Julian of Norwich

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All will be well
And all things will be well
And all manner of things will be well.
Julian of Norwich

We have been Looking at some of the words and thoughts of some of the great teachers of prayer within the Christian tradition, at our Wednesday Eucharists during Lent. Here is the talk and presentation by Heather Scott, one of our layministers on Dame Julian of Norwich.

Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich lived in the late fourteenth century, during the time of Chaucer and the flowering of the English language, during the time of the Black Death which claimed a third of the population of England. It was the time of great famine and the Peasants’ Revolt, which incidentally was led by a former priest, and the 100 Year War, as English kings laid claim to the French throne. – A time when feudalism was disintegrating and people were deserting villages and failing estates to seek opportunities in towns and cities.
It was a time of turmoil in the church, and the death by burning of John Wycliffe, scholar, philosopher and translator of the Bible into English, who was one of the forerunners of the Protestant reformation.
I noted that, in her writings, Julian often refers to Holy church, – ‘as Holy Church teaches’, and I wondered if she was a bit worried that her writings would get her into trouble too. She is the first woman writer in English whose work survives.
Other spiritual writings of the time were the Cloud of Unknowing – author unknown, the Scale of Perfection by Walter Hilton, and The Force of Character.
The common theme in all their writings was the loving relationship between God and the souls if the just, in an age when indulgences were big business.
Julian’s writings, ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’ were the result of visions, or ‘showings’ as she calls them, that she had during a severe illness, which she had in fact prayed for as an aid to her dedication to, and worship of God, asking through her illness to be granted three wounds: true contrition, kind compassion and an earnest longing for God.
She writes that she had also asked God that she would be able to remember Christ’s passion in a special way – and her writings include in detail these visions and emotions accompanying them.
Her experience determined the course of the rest of her life.
She wrote down ‘the showings’ soon after they happened, and spent the next twenty years delving prayerfully into the meaning of the visions, her ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ being the expanded result. She wrote to pass on the riches that she had received from God to those she called her ‘even Christians’ ‘that they be sped on the way of Salvation’. She writes for ‘God-lovers who find in their hearts this love-longing’, which is placed in their hearts by God and satisfied by God, asserting that, as we reach up to God, he reaches down to us.
Julian became an anchoress, living a solitary life of prayer and silence and self-discipline, in accommodation attached to the parish church of St Julian, in Norwich.
Norwich had a rich spiritual life, with many churches and religious houses, and it is thought that Julian may have lived the Rule of St Benedict. It was on a busy trade route, so she was not out of touch with current affairs, and penitents and pilgrims came to her for spiritual counselling. If my experience with the enclosed order at Masite is anything to go by, this would have been a very important part of her ministry, to pass on the love and acceptance that she had experienced in God.

There are echoes of Scripture in much of her writing. There are progressively deeper insights into the meaning of ‘suffering with the crucified Christ’, reminiscent of Paul’s prayer : what it means to share His sufferings, moulded into the pattern of His death. I found her writing on pain and suffering particularly interesting in the light on the debate around assisted dying.
She writes about sin and damnation, pain and suffering in the world, and returns again and again to the mercy, love and power of God, in which we can believe. – “All will be well’.
It is one of her most often quoted writings, which she includes in various ways.
This is one. God assures her:

All will be well
And all things will be well
And all manner of things will be well.
Julian of Norwich

Her awareness of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in all of God’s work with mankind comes through all of her writing. One revelation that she has is of the Trinity in the suffering Christ – all of God is involved, from before the beginning of time, in the redemption of man.
She gives the picture of, as Adam falls, Christ falling into the womb of Mary, which I found very powerful.
Julian speaks of Christ as Mother, and sees Jesus’ passion as the birth pangs of a mother. He suffered that we might be born, He nourishes us and cares for us and loves us as a mother loves her child.

Meditation using hazelnut reading and ‘We are created to be God’s dwelling-place’.

