O still, small voice of calm

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Our gospel story for today from Matthew is Jesus’ famous “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” scene in which the Pharisees attempt to ask Jesus a “trick question.” Jesus’ responses are quick, brief and classic, and the Pharisees “were amazed.”

The text of our Communion hymn Sunday, October 19, is five stanzas of John Greenleaf Whittier’s original 17-stanza poem “The Brewing of Soma” (1872). This first stanza references “our foolish ways” (or perhaps the Pharisees’ foolish ways, actually), asking of the Lord to “reclothe us in our rightful minds” and “in purer lives thy service find,” ever listening for God’s “still, small voice of calm.” The hymntune Repton is originally from Sir Charles Hubert H. Parry’s oratorio Judith, which he adapted into a hymn, probably around 1917 just before his death.

Many may remember this poignant text being sung in pain, grief and hope during the 1988 community memorial service for the victims of the PanAm Flight 103 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 people on the ground were killed. With the small stone church full to capacity, the crowds stood outside in front of huge screens and speakers, singing this deeply moving text and praying “take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.” (st. 4) Indeed, the Lockerbie community was praying to hear God’s “still, small voice of calm,” as we all should.

Caption for photo above: LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – DECEMBER 21: Chris Evans places a memorial candle for the victims of the Lockerbie bombing during a service of remembrance to mark the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie air disaster at Westminster Abbey on December 21, 2013 in London, England. Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing all those on board and a further eleven on the ground. (Photo by Luke MacGregor – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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