Sermon preached in St Georges Chapel Windsor
14th June 2009 Mattins
The Solemnity of St George
There are many preoccupations that characterise our culture – one might best be described as Re-designing. You might be familiar with the programmes that promote this Gospel. Alan Titchmarsh will transform a garden in two days, ripping up concrete, tearing away lawns or laying down turf, gravel and the obligatory water feature. Neighbours might descend to do drastic redecorations to one another’s sitting rooms or bedrooms or kitchens under the supervision of imaginative interior designer, all in two days and for under £500 pounds. Imagine the chaos that kind of behaviour would cause in Canons Cloisters or Horseshoe Cloisters! Then there are cookery programmes redesigning our diets, people who will redesign how we look or what we do with our leisure.
We all like a taste of the exotic but in the safety of our own kitchen. We want the advent garde, but in our cosy sittingrooms, just enough novelty, but not too much. We want transformation, but we want it within a stable environment. We want and need comfort and the comfortable.
Perhaps the present preoccupation of our culture is not so much the redesigning as a preoccupation with the domestic sphere in which we play around or tinker with the thought of change. This preoccupation is worth pondering in the context of our shared commitment to the work and prayer of this college. And there is spirituality within this preoccupation, a tinkering to make a place our own. We want to make a difference sometimes regardless of the cost or effects of our desire for control.
Much has been made this century of the Church as a pilgrim people, of Life as a journey, of discipleship as the practice of following Christ, of our being guided by the spirit. These themes are valid and bear something of the truth of God revealed in Christ. Yet there are also themes which suggest settledness – stability – continuity – givenness. Recall the stories of Jesus’ love of friendship, his time in the home of Mary and Martha, in no hurry to be on his way: St John’s Gospel telling us of the Father, Son and Spirit making their home with us: stories of Wisdoms house, the urgings for us to be built into a spiritual temple, to be rooted and grounded in love, to lay foundation upon rock, of being part of the tended vine: there is the hope of eternal Sabbath rest. Within our tradition there is not only (so to speak) the spiritual walk, but also the putting up of feet, the long spiritual bath. So we might see in all this frenetic activity, the obsession with meddling about little bits of this and that, a longing to make our homes perfect and safe and restful and delightful, a yearning to make our lives the embodiment of these lovely qualities – the search for blessedness, for spiritual bliss.
As in each of us, in each human being, there is the spark of Gods fire, the flame of Gods life, the image of Gods being of unity and love, so there us a yearning in each to be at rest with God, to dwell with God, to know Gods delight, Gods pleasure. The wonderful and mysterious teaching of Christ in the Gospels do not describe an austere and inaccessible kind of holiness – a holiness for the holy, a holiness which is beyond us here – a holiness for Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Bonheoffer. The blessedness, the happiness is a domestic blessedness- to enjoy the heaven of God, to enjoy comfort, earth, the pleasure of being full, of being forgiven; this blessedness is about the bliss of seeing God face to face, of intimacy, of being called Gods Children. To be blessed is to be spiritually at home, to be at ease with self in the greater purposes of God’s love.
For those of us who have glimpsed Christ, where else can we be at home except in Him? Where else but in the conforming of our life to the pattern of his life, to find our home in the continual givings and receivings of love?
Hence we are comfortable in the poorness of spirit, in the grieving, in the meekness, in the hungering and thirsting for what is right, in the showing of mercy and in pureness of heart, in the labouring to make our lives and homes places of blessedness, in the continual offering of the self. A broken self given for God and in service to others. If we have faith in Christ, this is how we are to make our home in the world. This is how we are to be happy.
This morning we stand together to give thanks for the ministry and witness of this College and to renew our intention to fulfil the trust placed upon us. This is the place and the people and the work of which happiness is to be made, the very material with which we must make our home with God and with one another. As utensils are for the cook, paints for the artist, so Christ’s poverty of spirit, Christ’s meekness, Christ’s hunger for what is right, Christ mercy, his pureness of heart, his peace, his suffering – these are for your spiritual pleasure, for being at home in the world- at home , but never at home, of course.
Let us in the College look to Christ and His ways and together make our home here in Him and for Him. May God bless our intentions and give us grace to serve Christ in this place. Amen.