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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Come, you who have become yourself desire in me

Here is my sermon from today's 8.00am Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

What is it that you most desire? How would you answer that question? It could be another person that you desire; your current or a future partner. You might answer in terms of other relationships; time with children or grandchildren, for example. It might be money that you desire; a lottery win would do very nicely and give you wealth to do with as you please. You might answer in terms of opportunity; the chance to travel or to enjoy particular types of experiences. Some might answer in terms of dreams; the chance to make a difference in the world, be famous for 15 minutes or to prove they have the X Factor.

A few years ago I was at a conference on ‘The Holy Spirit in the World Today’ where the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said that the Holy Spirit is desire in us. He didn’t, of course, mean that the Spirit is any or all desires that animate us but instead a very particular desire; the desire, longing or yearning or passion for Christ and to become Christ-like. The challenge of the Rowan’s homily was that we should be consumed with desire for that goal. He quoted St Symeon who prayed "Come, you who have become yourself desire in me, who have made me desire you, the absolutely inaccessible one!"

The desire that the Holy Spirit creates in us is a desire to be where Jesus is; in relationship with God the Father, in the stream of healing love which flows from the Father to the Son. In other words to know ourselves to be members of God’s family, brothers and sisters of Jesus, loved and accepted by God as his children and longing to grow up into the likeness of our brother Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God. When we are where Jesus is; in relationship with God the Father then we are able to use the same words and pray the same prayer as Jesus who called God, “Abba” or Daddy. This is the place of intimate relationship with God, this is what it means to be in God and it is the Holy Spirit who stirs up the desire in us to be in that place where we are able rightly and truly to speak intimately with our “Abba” Father.

By stirring up this desire in us, the Holy Spirit provides the answer to one of the most fundamental questions of existence; the question of identity. We ask ‘Who are we?’ and the Spirit answers, we are beloved sons and daughters of the Father because the spirit has united us to Christ that we might live forever in the love that the Father has for the Son.

That answer to the question of our identity then leads to the question of our vocation – what are we here for? Again, the Holy Spirit is key because the Spirit is given to us as the first fruits of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is still to come but we have the Spirit as the guarantee that the kingdom will come. The Spirit comes from the future to anticipate the kingdom in the present by creating signs of what the kingdom will be like when it comes in full. So, the Spirit initiates the mission of God which is to bring humanity and creation to the completed perfection for which we were originally intended; the time when the whole world will freely return to God, worship him and become like him by living in him. As Colin Gunton wrote, “the Spirit is the agent by whom God enables things to become that which they were created to be.”

Our role is to become involved in this work of the Spirit to heal the broken creation, bring it to maturity and reconcile it in Christ. We get involved by creating signs of the coming kingdom here and now in the present. At the conference Rowan Williams also told the story of Mother Maria Skobtsova who on Good Friday 1945 changed places with a Jewish woman at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and went to her death in the gas chambers. Mother Maria was a sign of the coming kingdom in her passion and sacrifice. Mother Maria said that "either Christianity is fire or there is no such thing." Christianity is fire, passion, desire, longing, yearning for Christ and Christ’s mission. What is it that you desire?

If the Holy Spirit has stirred that fire, passion and desire in you then, like St Symeon, we need to cry out for the Spirit to come to us. To daily pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Come to stir up this desire and longing and yearning and passion in me. Come to make my heart restless till it finds its rest in you. Come to cause me to run into your arms of love. Come, Holy Spirit, come.


The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus - Come Holy Spirit.

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