This text from Ezekiel describes what is happening to baby Leo this morning in baptism: "I will put
my spirit within you" - in baptism we are born again of water and the Spirit – water is a symbol of death: it receives the body as if it were a tomb; sin is buried, we are washed clean - death itself is killed in the water and the Spirit restores us to life.

This is what makes us human: the Spirit of God warming our hearts into life, suffusing our hearts with love. And perhaps Fr D will bear me out - it speaks of the essential gulf between artificial intelligence and a human being - although I grant that a robot probably has no need of a heart anyway, and if it did it would not be made from stone but some esoteric nano chip!

In baptism we make the sign of the cross on Leo’s forehead and we often sing ‘God be in my head and in my understanding’. But above all love affects the heart: ‘Set me as a seal on your heart’ says the Song of Songs. There is a huge difference between knowing something "up here" in my head, and "feeling" it here, in my heart. Is any one here familiar with Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra? When I was at school we were "doing" Anthony and Cleopatra for A level - as in "done to death"! You may remember the film with a young Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. As 17/18 year olds the majority verdict on the play was that it was a tremendous love story. I chose to read it more from an historical angle as a piece of clever manoeuvring in a situation more of power politics than high romance - after all, what choice did a young female queen have? Miss Johnson uttered the words I have never forgotten: 'Ruth, you have no soul'.

Those words have stayed with me ever since. At the time I brushed them off; I didn't recognise that they had any truth in them. It is only after the passage of more years than I care to count that I realise how true they were of me then, at that point in my life. For a number of reasons my heart then more resembled stone than flesh - I had wrapped it in a protective shell because at school I felt vulnerable and unwilling to reveal that I had anyfeelings. I knew up here, in my head, about love - I knew all the words but I wasn't about to show it - that laid you open to rejection and hurt.

I was like the slave girl in the story we have just heard in Acts: she recognises the Spirit and cries out: 'These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation'. She knows the words but it goes no further; neither she nor her owners have any real understanding of what it means. It's a moneymaking exercise. They have the words, the knowledge but no real appreciation, no feeling, no empathy for the message -we could say she has a heart of stone. Contrast with the jailer who sees what the Spirit achieves: 'all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened' - he longs to be part of it.

I was reminded of this episode in my life because my old school motto was: Not words but deeds. Unlike the jailer I did not then understand its true import! The jailer believes not just in words but in action. He understands the spirit of what he believes, the spirit of hospitality, of self-giving, of love. Since leaving school the rest of my life has been a journey into that spirit of love; the protective shell is being chipped away; I try to hold myself open to God's ongoing heart transplant.

There was an article in the paper recently that heart transplants may soon be outdated,replaced by gene therapy. But it is already in our genes to have hearts of flesh! God created us in his image and he saw that it was good. We are each 'fearfully and wonderfully made,' for it was God 'who formed my inward parts' (Ps 139). No human being is born with a heart of stone. Show me the newborn with a heart of stone! Leo is a gift of God in creation – and God sees that he is good! We welcome him into our family to share in the life and love of Jesus Christ.

So how is the heart of stone acquired? It must be, as mine was, through experience. Could it be there are aspects of our 21st century world that are inimical to our hearts of flesh? The cult of the body - which seems to encourage people to hate their appearance -how can we love our neighbours if we hate ourselves? And at the other extreme, if it's always "me, me, me" "because I'm worth it" - where is the space left for others in that cocoon of self idolatry?

What about the perpetual round of visual news, pictures and film of violence, conflict, human suffering? Have we seen it so often that we are hardened to it? Are our lives filled with too many words? From TV, radio, mobile, tablet, computer - perpetual noise? Too many words and no opportunity to digest them; no space to consider what they really mean; no silence to listen to them speaking to our hearts.

We are called by the gospel to action, to point the way to the one who comes, the Alpha and the Omega, the one who brings the water of life. We are those who listen to the Word of truth and so believe in Jesus through the words of the disciples. But if we say we believe but have not love we are like noisy gongs or clanging cymbals (to paraphrase Paul in 1 Cor 13) - our belief must show forth in our actions - actions inspired by the Holy Spirit.

As Christians we all have the same vocation: we are called in baptism to become one in the Spirit with each other and with Jesus and through him with the Father – we are one family. And the aim of this family union is love: 'so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them'. We are all called to open our hearts to the Spirit of God that is love; then we shall all be one so that the world may believe - through our witness of love.

In these days between the feast of the Ascension, last Thursday, when we celebrated Jesus's return to the Father, and Pentecost next Sunday, when we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, Archbishop Justin has asked for a wave of prayer to sweep through the nation for the nation. We stand at a crossroads; we need the guidance of the Spirit of Truth. On the table outside by the door are booklets for these Nine Days of Prayer, entitled Conversations at the Crossroads. For each day there is a painting and a short reading and prayer. Take a few minutes of silence each day this week to look at the painting, to read about other people's crossroads and the decisions they made. Let us pray that our hearts of flesh are so soaked by the Spirit that God’s Love overflows into all aspects of our lives.

Easter 7 Sermon
Ezekiel 36:24-28; Acts16:16-34; (Ps97; Rev 22:12-14,16-17,20-end); John

17:20-end