Monthly Archives: July 2022

Lammas – July 31st 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Leviticus 23:9-14, Matthew 15:32-29

In the name of the Living God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen

Today we are keeping Lammas – Marking the first fruits of the harvest in the festivals of the agricultural year. In our Old Testament reading we had Moses hearing from God the importance of giving thanks for the first fruits of the harvest when they entered the promised land. It was at a time when God gave Moses a lot of instructions for the people of God and in some depth too. Setting out the festivals they were to mark – all five of them and the part we are thinking about the blessing of the first fruits is the start of the countdown to the festival of weeks, seven weeks later! It is important to realise this was all given to Moses by God significantly before Joshua led them into the promised land, and by the time these instructions need to be followed, Moses had been dead some time!

The basis of the ritual described for the first fruits of the harvest is to make a present for God FIRST. A gift of praise in thanks for God’s blessing on the land. There is a ritual order of different things here described to make sure the offerings achieve this purpose. The sheaf, then a lamb, then a grain offering of flour mixed with oil and a drink offering of wine and none of the new crop must be consumed until all this is done. What all this is doing is acknowledging God’s ownership of the land and its harvest.

If the people of God were to eat the harvest before giving thanks for it, they viewed this as a direct affront to God for having blessed their land – hence the importance of this feast. By giving thanks to God for the first fruits, the people of God are expressing their deep gratitude for the harvest that God has given them, recognising their reliance on God in everything.

In our days, we too can lose sight of where we stand on God’s world. The world belongs to God and everything that lives on it and grows on it. At best we are stewards of the world – here to look after it (and currently in all honesty, we are not always doing a particularly good job of that). In our market economy we are often at least one, two or more steps removed from the actual harvesting. We could do with a bit more humility and understanding on our reliance on God in all things and the beautiful world God made for us and for the things we often take for granted.

These are VERY challenging times for those who do produce the food we eat as I said at Rogation in May. In relation to all of that which I am not going to repeat, can we please pray for the protection and safe transit of the grain supplies in Odessa to where it is most needed. An agreement has been reached to allow this to be shipped out which must be an answer to prayer. But let’s keep going with the prayers as the grain begins to be moved.

As I have said a number of times before, I think it is important to give thanks for all we have  and recognise we have a lot to be thankful for! Engaging in ritual can help us do this, just as much as it helped the people of God in the times of Leviticus. We are also remembering to give thanks symbolically today as we gather our harvests for 2022 (whatever they may be).

I do know that much of the grain harvesting around here started a bit earlier than this because of the dry weather this year! We need to find ways to pray and give thanks for whatever it is as this is really important. While I am on this topic  – which coincidentally is probably also about 7 weeks away too, at our harvest festivals, I want everyone to bring something to represent Harvest for them in 2022. Obviously it could be something we have grown, but it could also represent something else from our lives that particularly characterises a harvest for 2022. The more creative the better! I am warning us now so we have some time to think about it!!! This applies to both church harvests (26th Sept in Pen Selwood and 2nd October in Wincanton).

Moving to thinking about that familiar but not quite gospel story. 

  • Wasn’t it five thousand men, beside the women and children not four thousand?

  • And wasn’t it five loaves and two small fish, not seven and a few small fish?

  • And wasn’t it twelve baskets and not seven?

(And in fact though we can’t see it the word for basket is different too.) The word for basket in the story of feeding of the five thousand is Kophinos. This is a typical thin necked flask shaped basket used by Jewish people of Jesus’ day. But the word for basket is sphurides in the feeding of the four thousand story. This kind of basket is much more like a picnic hamper routinely used by the gentile people of Jesus’s day!

There are 2 stories – First feeding five thousand and then feeding four thousand (plus women and children). The two stories are describing separate events about a chapter apart in Matthew’s gospel. But also if you unpick the story, Jesus has done quite a lot of travelling between the two events and time has passed. Distances something like going from Bristol to London via Manchester. One commentary I read, felt that the feeding of the five thousand took place in Spring, and the four thousand in high Summer! So months had passed too.

