St James, Calgary
Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. May we find peace in your service, and in the world to come, see you face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins
May the words of my lips, and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
CS Lewis wrote an autobiography of his early life titled Surprised by Joy. There’s a bit of a joke in here in that his wife whom he married later in life was named Joy, but this is not to whom Joy refers. Throughout his childhood, he writes about his longing for what could only be described as capital-J joy.
He experienced fleeting moments of it throughout his life, and continued searching for it before ultimately concluding upon his conversion to Christianity that the Joy he had been searching for was the presence and activity of God in his life.
His search for God is interesting in that it he did not suspect or intend to find God, nor did he realise he was looking for God.
While his story is interesting in terms of being written down, and by such a compelling writer, it is far from unique in terms of a Christian story.
The quest for God is something every Christian experiences. It’s something every Christian has experienced since the time of the Apostles, and every Christian will continue to experience.
At the beginning of his own autobiography, entitled Confessions, S. Augustine of Hippo famously wrote to God, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” He articulates here the searching we all experience. That longing for God, and that missing something in our lives which can only be filled by the creator with whom we were meant to be in relationship.
It is no wonder then, that this famous phrase from S. Augustine makes its way into our Collect of the Day.
It makes its way into the lives of most Christians as we intuitively understand the truth of what S. Augustine said. It remains as true today as it was in the fourth century when he wrote it.
Today, we often hear not of restlessness but of searches for meaning, purpose, and authenticity. In a world of screens, marketing, and consumerism, it’s sometimes hard to find truth. As Christians, we know that Truth has a name and can be found: Jesus. That challenge of finding our rest, as S. Augustine put it, or finding authenticity and meaning as we more commonly put it in modern times, is exactly what S. Paul speaks about in his letter to the Church in Colossae from our Epistle reading today.
Searching for the Spirit
Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. For the Colossians, they found that rest. Our reading today is from the first chapter of the letter. It’s good to remember that is what this is: a letter that S. Paul wrote to the Church.
His words are inspired by the Holy Spirit, but we should never lose sight of this original purpose when reading. It begs the question: why is he writing this letter?
He doesn’t take long to explain following his salutation to the people. Let me read to you again from verses 6-8: The Gospel of Christ “is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”
Paul is writing to the Colossians to exhort them and encourage them, because he has heard of their love in the Spirit. It might remind some of you, perhaps, of what I referenced the last time I preached here: the fruit of the Spirit. The Gospel is bearing fruit throughout the world. It is the grace of the Spirit that tells S. Paul that these people have found God, and causes him to respond by praying all the more for them.
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” S. Paul wants them to grow in virtue in the Christian life, and in knowledge of God, in order that they might be full participants in the Kingdom of God. He wants them to come to the Peace of God.
Some key words come up in this passage as S. Paul prays for the Colossians: bearing fruit, patience, and joy. His exhortation here is much the same as his letter to the Galatians where he exhorted them to live out the Fruit of the Spirit. More and more, that is what it means to live into the life of the Church, and to live in the kingdom of Christ.
That doesn’t necessarily equate to rest with God or authenticity, though. Where exactly does that rest come in?
When it comes to the question of authentic humanity, our modern way of looking at finding that rest with God, it all comes down to the simple point of creation. God has made us for himself. It is not just a claim made by S. Augustine, it is divinely revealed truth. Scripture tells us that God created us not by accident, but out of love.
Paul speaks of redemption in Christ, and what he means is that God, in love, is sending his son to restore us to himself as was intended by creation. Sin is not our natural state, the state we were intended to be in. An authentic, full, human being is a human being in relationship with God.
It is only when we are restored to this state of sinlessness, when the barrier to our relationship with God is removed, that we can begin to enter into the fullness of who we are all created to be.
Objective and Intimate
It is when we are restored to relationship that we can truly come to know God, something S. Paul also prays for the Colossians. We can come to know God two ways: objectively an intimately.
Knowing God objectively means knowing him through divine revelation in the Scriptures. Look at The Letter to the Colossians. It’s all about S. Paul telling them more and more about who God is, who Christ is, and who they are called to be. That is an objective knowing of who God is.
Paul also speaks more on terms of intimacy and friendship with God. Going back to that original point he made: S. Paul says that they love God by the Spirit. They pray and begin to know God personally, to enter into relationship with him, through the Spirit. That is a subjective knowing of who God is.
It is through knowing God in both these ways that we can best enter into his rest. To find that authenticity and true humanity.
Finding Rest Today
How do we do that today? We don’t have S. Paul or the other Apostles writing letters to us today. how do we come to know God like the Colossians? Know God through the Scriptures. We may not have new writings, but we have the Bible. It continues to speak to us today! For the task of knowing God and his character, there is no better place to turn to than the Psalms.
The Psalms speak to every possible human emotion. They take us from lament to joy and everything in between. In every Psalm, they teach the character of God. That is his objective truth. All Scripture is worth reading, for all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Psalms, though, are a great place to start, especially if you haven’t read them before, or haven’t read them recently.
Then, know God intimately, by his Spirit. It’s the same today as it was in the time of S. Paul. Know in the depths of your soul that you have the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Know that it is because God loves you with a perfect love. Spend time with God, intimate time with him.
Pray in the Spirit. Love him. Not because of what he gives. Not because it’s the right thing to do. Not because you have to. Pray in the Spirit because of the simple joy it gives to love purely the Lord our God who has created each and every one of us.
When you don’t know how to pray, the Daily Office is a great way to pray. It is a short service of prayer rooted in the Psalms, Biblical readings, and short prayers and intercessions. It can be found on page 1 of the Prayer Book or Page 47 of the BAS. It is a fairly simple service, especially in the BCP.
Study the Scriptures. Pray in the Spirit. Know God.
Like Lewis, like S. Augustine, like the Colossians and S. Paul: you will find rest for your soul.
 S. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions. 1.1.1
 Between 397 – 400 AD.
 Colossians i. 6-8
 Colossians i. 9
 Psalm cxxxvi. 5; Psalm cxxxix
 II Timothy iii. 16-17