…and when you listen to the prompting of Jesus and you are open to the work of miracles around you, then miracles will happen. But only when you are open to the prompting of Jesus and only when you have an eye to see them.
The name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Please sit.
Our gospel today sits within a series of readings that we’ve had over the last couple of weeks of transition. We think particularly of Candlemats last week. Candlemass is a feast of transition, sitting as it does 40 days after Christmas, which, of course, means it sits between the winter Equinox and the spring solstice. And so we have that transition, that movement from darkness into light. And our gospel continues that theme of transition.
Last week we heard Jesus preaching in the synagogue and he will come back and preach in the synagogue again. But this reading here in Luke marks the point at which Jesus starts to preach outside of the synagogue. He’s transitioning from preaching inside the synagogue to the Jewish people within that building to everybody outside. Now, ultimately, of course, the doors of the synagogue will be closed to Jesus, and Jesus will be completely on the road. His pulpit will be a mound, his pulpit will be the boat, and people will come and listen to him. Now, do you remember last week I told you how big Nazareth was? Can any of you remember how big Nazareth was? 20,000 people? Yeah, it was a town.
It was huge. And where Genesette was on the Sea of Galilee. It’s different now. But then there were about nine huge towns around that sea. And Interestingly, it sits about 600 meters below sea level.
It’s in a dip in the Earth. And these nine settlements that sat around the sea were where Jesus preached and where Jesus healed – each of those settlements and the smallest of them had 15,000 people in them. And so this transition of being in the synagogue with a few people to being on the road with tens of thousands of people marks that huge transition in Jesus Ministry. It is, of course, a huge opportunity for Jesus to preach the good news to everybody, not just those who go to the building to hear the word of God, but to everybody and how many of Jesus miracles and I know you’re all sick of me saying it, but how many of Jesus miracles start with a miracle of the crowds being so big that Jesus has to retreat a little so that he can preach for them?
That, of course, is a model for us here at St. Anselm. To remember that we are not just here in this building to preach to those who want to come on a Sunday morning or to those who come to morning prayer or daily Mass or evening prayer, but to go out there in Hayes and preach the Gospel as Jesus did. And that, of course, is what we have been starting to do. And now that COVID blessedly is retreating, we shall be moving up again with that. With, we pray, the appointment of a mission priest here in Hayes who will be based here at St. Anselm, but whose job will be to be out there preaching, as Jesus did in that boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Now when you read these Gospels and you read where I always say, well, the first miracle, of course, was that there were so many people there that Jesus had to pull out, that can kind-of diminish a miracle. What do we mean by a miracle? And I’m always reticent to say that Jesus’s miracles were not miracles. They were just the everyday things that some of us don’t happen to see.
But in this case, I do wonder about the miracle, and I wonder about Jesus on that boat with Simon Peter. And I wonder if instead of divine inspiration, what happened there was that Jesus saw something that nobody else did. That in itself, of course, can be a miracle. And I was thinking about what did Jesus see that the others didn’t? He saw that big Shoal of fish.
That’s no great miracle in itself. But if we apply that to the world around us, I started thinking, well, I wonder how many people saw apples fall from trees before Newton saw one and realized that it was gravity. Is that the same kind of miracle that we saw Jesus perform on the boat? And I came to the conclusion that, yes, yes, it was. And it is a miracle that all of us can partake in.
It is having an eye for the miraculous around us. It is having an eye for what God has put in front of us and inquiring deeply and looking for it in the world, because when we stop looking for miracles, we stop seeing them. But when we open our eyes to seeing a miracle, then we will see them. And the circumstances of this miracle are really interesting because what Luke is telling us here is that it was the wrong time, so they finished fishing. Fishing happens at night, and this was in the daytime, so it was the wrong time.
The people who were there to do the fishing did not want to go and do the fishing. They were tired and fed up and they had been out and they had tried to fish and they had come up with nothing. The circumstances were less than ideal. But Jesus said to those men, Come on, let’s go do this. And those men, and it’s the second half of the gospel that I think is the most powerful, those men listened to Jesus. Even though all of the circumstances were wrong, they listened.
And when they listened and they opened their eyes to see what was in front of them, they encountered a miracle that still happens even when we are tired, even when we are fed up, even when the circumstances aren’t right, we can all sit here and go, well, you know what? The weather is great today. I don’t think I’ll go to Church or actually, you know what? I could talk to that person about coming to Church or I could talk to that person about Jesus. I don’t think they’re quite in the right place to hear it, so I’ll leave it alone.
There will always be reasons not to preach the gospel. There will always be reasons to not see a miracle around you. But this gospel and this series of readings we’ve had over the last few weeks that idea of transition is about opening our eyes to the miracle and the work God around us. And when we see it, we can do nothing else except – regardless of the circumstances – tell our friends about it.
Over the next few months you’re going to hear me get an awful lot more enthusiastic about going out there and preaching the gospel. I feel in many ways over the last twelve months we’ve had our shoe laces tied together and we haven’t been able to go out and preach as much as we want to, but we continued and will grow to go and do that and more to be open to the prompting of Jesus every day.
And so this week what I would like you to do is start to think about where Jesus prompting you – not in the big stuff, but in the little stuff be open to where Jesus is prompting you day to day. When you get up in the morning, what is Jesus prompting you? Is it that thing that you’ve been putting off or is it that conversation that you’ve not wanted to have? And when you listen to the prompting of Jesus and you are open to the work of miracles around you, then miracles will happen. But only when you are open to the prompting of Jesus and only when you have an eye to see them.