The most critical point to grasp here is the people witnessing these two amazing events are different. The feeding of the five thousand was to a predominantly Jewish crowd, though Matthew in his gospel is not explicit about this (and his intent was not in this direction). However, digging under the covers, before this Jesus has been travelling extensively in gentile areas and this gathering will include people from there who had followed him. The different baskets also reflect this very clearly.

This shows that Jesus had come to feed the hungry. Not just the hungry who were descendants of Moses. But everyone! We see mercy and compassion in Jesus’ acts here and a pointer to the heavenly bread we share week in and week out in Communion. To apply to our situation Jesus is involved in feeding the hungry of the nations. As Christians we need to do what we can to feed the nations of the world following the example of Jesus. In the difficult days ahead, let’s make sure we live as lightly as possible on our good earth, have a serious thankfulness habit and encourage in whatever ways we can the distribution of food to those who most need it. We need to promote fairer sharing of resources and better stewardship of the world God has blessed us with. Amen


The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Word biblical Commentary – Leviticus by John E Hartley and Matthew Donald A Hagner 1995

The gospel of Matthew – William Barclay 1975 Saint Andrew’s Press

Trinity 6 – 24th July 2022 – Penny Ashton

Trinity 6 – Persistence in Prayer

Since we have looked at the Lord’s prayer in some detail during Lent of this year, I do not propose to look again at the beginning of our gospel reading, except to note something that my on-line commentary points out – that with the Lukan version of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus appears to be saying ‘When your pray, use these words’ implying that this is a prayer that we should use as he has given it to us.  This settles a question that I have had for some time as to whether Jesus was giving us an actual prayer to use – as we do, or giving us an idea of how we should pray.  It is quite comforting to know that we may not have got this wrong for 2000 years!

It is interesting, however, that Luke records Jesus praying on five occasions, so he seems to be aware of the importance that Jesus placed on remaining in regular contact with his heavenly father.  It is also the only direct teaching that we have recorded of the disciples asking for guidance on how to do something, and here they are not just looking for theoretical guidance on prayer – they want a prayer to use that will unite them and this is just what Jesus gives.  There is more than one account in the gospels of Jesus sending them out to preach, teach and heal, but on no occasion are they recorded asking how they should preach, or what the central point of their teaching should be.  Apparently being with Jesus had taught them of the importance of prayer, if they had learned nothing else.  More than one book has been written with the title ‘Prayer, the Christian’s Vital Breath’ and in the Salvation Army hymn book a verse of a hymn begins ‘Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, The Christian’s native air.’ (Salvation Army Songbook, no 625 v5.) I wonder how long any of us can go without breathing!

Our Old Testament reading continues from the reading that we heard last week in which Abraham entertains three strangers who tell him that in time he will have a son.  This promise is made to Abraham several times throughout his story and both he and Sarah, his wife understandably have increasing difficulty in believing it.  The part of the story that was missed out of our readings was that Sarah on this occasion was listening from inside the tent, and when God promised that they would have a child she laughs as it is so ridiculous to consider bearing in mind her age.  This is a story that we often used to tell to Tiny Church, as it illustrates the importance of generosity as shown by Abraham to his guests and the faithfulness of God in keeping his promises.  It also brings to mind the instruction in Hebrews 13:2; ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’

A detail that I had not noticed before is that as the story continues, we read of two men continuing their journey to Sodom, with the implication that the third member of the group who stayed behind and had the conversation with Abraham that we heard in today’s reading was possibly God!  The conversation shows Abraham apparently negotiating with God.  It seems clear that Abraham was trying to save the cities as he was aware that his nephew Lot and his family were living there, but God seemed to end the conversation before Abraham could bring the numbers down that far.   This example of Abraham negotiating in prayer is possibly the sort of thing that Jesus had in mind when he told the parable that we heard in our Gospel reading.

I was once told that it can be dangerous to try to pull too much meaning out of a parable, as Jesus told them as quick illustrations of the point that he wanted to make, and todays seems to be a case in point. This parable is one that is difficult to understand as it seems to imply that God is like the reluctant neighbour, and the only reason he grants our prayer requests is because he wants to shut us up.  I am as sure as I can be that this was not what Jesus was getting at!

