One bread, One body

By The Revd Canon Keith James, Canon for Continuing Ministerial Development - 03 October 2019
Harvest Festival © Paul Hurst

The conference was coming to the end and I was talking with clergy about what they would be doing in the following few day and weeks. ‘Harvest Festivals and Suppers’ was the answer – and lots of them. In fact, what many had discovered, to their surprise, was that their communities were often more keen to have a Harvest Festival than to have a their own Christmas celebration. Harvest Festival, they found, is a celebration of community and a festival that levels us and reminds us that we do all belong together.

‘Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread’. Those words are often said during Communion services. Those who come to the table of Christ, share a common life but Harvest celebrates that it is not just Christians who are one body – the whole human family is one body. And one of the things that unites us is our need for bread. That ‘bread’ might look like noodles, or rice or an artisan sourdough loaf but without it, we become hungry, and with it, we are fed. It's as basic and fundamental as that.

Martin Luther died in the early morning hours of February 18, 1546. His final words were: ‘We are beggars. This is true.’

All our pecking order and pyramids of power and achievement and privilege are put into perspective and put in their place by Harvest. We are all of us beggars – people who get hungry and who need to be fed and nourished.

When the disciples of Jesus asked him to lead a training day on prayer, he gave them a pocket-sized prayer instead to go away and try for size – and we are still trying it out.  Jesus said, ‘When you pray, say ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Harvest draws our attention to the word ‘us’ in that prayer. Jesus didn’t say ‘Give me my daily bread’ but ‘Give us our daily bread.’ Harvest invites us to see that the ‘us’ is more than me and all who find their way to an altar table – it is the ‘us’ who despite labels, opinions, beliefs and appearances, belong together because of our shared hunger and need for bread.

Picture: Paul Hurst

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