New Year's Eve Sermon 12/31/17
Merry Christmas everyone. Merry Christmas… that can be a loaded phrase. Not everyone feels super Merry at this time of year. Certainly, many people do, especially many children as they anticipate what lies under the tree. Many of us feel Merry as we look forward to time with family and friends and wonderful opportunities to come together for worship. But also, there are many of us who might have walked through this week less than merry.
What does merry mean? It is not a word we use anymore outside of Christmas. Merry is defined as being cheerful, joyful or festive. It is also defined as slightly and good-humoredly drunk. So maybe more of us were merry than not.
Regardless of how Merry we felt this week, regardless of the circumstances in our lives, regardless of our acceptance of it or not, we have been given the greatest gift of all from God. And that gift is Godself. That gift is the full love of God. God is love. I imagine this ball of love, this force of energy that is love that at the beginning of time had to share itself, had to share that love. It was too much for God to contain in Godself and it just burst open and spread out creating this earth. And then all the life on earth began to form out of this love.
Our very matter, our physicality is the substance of love made flesh. God also could not be contained God’s love had to be made flesh too and God became human and Jesus was born into our lives. And Jesus shows us how to embody who we are. And who are beams of light and love. It’s that simple. That is what we are made of and what we are destined to be.
Light and love. And like God, we have been given so much that we too, if we really embrace all the love we have been given and all the love that we are made of, then like God, we cannot contain it all and we will share it, our love too will spread out into the dark corners of the world and into the dark places in our lives.
Now when this love spread out and life was formed, darkness came to be. All darkness really is is the absence of light, or more accurately, an obstruction blocking the light. Light can exist without darkness but darkness cannot exist without light.
We are the love and the light of the world and we also have been given freedom. We often wonder why suffering exists. Why God, could our world exist without suffering. I shared this at our Wednesday mid-week service. Julian of Norwich was an English Christian mystic from the 14th Century. She longed to understand suffering and especially she longed to feel the suffering that Jesus experienced on the cross. She prayed to God incessantly to show her, to show her how Jesus suffered and why we must suffer.
She got deathly ill in when she was 30 and during her illness had a series of visions. Amazing visions that she spent the rest of her life recording as recollected them all.
In one vision, God came to her and told her that suffering and darkness came to be at the beginning of creation because it was behoven. That word means it was to our advantage, it just was the way. Sort of, that it is beyond our ability to comprehend, it just had to be. For all the love and light to exist, darkness was behoven.
This week we had the great celebration of Christmas and we also recognized the deaths of the Holy Innocents on Thursday. The Holy Innocents are the children that we are told King Herod had murdered, when he heard of Jesus and felt his throne threatened by this child people were calling a King.
We are reminded, yet again, that darkness exists when light is blocked. And things do block our light and cast shadows or total darkness.
I wonder without darkness and shadows would we even notice light? Would we even think anything of the light or even have a name for it?
John’s gospel starts, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not and will never overcome it.
We do have a purpose. We were created out of God’s very Being and that very Being is Love. We are love. Love is not a noun, it is a verb. We are love. We must light up the world with our love. We must find the obstructions to light and remove them. We must call out the acts, the powers that obstruct our light and cast shadows in the lives of our brothers and sisters. We are agents of God, agents of Love, created to embody the presence of the divine.
I’m going to close today by sharing the 1st Revelation or Showing that God gave Julian of Norwich. This is a new translation of Julian’s Visions by Mirabai Starr. As I am reading it, feel free to close your eyes and visualize it if that helps you.
“At the same time as I saw the bleeding head, our good Lord gave me a spiritual vision of his simple loving. I saw that he is everything that is good for us, everything that soothes and helps us. He is our clothing; he wraps himself around us, enfolding us in his love. His tender love is our shelter; he will never leave us.
Then he showed me a small thing, the size of a hazelnut, nestled in the palm of my hand. It was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eyes of my understanding and thought, “What can this be?” and the answer came to me: it is all that is Created. I was amazed that it could continue to exist. It seemed to me to be so little that it was on the verge of dissolving into nothingness.
And then these words entered my understanding: It lasts, and will last forever, because God loves it. Everything that is has its being through the love of God.
I saw three attributes of this small thing: the first is that God made it. The second is that God loves it and the third is that he sustains it. But what did I behold in that? Well, I saw the creator, the lover and the sustainer. And I recognized that until I am completely one with him I shall never have deep rest, nor full joy. No, not until I am so thoroughly joined to him that no created thing can come between my God and myself. Such a tiny object stood for all creation! I became aware that we should dismiss as nothing all that is created, so that we can we can fully receive and adore our uncreated God.
This is the reason why our hearts and souls are not a perfect ease. We seek refuge in small things, but cannot find comfort there. We do not recognize our God who is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good. He is our only true rest. And he wishes to be known. He wants us to rest in him. He is all that is, and he knows that anything less is not enough for us.
This is why no soul can find peace until it empties itself of all forms. Only when the soul has willingly become nothing for love of him who is everything can it find true rest.
Our Lord also showed me that it gives him great pleasure when a simple soul comes to him naked, open and intimate. This is an expression of the love-longing awakened in the soul that has been touched by the Holy Spirit. I understood this when the following prayer came to me: God, through your goodness, give me yourself. You are enough for me. I cannot honor you by asking for anything less. When I do ask for less, I am never satisfied. Only in you do I have all.
These words praise the absolute goodness of God and are very dear to the soul. They come close to touching upon the truth of the divine will. God’s goodness floods creation, infusing all of his blessed works, endlessly overflowing all that is, for he is everlastingness. He made us for himself alone. He restored us through his blessed passion. He sustains us always in his perfect love. And all this flows from his goodness.