There is an interesting point that Jesus is putting over which relates to the customs of the day in that society.  Hospitality was not a matter of choice; it was a matter of honour both in Jesus’ day and in Abraham’s.  We heard last week how Abraham set his household in some turmoil when the guests arrived unexpectedly getting Sarah to make fresh bread and a servant to find the best animal in the flock to make a meal for them.  In the same way the host who is awoken by unexpected guests who turn up in the middle of the night when he has nothing to offer them has no compunction about waking his neighbour and his family to borrow what he needs to fulfil his obligation.  My on-line commentary has an interesting comment on why the neighbour actually does agree to get up and provide him with what he needs – it says this:

‘In the parable the sleeping neighbour’s desire to avoid shame in the eyes of the knocking host, and probably in the eyes of all his neighbours once his inhospitable behaviour became known, led him to get up and give his neighbour bread. The Greek word (anaideia translated for us as persistence) means shameless, or avoidance of shame,” (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22:2 (June 1979):123-31).

So Jesus is most definitely not telling us that we must continue petitioning God for what we want in order to browbeat Him in to granting our requests, although it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that is the point of the parable.  Jesus is actually giving us a contrast that tells us more about the nature of God.  God does not grant our requests to avoid shame as was the case with the neighbour, or to get himself a bit of peace.  He grants them out of his love for us.  Jesus is not comparing God with the reluctant neighbour; he is showing us the contrast.  God is so much more than a friend or neighbour – he is our loving father.

But, because God is our father, who answers our prayers out of His love for us, he does not always give what we ask for, or when we ask for it.  Many of us have children and can, I am sure remember times when we have refused requests from them simply because we knew, as they did not that in the long run the desired answer would not be good for them.  I am not suggesting for a moment that our prayers centre around our wants and desires in the way that a child’s request might do, but until we can see things from the aspect of eternity – as God does, we can at times seem as ignorant as the child begging for another ice cream!  That is why Jesus is very specific in his explanation to this parable, that the one thing that God will give, freely and unreservedly is the gift of His Holy Spirit to those of His children who ask for it.  The emphasis of Jesus’ teaching here though is probably not so much God’s willingness to give His spirit, as to give wisdom and guidance that we need when we bring situations to Him in repeated prayer.  God does not always give us what we want, but He does give the good that we need.  This is something that I need to remember when praying into a situation that is ongoing, and sometimes seems to be hopeless.  Jesus is also encouraging us here to continue to be faithful in prayer.

We have a loving, generous and faithful God who takes delight when we come to Him in prayer.  We need to remember that there is no situation that is too big or too hopeless to bring to Him – He wants to know what are the concerns on our hearts.  Perhaps the lesson from this parable is the chorus that many of us may have sung at Sunday School – ‘Day by day then let us pray, for prayer changes things’.

Trinity 5 17th July 2022 Rev Alison Way

Genesis 18:1-10a. Luke 10:28-42 

In the name of the Living God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen

I am going to begin today by reading you a poem. It will be quite familiar when I read it. It is written by WH Davies and is called Leisure. The poet had an interesting life in the late 1800s and early 1900s including a time on the road (as a tramp), both in this country and America! In later life he had a much more settled existence:-

Leisure – WHAT is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?

 No time to stand beneath the boughs, And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began?

 A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

When someone special is coming to your house, we like to make lots of preparations. What kind of things would we do? Make a cake, Do the hoovering. Tidy up a bit. Get out the best china. Brush the cats (and then hoover again). Clean the bathrooms etc. Put on some nice clothes.

I want to tell you a story now that connects to expecting special visitors and listening to each other. It is all about a child called Jo and his family, and if you sitting comfortably I shall begin

It was very noisy and confusing at Jo’s house. His mum was in a flap because her Italian relatives were coming. She was running around the house issuing commands as well as doing lots of stuff simultaneously. jo’s dad was heroically trying to finish all those DIY jobs that he had started but never finished as well as mowing the lawn. The washing machine and dishwasher were on and Jo was being made to tidy his room, have a bath and put on his best set of clothes all at the same time – which was very confusing.

And then the phone rang. But in the noise it was only Jo who heard it. It was his cousin Giovanni phoning to say after a long wait at the airport, their flight had been cancelled. There was a problem with having enough flight crew and they hoped to fly instead tomorrow. He couldn’t speak for long as the call was costing a fortune and they would ring back when they knew more to make new arrangements.

