The Parish Church of Sarum St. Martin, Salisbury Wiltshire

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From the Priest-In-Charge of Sarum St. Martin’s

19th Sunday in OT

You might usefully turn to hymn 368 and follow the words as this homily is set forth for you.

In just three verses of six lines each, first written in eighteenth century Welsh and sung to a rousing Welsh tune Cwm Rhondda, William Williams has set out for we who have sung his words, now rendered in English, the Christian life.  Based upon the passage from St. John’s Gospel that we have heard this morning we have sung the line ‘Bread of heaven’ and have asked the Lord that he will, ‘Feed me till I want no more’, for as St. John records the words of Our Lord, ‘Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ Indeed, what more can we Christians want or need or ask for, than that we are fed by Jesus with His Bread that we might have His Life.

In the second verse of this great hymn we sing of the the ‘Strong Deliverer’, the one who opens up for us the ‘Chrystal fountain’ whose cleansing water will purge away all our uncleanness, our sin, and give us health of mind and body and soul.  And so we will be lead by the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day, as was Israel in the desert after passing though the cleansing waters of the Red Sea, on our earthly pilgrimage to the Canaan, the true goal of our life, life in Heaven with all the saints who in their earthly life knew Jesus as their ‘strength and shield’, and now know Him as their Lord in Heaven, their ‘Strong Deliverer.’

In the third verse we sing of how Jesus our ‘strength and shield’ will be beside us on the earthly pilgrimage so that nothing can stop us reaching our goal in His strength; not anxiety, nor fear, not Hell, not even death itself.  And then, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Martin of Tours and all who in Christ have been redeemed and are counted as the saints in glory will we sing ‘Songs of praises’ that ‘I will ever give to thee’.

Listen always carefully to the words that we hear in Scripture and sing in song, for these words do indeed open out to us what it is to be a Christian.  And perhaps more remarkably just how simple is the Christians life; listen, and then act and live with the true life that is Jesus. 

God the Father in Jesus has from the beginning of creation made life simple for we whom He loves with a love beyond all telling.  It is only we who overcomplicate this life with sin, who make it complex.  Love God in Jesus; follow Him in the Church; feed off His word and sacraments; go to him in penitence when you sin; turn to Him in your times of doubt; be sure that He will never turn you away.  What could be simpler?

Fr David Fisher

You will have understood that I love this hymn; not just because it is Welsh, not just because it is sung to a rousing tune, not just because it has been with me since childhood.  None of those things.  This hymn encapsulates in 36 lines our Christian life.  So let us sing it out lustily, hearing and responding to those words, for those words point us to the words of the Lord recorded in the Gospel of St. John, which words will give us life, life everlasting.



Almighty God, you have made us members of Christ and of his Church in this parish. May we as a congregation reach upwards to your throne in worship and adoration: inwards to one another in understanding and fellowship; and outwards to the world in evangelism and social compassion. Make us like a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hidden, so that men and women may find Christ as the Light of the World, and his Church as the family of the redeemed, and eternal life as the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

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