May I speak in the name of God who is Creator Lover and Protector, please be seated.
We apologise for audio quality issues in this recording.
You will perhaps recognise that passage of writing that I’ve just read as being from Julian of Norwich. That remarkable 14th century women who had visions from God when she was seriously ill. She spent her remaining years as an anchorite living in a cell attached to a church in Norwich, writing down interpreting her visions.
In the passage I’ve just read, Julian describe seeing something small and round lying in the palm of her hand something no bigger than a hazelnut. She wonders at at this tiny object in her hand and she has a sense from God that it is everything that is made. In other words, she is holding the whole of creation in her hand. Later on in her writing, she says that whole of creation seems so tiny because she was in the presence of the Creator. The presence of the Almighty, the all powerful God is so mind blowing, that even creation seems tiny in comparison.
I don’t know about you, but the closest I can get to what Julian is feeling in that moment is perhaps a feeling I get when I look at pictures of the Earth in Space. Its relative smallness, gives a glimpse of the indescribable immensity of God.
In our Old Testament passage today we heard the story of creation, that beautiful allegory that describes creation and tells us something of God’s purpose and character in the process. God brings order from chaos, God breathes over the waters and brings life from nothing. But the message that is hammered home in this description of creation is that it is good. In fact, we are reminded that creation is good no less than seven times passage.
Seven is apparently the favourite number of more people than any other number.
[ portion of discussion removed
] It appears in many cultures and religions as a very significant number. We might think in Islam of Muslims walking seven times around
] in Mecca. We might think of the seven steps in Buddhism, and the seven higher worlds in Hinduism, perhaps even the seven wonders of the world. In ancient times, the number seven is synonymous with completeness and with perfection. My husband likes to remind me that he was born on the 17th of the seventh month. I don’t know what he’s trying to tell me.
But this idea of perfection and the number seven underscores God’s goodness in creation, the seven days the completeness and perfection of creation. Julian’s vision of her small thing that is all creation, is expanded to tell us that not only did God create this, but that God loves it and preserves it. Everything that is made, is good, Julian says and in fact, this is one of the core themes of Julian’s writing, that everything is good, that God is good.
The collect for today, the prayer that sums up the readings and the teaching for each day, asks God to teach us to discern the divine hand at work in all of creation. And this is summed up in today’s Gospel reading. We are asked to consider the birds of the air, the lilies in the field, and the grass of the meadow. When we notice God’s creative work continuing in the world around us, when we realise that God’s creation continues in our individual lives, we have no need to worry. We are bounced in our readings today between the enormity of creation in Genesis and the fine details of creation in Matthew’s Gospel. We didn’t have to worry. It’s all good. God creates. God loves. God protects.
So what does this mean for us as a church: if all of creation is good, if we didn’t have to worry? What message does that give us about our community and how we live and work together? For me, it means that we can delight in creation just as God did. We can show our delight to the world. We can remind people of the goodness of creation We can draw people who haven’t seen the beauty of God towards that light. But it also means that we recognise that humanity is part of creation and therefore also good.
There is a joy and a richness in the diversity of humankind. In its cultures, its faiths, its expressions of love, its challenges and the goodness that helps us to overcome those challenges. Wouldn’t the world be be boring, if we were all white, heterosexual middle class males — Sorry
To me the church should be a place where we celebrate and encourage diversity. Where all are welcome on that all come find a home; a beacon of light that shapes the way of love for the wider community.
I would like us to consider over the coming months how we might be that beacon of light. Now, I’m hoping that that you received this piece of paper as you came in the door. If you didn’t please, please grab one on your way out. This statement is from Inclusive Church statement of belief. Inclusive Church is a network of church leaders and individuals who gather to… around a shared vision for their hopes for church for the future. I invite us over the coming months as as part of my contribution to our 5Ps our priorities for this year, to look at this statement from Inclusive Church, and to consider how this might reflect our beliefs as a community. I wonder how far and to what degree we as a benefice might agree with the statement that we have here.
I’m not going to ask your thoughts now but I am going to ask you to take this home with you and to use it for your prayers and reflections in the coming months. In the Lent reflection that I’m going to be leading in March, we will unpack this statement and talk about it and discuss it a little bit more. So please do use it in your prayers in the coming weeks.
Julian writes creation last and always will because God loves it and thus. Everything has being through the love of God. God saw everything that he had made and indeed it was very good.
- 6 January 2021: A video of this sermon, and the Post featured image were removed following a GDPR request.