The lectionary is like a liturgical farmer’s market. At its best, it ensures a wider variety of timely sustenance than we might otherwise have if left to our own picking and choosing. At the end of summer, the Revised Common Lectionary is particularly in tune with the agricultural rhythms of North America. John’s Gospel proclaims these words from Jesus: “I am the bread of life” (6:35).
These words come to us as the spring wheat is being harvested and the winter wheat is just being planted. For most of us, myself included, the timeliness of this gospel interruption is likely lost. John’s Gospel is centered on the hope that those who hear it will have life and have it abundantly.
Yet modern life is so disconnected from the life cycles of agriculture that it’s hard for us to reap much of a harvest from the gospel imagination John provides. There was a time when wheat created life in community. The benefits of wheat required cooperation among the farmers who grew it, the millers who ground it and the bakers who turned it into bread.
But here and now the image sounds to me something like: I am the prepackaged, processed and mass produced cereal of life.
I don’t want to pretend to be an expert on agriculture or metaphors, but something may be lost here. Maybe we should offer a lament for the wheat we do not know.
You gift us with the wheat of the field
and the bread of life.
Remind us here at harvesttime
that life abundant is life in community.
Reacquaint us with our dependency
on farmers, millers and bakers.
Refashion our imaginations with a hunger
for our vocation as the created ones. Amen.