Sermon: Dame Julian of Norwich

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Today, I have several readings from the fifth chapter of Julian of Norwich’s showings/visions, in The Revelations of Divine Love, the chapter that writes of “something small, no bigger than a hazelnut.”  In this showing, the Lord gave her insight into his divine love. 

“And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understand­ing and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understand­ing: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God.

“In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it. But what did I see in it? It is that God is the Creator and the protector and the lover.”

In the palm of her hand, she held something, no bigger than a hazelnut and she understood that this small thing represented all of creation: earth, moon, stars, galaxies, universe, and every living thing in it.  Everything.  And she understood that God created it, protected it, and loved it.  That is great comfort to us, to know that God loves it, but what Julian points out next is that our love and desire for part of this small thing, for parts of what have been created, is the source of our unease.  Our desire for something that is created leaves us wanting, always looking for more.  She says:

“This little thing which is created seemed to me as if it could have fallen into nothing because of its littleness. We need to have knowledge of this, so that we may delight in despising as nothing everything created, so as to love and have uncreated God. For this is the reason why our hearts and souls are not in perfect ease, because here we seek rest in this thing which is so little, in which there is no rest, and we do not know our God who is almighty, all wise and all good, for he is true rest… And this is the reason why no soul is at rest until it has despised as nothing all things which are created.”

We find no rest in this little thing, in the created.  Our only true rest comes from God, comes from turning away from the created to the One who created.

Five hundred years later, in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said something quite similar: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Do you find yourself looking from one thing to the next, seeking happiness and peace?  Could the problem be that you are looking to the created instead of the Creator for that happiness and peace?  Are you happy and at peace, but still have this “itch” in your soul that things are a bit off?  Like a movie when a person’s lips are just slightly off timing from the sound.  Everything is right, but….?  Could it be that your soul is desiring something, that is not of this life?  It will not solve this dis-ease, but today, the Psalmist provided us with some advice on how to find a certain peace and easing of that longing: 

One thing have I asked of the Lord;

one thing I seek; *

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the Lord *

and to seek him in his temple.

Do not seek after the created, but seek the Creator.  In Him you will find peace and the rest for your soul.

I’ll close with Julian’s prayer contained in this chapter—Let us pray: God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing which is less which can pay you full worship. And if I ask anything which is less, always I am in want; but only in you do I have everything.  Amen.

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