I saw that He is ceaselessly at work in everything, so well, so wisely, so powerfully, that it surpasses anything that we could imagine, expect or think.
He that was highest and most worthy was totally rejected and utterly despised. But the love that caused Him to suffer all this as far surpasses His agony as heaven is above earth. For His suffering was accomplished in time, through the activity of love, but love has no beginning and is and ever shall be without end.
We are His joy. We are His reward. We are His honour. We are His crown. This is so great a joy to Jesus that He disregards His suffering, His bitter Passion, and cruel and shameful death.
Contrition makes us clean
Compassion renders us ready
And desire for God makes us worthy.
So shame is transformed into joy and glory.
For our courteous Lord does not wish his creatures to lose hope. Our failure does not prevent Him from loving us. Peace and love are always present, living and labouring within us.

In our true Mother, Jesus, our life is grounded, in uncreated wisdom which foresees all, along with the Father’s almighty power and the Holy Spirit’s sovereign goodness.
By taking upon Himself our nature He restored us to life, and by dying upon the cross He carries us to eternal life.
And from that moment until the end of time He nurtures us and helps us on, just as the great loving concern of motherhood wishes, until we are brought to our Father’s joy. In that joy we will be shown: All will be well, and you yourself shall see that every manner of thing will be well.
As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother.
He reveals this in all things, especially in these sweet words:
It is I.
That is to say, It is I, the power and goodness of the Fatherhood,
It is I, The wisdom of the Motherhood.
It is I, The light and grace that is all blessed Love.
It is I, The Trinity
It is I, The Unity.
I am the highest good of all manner of things.
I am the one who makes you love.
I am the one who makes you long. It is I, the fulfilment of all true desires.

Do you wish to understand your Lord’s meaning?
Understand truly: Love was His meaning.
Who revealed it to you? Love.
What did He show you? Love.
Why did He show it? For Love.
Hold firmly to this and you will learn and know more of this. But you will never know or learn anything other than this. Ever.
It is God’s eternal will that we remain secure in love, and peaceful and restful as He is to us. Just as He is to us, so too is His will we should be to ourselves and to our fellow Christians.

Give God Your Best

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On Sunday 26 October, The Rev. Rachel Mash stood in for me at St Francis and St Andrew’s Simon’s Town and preached the first of four sermons on the theme of Christian Stewardship. A number of parishioners asked for a copy of the address, so I have included it here.

 

STEWARDSHIP – Give God our best

St Francis Simonstown 26th Oct 2014

Ruth 2:13-18; Psalm 28; Acts 4:32-37; Matthew 3:1-6

Stewardship is about giving – giving of our best to God and our neighbour..

Uganda chicken story

There are two stories of giving in our readings today – Boaz and Barnabas – “a tale of two givers”

The one is a story of giving to charity and the other is a story of giving to the church. Both form part of our giving as Christians.

Suze Ormond a secular financial planner wrote a book called 9 steps to financial freedom, best seller, millions of copies. Step 7 Give a portion of your money to others. By releasing an anxious grasp on your money, you will open yourself to receive all that is meant to be yours.

God calls us to give not because he is poor but because giving releases the hold of money over it, it releases compassion in our hearts and joy in our souls.

  1. Barnabas – giving to church

Acts 4:32-37Common English Bible (CEB)

Sharing among the believers

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.

Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. 37 He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.

Church is a community – we need to give so that all we offer to the community can continue – a beautiful place of prayer and hope – it needs to painted to keep it beautiful, we need money for the upkeep of the building. We need money for the ministry of the church – to pay the priest so that he or she can give hope at times of bereavement, sickness or joy at baptisms and weddings. These are the basics and this is our tithe, our regular giving, it is always helpful to give by debit order, as we often pledge and then forget by the middle of the year!.

The Bible talks of tithes and offerings – the giving in joy – the thank offerings. Barnabas was known as the encourager – he sold a field and brought the money. What ministry can we encourage with a thank offering? What touches your heart? To grow the Sunday school? What about paying for an outing for the little ones. Or you want to see the youth ministry develop, sponsor young people to go on a scripture union camp at rocklands.. Or bake cakes for the parish council meeting to say we appreciate you! Or perhaps there is an old age home close by and you could sponsor a kombi to bring them once a month and buy some nice eats – be the encourager – build the ministry of this church into the community.. Experience the joy of giving, the joy of Barnabas the encourager.

