Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
“Location, location, location” is the maxim of property developers – and should, perhaps, also be treated as significant by local churches.
Jesus knew the importance of location: Nazareth had been a safe refuge for his parents away from the attention of the Herods, but it was not the sort of place from which to launch a national mission; so, Jesus made his home in Capernaum at the head of Lake Galilee. Capernaum was a very different place sitting on a major trade route. It was there that Jesus met and attracted people whom he would never have met in Nazareth; the core who accompanied him on his ministry.
We have inherited the sites of our local churches; movements of population and town planning have affected them over the generations. What courage it takes to recognise that a cherished building is in the wrong place today. The ancient Israelites were encouraged to focus on a moveable tent/tabernacle rather than a Temple; it is not so straightforward for us, especially if a building has been listed.
Is your church site well-placed in its community? Is it easy to find, easy to reach, easy to park? If so, how are you using such an advantage and the opportunities available? Or is your church building in the wrong place for today’s community and mission? If so, what can be done about that? I know this is a question easier to ask than to answer, but, if your church building was not where it is, would you choose that site for it now?
Jesus chose to make his home in a busy community on a major trade route; it was there that he met and called a very varied group to be his disciples; it was from there that he could reach out to the wider communities around – and take time out in the countryside to pray, think and plan. Yes, location and opportunities are so important to today’s Church in our outreach and mission.
We thank you, Lord God, for brave and faithful men and women who formed the congregations and built the churches where we worship; guide us in our stewardship of our resources so that our buildings may stand as signs of your Spirit at work in the world, and as a witness to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
The Revd Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC