Both our readings this morning explore themes of how we are to live as children of God as we wait, in testing times, for Jesus to return. Both our readings recognise the pressure of unfulfilled longing, and the danger of being deceived, of grasping for an apparent fulfilment of our longing that is held out to us but is ultimately false because our longings and our desires are met and fulfilled in the love of God demonstrated to us in Jesus.
Jesus speaks to John and the other disciples, and John writes to those who follow after. Both warn us to expect the life of faith to be hard, and speak to encourage us - to increase our courage - in our struggle.
When we come together, daring to call God ‘Father’ with thankful hearts, to remember how Jesus gave himself for us, and to be made members of his body, we say these words:
‘Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.’
In other words, we recognise that we have, hidden within our hearts, great desire; desires that are not acknowledged by those who belong to the world. This is not the evil desires of the flesh, but the deepest heart-longing of the children of God, a desire too deep to be expressed in words. All we can do is present our deepest self to Almighty God. And as we do this, we acknowledge the struggle, the temptation we face again and again to satisfy our desire with bread that does not last. So we ask that the thoughts of our hearts by cleansed, that the paths we follow might lead us home not far from home.
John speaks to our hearts: we are children of God. We are children of God. And when the Son who was revealed in great suffering is revealed in great glory, we who share in his passion will be transformed: we will be like him. Stand firm.
And so we come, again, to remember the one for whom we wait, to remember the story we have been caught up in, to remember ourselves, and - so encouraged - to wait for the completion for which the Son of God was once and will one day be revealed: the final end to all that steals and kills and destroys the desires of our hearts.