A Jar of Honey

You hold it like a lit bulb,
a pound of light,
and swivel the stunned glow
around the fat glass sides:
it's the sun, all flesh and no bones
but for the floating knuckle
of honeycomb
attesting to the nature of the struggle.

                                      JACOB POLLEY © 2004 / A JAR OF HONEY

Last week I helped lead a retreat for ministers of the Uniting Church in Australia's Victoria synod, and we celebrated a rite of journey using milk and honey. The Uniting Church's liturgical resources suggest that milk and honey be given to the newly-baptised at Easter, but this celebration opened up the eating and drinking to all who are "open to the Spirit and committed to the journey"--honey being among the God-given gifts of sustenance of pilgrim people in Bible stories. At night prayer on the retreat we later read a poem by Jacob Polley (a poet from Carlisle near my home town in Cumbria, England), "A Jar of Honey." 
    The images above are from similar celebrations in Adelaide, SA, Newnham, Tasmania, and Sydney, NSW. The text below is a "generic" order for such a rite, assembled from Uniting in Worship 2

    G a t h e r i n g


Come to us, God of hope.
Come to us with your promises.
Come in your mysterious presence.
Come, that we may marvel at your faithfulness in past generations;
that we may celebrate the new things you are doing among us today;
that we may be your pilgrim people on our journey to your kingdom.
Come to us, God of hope. Amen.

   Invitation to repentance

Hear the law of Christ: You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.
This is the first commandment.
And a second is this: you shall love your neighbour as yourself.
Spirit of God, search our hearts.

Christ also says: A new commandment
I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you.
Spirit of God, search our hearts.

    Silence is kept

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead, your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us; in your love and tenderness, remake us.
In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

        Song of Anselm (Uniting in Worship 2)

    Silence is kept

This is the best of all: when we are empty, God fills us;
when we are disheartened, God is compassionate;
when we are wounded, God brings healing;
when we are confess our sin, God forgives.
In Christ, through Christ and because of Christ,
our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.

People declare God’s forgiveness to one another by tracing the sign of the cross on the forehead of the next person and saying: Sister/Brother, your sins are forgiven; be at peace.

      W o r d

Before the first reading, the reader raises the Bible:
The Wisdom of God.
Age after age, Wisdom enters human hearts
to make them friends of God, and prophets.

   Scripture reading--

After the reading:
The Wisdom of God:
God’s word made new.

    Scripture reading--

After the reading:
The Wisdom of God:
God’s word made new.

    The sermon of stillness

Lest the word of life be lost, let us allow God to confront us
in the sound of sheer silence.

A generous silence is kept and may conclude with these words of scripture and early tradition:

Perfect love casts out all fear:
the glory of God is a human being fully alive.

    Contemporary witness

   Affirmation of faith: based on the Basis of Union

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We proclaim Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One,
confessing him as Lord
to the glory of God the Father.
In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
we acclaim Jesus as the Lord of the Church,
the Head over all things,
the beginning of a new creation.

We acknowledge that we live and work
between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection
and the final consummation of all things
which he will bring.
We are a pilgrim people,
always on the way towards a promised goal;
on the way Christ feeds us with word and sacraments,
and we have the gift of the Spirit
in order that we may not lose the way.

We will live and work within the faith and unity
of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church,
bearing witness to that unity
which is both Christ’s gift and his will.

We affirm that every member of the Church                                                                        
is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
Together with all the people of God,
we will serve the world for which Christ died.
And we await with hope the day of the Lord Jesus.

   Prayers of the people: a thanksgiving for the Uniting Church

For the first people of this land and their ways of belonging in this place, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For all those who have come to these shores from many lands and many traditions, with the light of the gospel of Christ, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For this land of rich or sparse beauty, its diverse and varied people, and our vocation in this land, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For all who have seen your vision of unity in this country and across the world, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For those whose efforts, in the power of the Holy Spirit, led to the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977, we lift up our hearts. 
God, we give you thanks.

For those you called to lead us in Assemblies, Synods and Presbyteries and in every congregation,
we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For every faithful person who has used the gifts
you gave to serve you and others in quiet and humble places, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For people and agencies of the Church whom we name… [silently or aloud, according to memory],
we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For the mistakes through which you have taught us and the challenges that have stretched our faith, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks.

For your readiness to be with us as our Word, our food, our way, our truth and our life, we lift up our hearts.
God, we give you thanks. And with all pilgrim people
who have travelled this life,
as companions with you and encouragers for us,
we bring you praise and honour, glory and blessing, now and for ever,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

        T a b l e

    Milk and honey

You have tasted the food of eternal life; live as part of a pilgrim people.

People are warmly encouraged to come forward to the table and take a spoon full of honey followed by a glass of milk.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow into salvation.

        S e n d i n g

    Word of mission


   Sending out

Go in peace. Remember the poor.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Words for prayer from Uniting in Worship 2 (Sydney: Uniting Church Press, 2005)

Jacob Polley's poem can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jun/05/nextgenerationpoets.poetry12 I discovered it in Being Alive, the second in a brilliant trilogy of contemporary poetry published by Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and edited by Neil Astley: Staying Alive (2002), Being Alive (2004, with "A Jar of Honey" at p.59) and Being Human (2011).

"Honeybee in the Studio, 10/29/2015" by Duane Keiser | Duane Keiser | Pinterest

"Honeybee in the Studio, 10/29/2015" by Duane Keiser | Duane Keiser | Pinterest