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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

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