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Many of you will know that the space that we are sitting in this morning is not exactly as the great Sir Christopher Wren designed it. Yes, the outer walls and the tower and spire stand glorious, just as he intended, but this space was firebombed in the second world war and was then reconstructed afterwards.
That bomb which destroyed much of this church on 29th December 1940 was inadvertently the cause of one of the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century - the revealing of the crypts below this church floor which takes the history of this site back to the 2nd century A.D., and reveals the subsequent layers of history, and the remains of the 7 previous churches that were on this spot. The history of St Bride is one of the miracles of survival and of rebirth in history, and throughout all these preceding centuries it has never failed to bear spiritual witness even in dark times - surely a powerful sign of the Holy Spirit at work.
Jesus, before he left his disciples, promised them his continuing presence which would continue his work and guide them into all truth. What he meant was that the Spirit would continue to guide and inspire the church over the years and the centuries ahead. And so the Spirit has.
Here at St Bride's we have our own living example of the Spirit sustaining and shaping this church down the centuries. And I'm sure of that because of this one simple thought - all that rich history of this church, up here and downstairs in the crypt, might so easily not have happened. Without the commitment and faithfulness of the Christian community here, without the vision of individuals down the centuries; people like the Rev Paul Boston the 17th century vicar who saw his church destroyed in the Great Fire, but who kept the Christian community together; without the genius of Christopher Wren who rebuilt the Church without the energy and vision of Cyril Armitage and Godfrey Allen who, in the 20th century, restored it after war-time bombing - without their commitment and faith this church might have been just a memory or a blank space on the map, a footnote of history. It so easily might not have survived.
And as you look at, not just this church but all the churches and cathedrals up and down the land, how they have changed and evolved to meet the changing needs of each succeeding age, I think we can see how the Spirit has guided, and continues to guide and direct us and the church.
And now as we, through our Inspire Project, seek to make this church fit for purpose for the future, and as we look to the appointment of a new Rector to guide us and take us forward, we too in our day, seek to co-operate with the work of the Holy Spirit, and we are reminded again that the spirit is not something static but it's a dynamic force leading us onwards, sometimes painfully, sometime haltingly, into new understandings and new adventures.
And so as the history of this church reminds us, the Spirit needs our co-operation if it is to bring new life into any situation. The Spirit doesn't work by magic, we have to be alert to His promptings, open to the future, and prepared to take a few risks for God, just like the men and women of faith from this church in the past who dared to believe that the Spirit was guiding them forward into new adventures.
So next time you wander down into our crypt, pause for a moment and look around, and think how easily all this might not have been: reflect that some things don't just happen by chance: and then remember and give thanks for the continuing power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' continuing presence in the world. And then pray that that same Spirit will blow into our lives and inspire this church with His freshness and new adventures. Amen.