Discerning Passion

by | Mar 19, 2019

Luke 13:31-35

Jesus’ Lament over Jerusalem

When I was 13 I went to the Canadian National Science Fair in Rivierre de Loup, Quebec. It was a fantastic opportunity, but turned into a pretty negative experience. I had created a Science Fair project where I measure forces on a dam in a tank of water. The whole experiment, along with the display boards about what I had done, got lost by the shipping company. When it did eventually show up, part way through the judging, the tank was leaking. I was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. While I was there they announced the location of the National Science Fair that would be taking place two years later, that time it was going to be in Whitehorse, Yukon. Located up in the far North West of Canada, it was somewhere I’d never been and I thought it looked great. I had this immediate desire to attend the Science Fair in the Yukon and win the awards I’d missed out on.

Desire is sometimes seen as an unholy word. We desire things like pride and wealth and conquest. The terrorists who attacked the mosque in Christ Church New Zealand this last week desired to demonstrate their supremacy over people they think are in some way other and of less worth. 

In Paul’s letter he talks of the enemies of the cross of Christ. He says their desires are to fill their belly, to destroy, and that their minds are focussed on earthly things. But Desire is not always bad. There is also a deep desire within us, a desire put there by God, a desire, a yearning for God, it is a way that God communicates with us. Frustratingly it is not always easy to discern what the difference is between our human desires, and those deep desires threw which God speaks to us.

It is perhaps too easy to say that earthly desires are only about material things and God’s desires for us are only spiritual. The risk is that we fail to recognise that God makes all things out of nothing – it is all of it God’s own creation. Our Christian Faith tells us that the material we are made of is inherently good – 
we are not spirits trapped in sinful bodies, our Spirits and our bodies are one.
But that we have the ability, and sadly the tendency, to make bad choices and to desire immediate short-lived satisfaction.

Jesus, in his lament over Jerusalem, over the history of the chosen people, who again and again had turned away from God, much like we do today. Seeking easy fixes and keeping our hearts and minds firmly stuck to worldly ideas of power and authority, rather than recognising that we have been made part of a glorious heavenly kingdom. And that the deep desires they have can only be satisfied by God. Jesus talks of God’s desire, to be as a hen who gathers all the children of Jerusalem under her wings. A motherly embrace for all God’s people, if only we wouldn’t keep wandering off like that one chick who sees something between the feathers and decides they would rather leave the mother’s care to go find it. 

One way of considering the difference between our earthly desires and God’s desires for us is the continuity of them. I remember at the age of 15 feeling this deep attraction to the priesthood. It was a desire within me that would take me 15 more years before I felt comfortable truly testing it. But even before that, as a 6 year old visiting Canterbury, I’ve been told since, I was misplaced by my parents and eventually rediscovered kneeling at the place where Thomas A Beckett’s tomb once stood. It was a deep desire and yet it took a long time before I could be convinced by it. 

Another way of recognising the difference between our own earthly desires and those through which God communicates to us, is the way they truly make us feel – the lasting feeling, not the immediate satisfaction, which for purely worldly desire’s doesn’t last, if it even truly satisfies. But when we follow God’s calling to us there is a lasting contentedness, even a joy, even if everything is not exactly as we would like it to be. I did end up going to the national science fair two years later in the Yukon. I didn’t win any prizes or anything, but I was able to, as a more mature teenager, make the most of the event – getting to know people from across the country and learning from lots of other people’s science projects. And I had a sense of deep satisfaction. Much as I did with all my study of maths and science. I truly believe that it was part of what God’s desire for me. Even if there was also a deep desire to become a priest as well.

Finally, the last way we can discern God’s desires for us is whether our desires are about our own glory, or God’s. That is not to say to serve God must always end in our own sacrifice, but our desire for God will come with a sense of humble service for others – even if it is something we enjoy.

So as we continue through this Lent, being led through the wilderness as we discern God’s calling to us each individually, and as God’s Church in this place, we should be mindful of those desires we have for our Church and our community. Reflecting on where those deep desires reflect the humble service demonstrated by Christ, and aware of where those desires have both a longevity and a sense of potential deep contentedness in the hope that those desires could bring.

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

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8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School

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Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Evening Prayer 
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