Sermon: Dame Julian of Norwich

The podcast is available here.

There is a song by the Beatles—A Day in the Life—and one of the stanzas begins, “I read the news today, oh boy” (Hopefully the tune won’t be stuck in your head all day), but to that can I just say, I also read the news today and… Oh, boy!  It is no wonder that so many folks are on anti-depressants! (So much so that there are traces of Prozac in our drinking water and even the fish! which given the state of things, might not be such a bad thing.)  But, between the news and life in general, there are a good many who walk around all day wondering how it could possibly all work out.  Then, in light of this state of affairs, we have someone come along like Julian of Norwich, the patron saint of this chapel, who says something that seems to be absolutely ridiculous—most of you can quote it: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  

Those are actually words that Jesus spoke to Julian and they are also proof texting—pulling out that bit that makes you happy, because you see, in Julian’s thirteenth revelation in her Revelations of Divine Love, she reveals that she wondered “why, in his great foreseeing wisdom, God had not prevented the beginning of sin.”  Why doesn’t God stop all this craziness in the world and the harm that people do?  And it is here that Jesus spoke the “all shall be well” message, but the complete message was “Sin is befitting, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Folks use that message without the “Sin is befitting” bit as some sort of mantra for everything that goes wrong in their lives all the way down to a bad hair day, when in truth, it is speaking about sin—our sins and the sins of others, both great and small, things that are heard about worldwide and those things that only you know about.  But why would Jesus say sin is befitting?  

Julian explains that it was revealed to her that the crucifixion of Jesus was the greatest possible sin, evil, harm that had or ever would occur, but sin is befitting for us because, as the Lord told her, “I have turned the greatest possible harm into good, it is my will that you should know from this that I shall turn all lesser evil into good.”  Jesus overcoming the greatest of all sins, which was committed against him, shows us that he is capable of overcoming all other evil in the world.  Hence, all shall be well.  The state of the world is at times wretched, but… all shall be well.  

There is a second reason that sin is befitting, however, if my understanding of what Julian is saying is correct, the Lord tells her the knowing of this second reason is above her pay grade.   

Regardless, in this thirteenth revelation, the Lord sums up for Julian and for us what the “all shall be well” statement ultimately means: “I [the Lord] am keeping you very safe.”  “I am keeping you very safe.”  Therefore, as St. Paul taught us in our lesson, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.”

Dame Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress (one who withdraws from society) provided us with many beautiful glimpses of our Lord.

A prayer from Julian—Let us pray: God, of thy goodness, give me Thyself; for Thou art enough for me, and I can ask for nothing less that can be full honor to Thee. And if I ask anything that is less, ever Shall I be in want, for only in Thee have I all.  Amen.

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