Jo thought for a moment about what to do. First Jo ran downstairs to tell his mum, but she was putting the final touches to her baking, putting the washing away, ironing the tablecloth and setting the table. All at the same time – it was very confusing. She wouldn’t listen to him and told him to go and dust the living room. Jo gave up!

Next Jo tried really hard to tell his dad, but he was too busy trying to hang a picture, trying to fix a leaking tap, trying to get the bathroom door lock to work, mowing the lawn and washing the car. It was all very confusing. And his dad told him to go away too and tell his mother whatever it was. Jo gave up!

Later that day when everyone had finished their chores, the picture was up, the tap was not leaking, the bathroom door locked, the lawn was mowed and the car was gleaming.  The table was laid with magnificent baking in pride of place, and the washing was put away and the dusting was done. Even Jo was squeaky clean, in his best clothes and his room was tidy, they all sat down.

It was then that Jo’s mum remembered that he had been trying to tell her something. What was it you wanted to say Jo? Mum asked. And it was only then that Jo was able to tell her about the phone call

There was lots to regret at that point and lessons learnt about the importance of taking time to listen.

We can make preparations when we know someone special is coming. When someone special turns up unexpectedly. We cannot do all these things. We have to receive them as we are!! And offer them food and drink based on what we have available. In our gospel this morning, Martha and Mary were in this position. Someone VERY VERY special in the shape of Jesus turned up on their door step and they had to cope!!

They had 2 different reactions

  • Martha – rushed to get everything ready. She left others to talk with Jesus and tried to make up for all the things that couldn’t have been prepared as they did not know he was coming.

  • Mary – sat with Jesus and just listened.

If someone comes unexpectedly – hands up if you are more likely to respond like Martha or Mary. Let’s see.

It can be very confusing what to do. Jesus however is very clear that Mary’s way is best in this situation. That sometimes (like Jo’s parents) we have to stop and listen. Take time to be as that poem I started with encouraged us and not rush about like lemmings OR headless chickens, or making things more confusing by putting pressure on ourselves and making things too complicated. In our world taking time to be does not get the press it deserves. We often prize being too busy, over taking time to listen and think and be. If Jo’s mum and dad had listened to him, they would really have taken the pressure off themselves and all that confusion really wasn’t helping. Though it may have been great to have all those jobs done – they could have taken more time and had time for each other.

The same is true of Martha. Though Martha felt what she was doing was really really important, Jesus didn’t. He felt Martha just being with him would have been more important, as she might have been able to listen and make connections, and found herself more fully in his love and shake off some of her confusions.

Sometimes we use busyness to stop us from facing things we need to face too (if we are honest about it). I am going to finish with someone else’s thoughts – Elizabeth Whitehorn – on this passage

If Jesus suddenly knocked on my front door, how would I react?
I would bid him welcome, invite him to come in and make himself at home – of course I would!
No doubt I would also secretly wish he’d told me in advance, so that I could get ready, make the place tidy and prepare the food, so that I could focus on him, spend time with him.

So when Jesus comes to me in the midst of my everyday busyness, how do I react? when I’m not so preoccupied and hard-pressed?
Do I invite him in and then leave him alone, while I continue with what I was doing before?
Do I stop what I am doing and sit at his feet for a while but then make it clear that I have no more time?
Do I invite him to join me in my tasks and talk to him while we work alongside each other?
Do I keep the conversation polite and formal, fearing difficult personal questions?

If you think about it like this there is another question we might ask – How often do I not hear Jesus’ knocking on my door?

Elizabeth Whitehorn ends her thoughts with a prayer

Ever-present Jesus,
keep me from being too busy or too polite in my relationship with you or even too confused
When I am tempted to hide things away from you, help me to deal with them lovingly.
When I would rather avoid your difficult questions, help me to face them honestly.
When I am too busy to sit at your feet,
speak the quiet word that brings me to stillness. Amen


REFERENCES .  © ROOTS for Churches Ltd ( 2002-2022. Reproduced with permission. Story adapted from Reflection from