Think what it was that Jesus did in the sight of the 5,000. He took the bread (and fish). He said a blessing of thanks to God. He broke the bread. And he gave it to the disciples to hand it out.

Ring any bells? Of course it does. Those four actions, (taking, blessing, breaking and giving) are exactly what Jesus did at the Last Supper. After the resurrection the apostles continued to repeat these actions when they gathered together to remember their Lord. And right down to today they are the same actions that Christians perform when they celebrate the Eucharist.

We take the bread and wine. Not only physically presenting it and preparing it on the altar, but also recalling that these elements were given to us first by God and now we refashion them and set them before God.

In a prayer of thanksgiving we then bless God for creating and redeeming us in Christ, and we ask God’s blessing upon the bread and wine that by the power of the Holy Spirit it may become for us the body and blood of Christ.

We break the bread that is to be shared in communion. Communion is not first and foremost just about me and God, about my host or wafer. St Paul tells us that the bread is made from grain scattered on the hillside, and that we share in the one loaf and one cup in order to become one body in Christ.

Finally, the priest and other ministers give the body and blood to us in communion. Because we share a unity and peace with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we move forward together to eat and drink the food of life, to share communion with God and each other. 

These four actions, take-bless-break-give, are the key to understanding what Christians do when they celebrate the Eucharist. Our “Amen” when we receive communion is a sign of our readiness as a community to actually become what we eat: the Body of Christ, the Church.




Jeremiah usually gets called the “Prophet of Doom”. It’s rather an unfair title since all he was doing was pointing out that if people continued to ignore what God expected of them then they would suffer dire consequences. And suffer they did; they were exiled to Iraq and lived for years in misery not far from Baghdad.

It would be easy to read what Jeremiah has to say about negligent shepherds and simply apply it today to those in positions of leadership. The political leaders were involved in shady deals and the religious leaders gave the people a religion that they wanted to hear. Maybe we can make a stick out of this to beat modern-day politicians and clergy. But that would be to miss the point.

What Jeremiah actually prophesises is hope not doom. For he tells the people that although they may suffer bad leadership, although they are heading for a fall, they are still God’s people and they will never be abandoned. God will raise up a shepherd who will be called “The Lord-our-Integrity” or “The Justice of Yahweh”. And this shepherd will gather those who have remained faithful to the Lord and lead them back to where the pasture is good. It’s a promise not a threat.

In today’s society someone’s always got to take  the blame. We blame politicians for the state of our living conditions and we blame clergy when things in the Church don’t go as we think they should. Maybe we ought sometimes to acknowledge our own part in the mess that we are quick to criticise. How active are we in local politics, or do we simply enjoy moaning about what others are trying to do? How involved are we in the Monday to Saturday concerns of our parish, or do we simply turn up on Sundays and expect everything to be fine? Are we using our “shepherds” as “scapegoats”, and then complaining that we’re being fleeced?

Jeremiah’s message was one of hope. God is greater than any failure we can concoct. God will never abandon us completely. But the fact that we have shepherds does not mean that we should behave like sheep.




The visiting preacher told the congregation that their worship was all very fine but they were so inward-looking that they failed to see on their very church doorstep the sort of needy people they were always singing and praying about. “Take the noise of your songs away from me; I won’t listen to the melody of your harps.

Instead, let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The local priest, Amaziah, was not thrilled; he told the preacher, Amos, to push off.

Amos was never one to pull his punches. He told it like he saw it. And what he saw was a bunch of people who took refuge in a dangerous complacency. They had a lovely building to worship in; they had the finest of vestments, mellifluous music and all the latest prayers that tripped off the lips. But it all took place in an atmosphere of comfortable self-congratulation.The constant danger with liturgy is that because it is centred on worshipping God

in church, we can end up forgetting about the plight of God’s people outside the church door. Of course, true worship requires conversion, and conversion includes our active care and concern for the world’s needy. So worship doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It presupposes that Christian worshippers are also vigorous in charity, wherever it is required: on our doorstep, in our society and in our world. 

Our churches would be empty if we turned our services into political rallies. But our songs, our prayers and our symbols speak loudly about the central act of Jesus in setting us free by his death on the cross. Liturgy is about liberation. It proclaims that in water, oil, bread and wine Christ offers all people freedom to live as God intended.

The Eucharist should be the liberating adventure of the whole Church, the sacrament that frees us from our unhealthy self-absorption and melts our self-satisfied cold isolation from the cries of the voiceless. Our worship is in spirit and truth only when it unites us into a bond of believers who agonise for a Church of charity and a world of justice.

So what’s the next hymn, then?




No one wants to think of Mrs Blatherthorpe at 37 Brick Street as a prophet. That’s because she’s just ordinary, like everyone else on Brick St. We expect prophets to be a bit more spectacular, perhaps with long straggly hair, a wooden staff and a book of blessings and curses. But it’s not to be.

Prophets are not fortune-tellers. They are spokespeople. Rather than predict the future, they tell us what God wants us to know about the present. In the bible the only predicting they ever did was about the birth of the Messiah. Usually they were in the thick of it announcing the mind of God and denouncing corrupt practices.

And contrary to popular opinion, they did not die out in biblical times. They are alive and well and living somewhere close to you today. For prophecy is what God demands of all Christians (speaking up for their faith) and it is a gift that is given in special measure to certain chosen individuals.

The word prophet comes from two Greek words that mean to speak on behalf of. So a prophet speaks on behalf of God. And prophets are found in the most unlikely of circumstances. 

Besides Mrs Blatherthorpe at number 37 there are countless politicians, religious leaders, sports men and women, teachers, parents, celebrities and entertainers whose words strike us as God-centred when they speak up publicly about issues that affect our society. But what today’s gospel shows us is that the people on Brick St will never accept Mrs Blatherthorpe because a prophet is rarely accepted in his or her own territory. 

To be keyed-in to prophecy means keeping an ear out for those people who are unafraid of bringing God’s word to bear in situations of injustice and exploitation and whose actions support the poor, the vulnerable and the needy. It also means being faithful to our baptismal promise to be prophets ourselves by the way we live our lives and are prepared in big ways and small to stand up for what is right and what comes from God. Like Mrs Blatherthorpe at number 37.