The Flame of God

By Jessica Martin

A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. (Ezek. 36:26a)

At the beginning of everything, there was God. For there to be a beginning at all, there was God. He was changeless, enduring, eternal.

But that was only part of the story. Here is its history from then to now, from ever and for ever: God is all movement, all change, a wind that blows, a flaming fire, the life that animates, the heart that loves, the energy of knowing and doing and the hope of all being, and her name is Ruach, holy breath; Sophia, holy Wisdom, animating and ordering in beauty everything that ever was or ever shall be.

Because of God, he and she and more than any he or she, we live by breath and Spirit, love and wisdom, and our hearts and minds change all the time, making and knowing and hoping and reaching beyond ourselves towards the wind of life, the flame of love, the dance of wisdom at the heart of all things; Ruach and Messiah and Sophia, all entwined and always whole.

When humankind changed their minds about knowing the life of God, and turned narrowly to their own places and their own ways, God called them back, and offered them a blessed change. God told them that they did not have to deaf their ears to the sound of the wind or close their eyes to the flame, or harden their hearts against love and wisdom. “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I will put within you,” said God to his wavering people.

In the fullness of time God’s promise was fulfilled in the birth of a child in a place and time, Jesus of Nazareth, who lived, and taught, and died, bringing the Spirit of love to a people paralyzed by fear, grief and bitterness. He was like a flame in the darkness, brave and defenseless. He was betrayed and killed; and it seemed as if fear, grief and bitterness had overcome the generous gifts of life and love and wisdom.

But this was not so. Life and love and wisdom in their weakness proved stronger than death, and Jesus was raised in power. He breathed, and ate, and taught, and walked with his friends for a little while, and then was drawn from their sight, out of place and time, back to the heart of God. But he told them to wait.

So they waited. And one morning, the morning we celebrate this day, the breath of God came upon them like a rushing wind; the fire of God lighted upon them like inextinguishable energy, the wisdom of God inhabited them speaking hope and truth in words that everyone could understand. She offered them a new intimacy with the life which fills and sustains everything everywhere. And they said yes. And because they said yes, a time which had felt like the end of everything proved after all to be the beginning of something new.

That was a couple of thousand years ago now. But it is not history. The Spirit of God is here. She infuses tired minds with hope and brings the sorrowful to joy. The Spirit of God refreshes her people and brings us back to the changeless center of everything. We celebrate today the coming of the wind of change, the renewing of the people of God in beholding his goodness and his majesty. We remember and renew our own commitment to love and wisdom when we call for that change and growth to break the gray pavements of our worn hearts with new green growth; to blow through closed and stuffy minds the cool and living wind.

And the call for our refreshment sounds like this: come, Holy Spirit, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Teach us the way of love and wisdom. Blow through us the wind of change.

And now to the only wise God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all glory and power, honor and dominion, now and to all eternity. Amen.

The Rev. Jessica Martin is canon residentiary at Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England.


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