BBC Radio Wales ‘ Celebration came from St Mary’s Priory this morning, in his address the Vicar said:
Julian of Norwich chose a life separated from the world. She chose a life in a cell so she could get closer to God. A cell with three windows: One window looked in the church she had attached her cell to so she could be part of the worship, a window through which food could be past to her and the third window through which she could share her spiritual insights.
Others have such a life of separation forced upon them – those who are exiled from their homeland, family and friends; those imprisoned, some of whom are there because of their conscience. Some of us may feel trapped in our own homes by our physical or other ailments.
Whatever the cause of our isolation, God is with us.
As we heard in our opening Psalm God is with us even ‘in the valley of the shadow of death’. God is able to come alongside us in our loneliness because he was once there himself.
Some times in that place we can come close to God, we can have a profound spiritual experience, as Julian did.
Central to the understanding of Julian is writings known as ‘The Shewings’ and account written by her later of an intense experience she encountered over a few days and nights in May 1373. Those who observed her during this period thought she was close to death. She would later write,
“He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but he said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.”
The writings explain God’s Trinity, the nature of sin and the process of prayer.
The early disciples would have felt at an all time low huddled in the upper room in the days between Good Friday and Easter Day. All seemed lost, their emptiness churning their stomachs, their minds questioning ‘what if’.
Have you noticed how it always seems darker just before the dawn, just when we are at our lowest point things seem to get brighter. God comes to us in those dark, lonely moments – perhaps because that is when we are at our most open to him.
So the darkness roles away as it id did for the disciples on that first Easter Day.
We are an Easter people and it is our duty to bring that Easter joy to those in exile, in prison for conscience sake or in any state of isolation. We can do so by praying for them, by writing to them and by campaigning / by lobbying the authorities on their behalf.
Terry Waite , Archbishop Runcie’s’ Mediator who was held in isolation for 1,763 days in Lebanon reflects how a postcard from a stranger – the only communication he got while held hostage- helped him realize that he was not alone and forgotten. Others in similar situations who I have written to while unfairly imprisoned have told on their release how those writings can bring a hope in to the hopelessness.
That hope is at the center of our faith. For what ever reason we feel isolated, lonely and imprisoned we can be sure that God is with us – HE has not abandoned us!