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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Those who are led into peace by the Holy Spirit become peacemakers

Here is my sermon from today's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook:

There are two occasions on which we are told Jesus’ disciples received the Holy Spirit. The second was at Pentecost but the first was one of the Resurrection appearances, in which Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20. 21 & 22). On this occasion the Holy Spirit came as the breath of God and as words of peace.

The Spirit’s coming in this way was promised by Jesus who, as we heard in today’s Gospel Reading (John 14. 15 - 31), said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth … he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14. 15 – 17). “The Holy Spirit … will remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14. 26 & 27). By giving them the Spirit he was giving them his peace and doing so in a similar way to that in which he had received it; as, when he was baptised, the Spirit descended upon him in the bodily form of a dove. The dove being a Biblical symbol of peace; a symbol that derived from the dove which brought news to Noah of the flood having receded, enabling life to begin again on earth.

At St Martin-in-the-Fields two thousand white paper doves are currently hanging in the nave forming a 15 metre-long paper sculpture called Les Colombes – The White Doves. Following successful installations with over 300,000 visitors in Jerusalem and Munich, these origami doves bear hopes and greetings from people who come into the church, from passers-by, from night revellers in the bar around the corner, from locals and strangers, people from all over the world. Catholic and Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, poor and rich, everyone may fold them and should fold them. In the flock each individual, separately folded dove becomes one of many. The German artist, Michael Pendry, said: “Folded by different people, the doves in their unity stand for such a fundamental human right. The time has come to admonish and to stand up for this – for the right to peace and freedom! So that that the flock of doves might grow, from place to place, from country to country, across all borders.”

In this way, the flock is a symbol of a collective spirit of peace; one which is particularly needed at this time when terror has revisited our streets and leisure activities. The flock of doves heads from the entrance of the church towards the sanctuary, where lies the answer to all the questions of our spiritual potential – who am I, where do I come from, where am I going? In answer to these questions, the descent of the Spirit in the bodily form of a dove tells us that we are the beloved sons and daughters of our Father God and that we are here to use our God-given abilities to do work for him that only we can do.

Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Sam Wells, says that: “When at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove Jesus wasn’t blown away – he was touched more deeply that words can say or eyes can perceive. That’s what this exhibition is about – and what’s more, it affirms that the Holy Spirit works through the humble hands of you and me.” Jesus gives us his peace, in the form of the Holy Spirit, so that we can then be peacemakers ourselves.

Sam has explained that “The Holy Spirit is the part of God that gives us here and now and forever and always those things that Jesus brought us once and for all. Jesus has shown us and brought us peace, but we need the Spirit to continue to make peace in and among us. The one Spirit proclaims “peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (2:17). One of the most difficult things in life is to balance your care for those who are near – your regular circle of friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues – with your responsibility for those who are far off – distant friends, family, fellow citizens, and people of other nations and faiths … how easy it is to become so wrapped up with a small circle of intimates that we can’t register the need of those outside our own tiny world … It’s hard to be at peace with those who are far and at peace with those who are near … Jesus is our peace because he gives us the Holy Spirit to reconcile those from whom we are far off and those to whom we are near. Jesus is our peace because he gives us the Holy Spirit to reconcile the parts of ourselves that are far from God with the parts of ourselves that are near.”

When others spread war, anxiety, division and strife, those led by the Spirit make peace. Those who are led into peace by the Holy Spirit become peacemakers.


Victoria Williams - Holy Spirit.

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