2.Boaz – giving to charity

This is a wonderful story because it starts with the poor person, the homeless person, the needy. It is the story of Ruth – Recap of the story – there is a famine, Naomi and her husband ELimelech go to Moab to seek food. Her two sons marry Orpah (Oprah) and Ruth. Sadly he dies and then the two sons die so Naomi decides to go home. Orpah stays at home but Ruth goes with her mother in law and says those wonderful words – “where you go I will go, your people will become my people”

The two widows arrive, penniless, ragged, destitute and Ruth goes out to beg.

This story reminds us that when we see that person begging by the side of the road, or that homeless person comes to our door, we do not know their story – are they a victim of violence in Zimbabwe or the DRC? Have they travelled far from home because of their loved ones? Have they lost husband, father, all other support. Are they victims of child abuse and have run away from home? Their story may be one of loss, and perhaps mistakes made along the way, but it also includes love and loyalty and faithfulness.

Many people would have dismissed Ruth, almost penniless, ragged clothes begging for scraps in the field.

Look how Boaz gives to her –

Ruth 2:13-18Common English Bible (CEB)

13 She said, “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, sir, because you’ve comforted me and because you’ve spoken kindly to your female servant—even though I’m not one of your female servants.”

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here, eat some of the bread, and dip your piece in the vinegar.” She sat alongside the harvesters, and he served roasted grain to her. She ate, was satisfied, and had leftovers. 15 Then she got up to glean.

Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her glean between the bundles, and don’t humiliate her. 16 Also, pull out some from the bales for her and leave them behind for her to glean. And don’t scold her.”

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed what she had gleaned; it was about an 10 kilos of corn. 18 She picked it up and went into town. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She brought out what she had left over after eating her fill and gave it to her.

The first thing is that he spoke kindly to her – A few years ago the Cape talk team sold Big issue for a day and they said what was the hardest was not that many people didn’t buy. They only expected a few to buy. What was hard was that people were not kind. They refused to look, they did not treat you like a human being. Kindness costs us nothing – to say ‘not today’ ‘maybe another day’ and to smile.

Secondly he empowered her (she picked her own food). he could have easily given her a bag of corn, but he enabled her to pick her own and to feel that pride in bringing it home. A good principle is to say: “never do what disempowers” to the people at door, to the homeless. for example when you see a young child begging ask your self if I give him R5 am I empowering him, or keeping him on the street and away from school? Rather take that sorrow you feel and make a donation to an organization dealing with street children. We need to equip ourselves with information, which organisations do what in this area so that we can direct people to the help they need.

One of our churches opened their doors during the xenophobic violence and took in refugees, they brought food and cooked for them. After a few weeks some of them came to see the ladies and said – please we are really grateful for the roof over our heads, but allow us please to buy our own food and cook our own meals in our way – many of us are working and can contribute food and we can all contribute by cooking.. it is not good for us to just sit, we feel more hopeless and sad..

Mary Glovers prayer.

Jim Wallis tells the story of Mary Glover

Mary Glover was a regular volunteer in our weekly soup kitchen so poor that she too needed the bag of groceries passed out every week, Mary often said a prayer before we opened the door each Saturday morning simply because she was the best pray-er. You got the sense that she had been carrying on a conversation with her Lord for a long time. She would start by saying something like this – thankyou lord for waking me up this morning, and then she would always pray the same words.

Lord we know you will be coming through this line today so Lord, help us to treat you well’.

What a lovely story – this church saw in Mary that she had a powerful faith and in fact she could best minister to those in the line because she knew their pain. And she brought them the wake up call to see Jesus in each person standing in that line.

So how do we give to charity? What to do ? Life is so busy and you feel so stretched.. People are always asking us to give to this cause or that one and making us feel guilty if we don’t.

What is the best way to know what God wants you to do? It is quite simple – follow your heartbreak.

What breaks your heart? When you read the paper do you cry for the kids with no books to read, or do you cry for the woman who has been beaten by her husband? Or are you touched by the unemployed 17 boy who is dancing on the container throwing stones at the N2 because he has no hope in his life. Do you cry for the rhino or the illtreatment of animals? Or does your heart break for orphans?

Follow that call – That is your heartbreak. Other people will follow other issues, they will follow their own heartbreak. Pray about the issue, educate yourself, give of your money, give of your time. Connect your network of resource people to an organization working in that area. Follow your heartbreak and you will bring great blessing, and be blessed yourself.

Rachel Mash