St Francis of Assisi, Petts Wood

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Sunday 9th August
19th Sunday in Ordinary time

* Father Bob wanted to illustrate his sermon this morning with exerts from the hymn Dear Father and Lord of all Mankind.

Most of the great events in Jesus’ life took place in Jerusalem.  He was born in Bethlehem which is only 5 miles away; at 12 years old he is found in the Temple debating with the teachers; and, after his dramatic entry to the city that we remember on Palm Sunday, it is the scene of his arrest, trial, and execution.  Most importantly, it is in Jerusalem that he rises from the dead, and from Jerusalem that he finally ascends into heaven. 

Yet a careful reading of the gospels shows that Jesus spent very little time there.  For most of his life he lived a hundred miles north in Nazareth and in the small towns and villages around the Sea of Galilee.  We call it a sea but it is an inland freshwater lake about thirteen miles long and about seven miles across at its widest, with the river Jordan flowing in at the north and out at the south.

Our Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus did much of his teaching around the shores of the lake and that it was also a place where he made time to pray and time to be with his disciples.  I often sang that splendid hymn “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” with pilgrimage groups on a boat in the centre of the lake as part of a fairly informal mass.  I think that it sums up the significance of the peace of the Galilee being as important to Jesus as was the drama of Jerusalem.

 *  

This is where Jesus met and called many of his disciples.  Jesus still meets and calls folk in the middle of their everyday lives:

“In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian Sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow thee.”

 *

This is where Jesus spent so much time in prayer.  We too must pray at all times and not just at times of drama and crisis:

“O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above, 
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!”

 *

We may look for God in great and dramatic events.  Yet, He is often to be found in the peace and quiet of daily life.  Our Old Testament reading tells how He appears to Elijah in the still small voice rather than in the wind, the earthquake or the fire.  We may remember the dramatic events in Jesus’ life that took place in Jerusalem but we mustn’t forget the bulk of his ministry spent in the Galilee.  In our own lives, God may be trying to speak to us through everyday events and ordinary people rather than in times of crisis and through powerful speakers.  Our hymn concludes:

“Breathe through the heats of our desire
The coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm!

 *

AMEN

Father Bob Sig