My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord (Ps. 84.2)
All great things start with longing: a longing for home, longing for love, longing for justice, longing for peace and simple, understandable life, longing for…
First, to establish borders of this discourse:
What is longing and what is its place in human life?
First, longing is an extension of the self into the realm of the possible, but unattained.
Then, longing is a strong feeling — yearning, demanding that something be.
Then, longing is a strong focusing on the aim and target, not letting it go from one’s heart;
and thus, longing is a heart’s vector of thought, action and preparedness, a vector into the object of the longing.
In our city, there are a few mobile phone advertisement posters saying “you are what you scroll”, linking possession of a device with a person’s choices and somewhat, with identity.
I’d like to challenge this expression — you are what you [X]. I’d like to say: You are what you long for. WE are what _we_ long for. Our faith shapes our be-longing. Our longing shapes what we are and how we are, and what we act.
So, what are the kinds of longing?
First, it is a longing for the Kingdom of God.
Romans 4:17 defines it so: For the kingdom of God .. is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
. There is a lovely Taize song
We all long for justice, lived out in this world, just like it is promised in the next world.
We long for a safe place to build a nest and find security, just like the birds in Psalm 84.
We long for order and balance, and clarity in our journey.
We long for home, material or immaterial, somewhere we are accepted as we are and who we are.
What is home? How do we know it? If it is our place of birth, then many of us would have to call a hospital our home. That is not a very homely sight. Maybe home is where we grew up? Then many of us would find ourselves far far away and long ago. What if the English proverb has it right: Home is where the heart is.
And the heart (According to St. Augustine’s confessions
) does not rest until it rests in God
. This is the longing for home that defines who we are when all is said and done.
That Home can be first defined as the dwelling places of the Lord. This is where Jesus says to go to make us a place. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14)
This home to be is seen in faith, but it can also be experienced in our daily lives: it is the community of all believers, and particularly those we know. The church is a building to house the living temples of God
. The community of the faithful is a home.
The faith that sees is nothing static. It is dynamic, changing and growing. We are on a race, a journey together as St. Paul writes: “..I am already being poured out as a libation, .. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4.6-8)
He compares his life in God with two things: the flow of wine from a cup in honour of a god, and a race, a contest to win a prize. All racers long to complete the race, they all long to win it. This is the kind of journey we are engaged in.
Another sign of the Kingdom is unity. Unity in faith (experience in creeds), unity in worship (the gathering, the worship order, the joy in worship together). The Psalm says — Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. (84.4), unity in action. We do not have to be the same to be united in kindness.
Kindness creates safe places in this eternal battle for survival we experience. The house of God is this safe place where we may rest, and nest (like the sparrow and the swallow), and recreate ourselves and help others to heal. And just like the young birds go forth from the nest, we, too, are called to go out and be the house of God for the world around us.Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca (weeping) they make it a place of springs (Ps. 84.5,6); Faith in a merciful god makes this kindness possible. Being grounded in Him through the worship and sacraments lets us grow wings of faith, and the longing to be with God is realised in service to those around us.
We long for justice, but who can deliver it to us?
God is shown as a just judge repeatedly here.
He is the judge in Sirach
, his verdict is just and final.
He is the arbiter granting Paul the crown of victory.
What does that mean for us?
It means that in our race through life, we have an arbiter who actually knows the rules.
It means our longing vectors find their aim in an entity who cares enough to pay attention to what we say and what we do.
It means that we can find a safe place to rest before the race, in a battle, on our journey.
A holy place we long for. A place of rest and restoration.
This place is the house of God.
This place is us.
(Preached at St. Saviour’s Anglican church 27/10/2019)