain Annette

Captain Edmund making sure he doesnt get thirsty

People having fun

Out – no arguing!

Still no score in this World Cup Match – but I shall keep watching to the end – maybe  a penalty shoot-out?

Here’s a little verse to finsh with that was on one of the cards I received after Mum died. I rather like the sentiments which come with some subtle pictures of elephants:

” We are all creatures of this great earth-

interconnected in ways beyond understanding

Take elephants.

So big

So strong

And yet

when a member

of the herd passes

even elephants mourn.

they gather round

extend their trunks

and gently touch

the tusks

of their fallen friend.

Its their ritual

Its how they heal

And its sad

And its beautiful.

So maybe

what we’re trying to say

is that the world

doesnt expect you

to be fine with this.l

Be how you need to be.

Mourn how you need to mourn.

And know that

you’re thought of

with love.

Life goes on when a loved one pases away – with crazy things and ordinary things – and Spain beating Paraguay to go thorugh to the semi-finals.

Have a nice week-end.

July 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment