6.7.15 in DiscipleChurch

Brooks Harrington_150DiscipleChurch Family and Friends:

This Sunday in DiscipleChurch, we start four weeks of attentive listening to a woman mystic known as Julian of Norwich.

We do not know if this was her actual name. She was an anchoress, something like a hermit, who spent her days and years in virtual solitude in a tiny house attached to the Church of Saint Julian in Norwich, England in the late 14th century. The reason we remember her, whatever her actual name, is that she created a beautifully written record of a series of thirteen spiritual visions of Jesus which she experienced when she was critically ill over a two day period in May of 1373. Her record of these visions is the oldest preserved writing in English by any woman. And the record is quite intense, moving and challenging. Her writings are not reasoned theology. Her writings are a living record of her experience of a truth from God that explodes our reasoned theological categories.

I suspect that all of us have struggled at times to balance God’s judgments with God’s mercy, to fit together God’s just condemnation of injustice and cruelty with God’s merciful forgiveness, to reconcile the evil and suffering in the world with the sovereignty and love of God. Julian certainly did. Julian was a devout Roman Catholic, so she struggled to preserve some loyalty to the doctrines of the Church of her time — doctrines about the fierceness and constancy of God’s justice, and about the final judgment that we all face for our sins, and about purgatory, and about hell. But God spoke a different word to Julian through her visions, which she saw and heard when she thought she was dying, when she was indeed “out of her head.” (Part of every mystical experience of God is to be “out of your head.”) As with all mystics, including Francis, Julian experienced God as her and our “Lover,” not as her or our “Judge.” Doctrine melted away, and the mercy and peace of God took over her life. Like all true mystics, Christian and otherwise, Julian experienced a wholeness and well-being in the immediacy of God’s presence that convinced her, beyond reason, that “all will be well,” that the God’s justice would turn utterly into God’s mercy, despite our sin and our suffering. Julian was granted a trust in God and in God’s creation that transcended our reason, a trust that all that is — is just as God wills it, and that God cherishes and preserves, will not lose, everything and everyone that God has created.

True, Julian was an anchoress, somewhat buffered from the suffering and turmoil of the world. But she entertained visitors regularly. She lived during a time that heretics were being burned at the stake, some on the grounds of her church in Norwich. She lived during the bloody Hundred Years War between England and France. She lived when plague swept repeatedly through England. And she herself was on what she believed was her death bed when she experienced her visions. She should have been terrified, with everyone else, of God’s fury. Instead, she experienced God’s total love.

I want to let some of Julian’s words — God’s words through Julian — speak to you now, in preparation for Sunday. Do not think these words. Feel these words.

“God showed me a little thing, in the palm of my hand, round like a ball, no bigger than a hazelnut. I gazed at it, puzzling at what it might be. And God said to me, ‘It is all of creation.’ I was amazed that it could last and did not suddenly disintegrate and fall into nothingness, for it was so tiny. And again God spoke to me, ‘It lasts, both now and forever, because I cherish it.’ And I understood that everything has its being owing to God’s care and love.”

“Our Lord desires that our spirit be truly turned to gaze upon him and upon all his glorious creation, for it is exceedingly good. And his judgments are sweet and comforting, and bring our spirit to rest. Thus, we turn from scrutinizing our own blind actions toward the delightedness of God. For we consider some actions good and others wrong, but God does not look upon them so: for God has made all things, so all that is done is in some way God’s doing. For it is easy to see that the best actions are well done, but the smallest actions also share this character, because all things have been accomplished according to the nature and plan ordered by God from the beginning. No one acts but God. God never changes his mind in anything, and never will. Nothing in creation was unknown by him from the beginning. All was set in order before anything was made. Nothing will fail in its design, for all is abundantly good. So the Trinity is entirely pleased with all its works. Behold, I am God. Behold, I am in all things. Behold, I accomplish all things. Behold, I never withdraw my arms from my work. Behold, I never fail to guide all things toward the purpose for which I created them, before time began, with the strength, wisdom, and love, with which I created all. So how can anything go wrong?”

“Now our Lord reminded me of the desire for him I had earlier. I saw that nothing stood in my way but sin, and I realized that this is the same for all of us. And I thought that if there were no sin, we would all be pure and akin to our Lord just as we had been created sinless. But in my vision, Jesus informed me of everything necessary for me to know. And he told me: Sin is necessary, but everything will turn out for the good, and all will be well, and everything will be well. By the simple word, ‘sin’ God reminded me of all that is not good and of the suffering and grief of all creation… I did not see sin itself, for it has no real substance, it is not real; it can be known only by the suffering it causes, and even that pain lasts but a while. And during the woe we might take consolation in our Lord’s suffering. And out of his tender love, he consoles us, saying: ‘True, sin caused this pain, but all will be well.’ In his voice I never hear a hint of blame, and since we who are guilty are not blamed, why should we in turn blame God?”


“And all will be well, and everything will be well.”

“And all will be well, and everything will be well.”

“And all will be well, and everything will be well.”

How do we express that in DiscipleChurch every Sunday?

That’s right. “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.”

To say that is one thing. To believe that is another thing. To experience the truth of that is THE Thing.

Hope to see you Sunday. Between now and then, no matter what…“And all will be well, and everything will be well.”

Your brother,



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