St Francis, Terriers - 2 before Lent (04.02.2018) Tony Dickinson

Here’s a question for you. It’s probably the biggest question you’ve ever been asked, a question that has baffled the wisest men (and women) down the ages. And here’s a clue [hazelnut].

The question is this: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Why, in other words, does the universe exist? Why we exist? Why is there something rather than nothing?

Scientists can tell us how the universe exists. They can tell us about the “Big Bang” thirteen billion years ago when everything began. They can tell us how, over thousands and millions of year, stars and planets were formed. They can track the first beginnings of life on this planet. They can tell us how very BIG things and very small things came into being and what they do. But what they can’t tell us is why all these wonders are there to be explored in the first place.

That is where our Christian faith comes in. Christians (and Jews and Muslims) know why. They know why there is something rather than nothing. They know why the universe exists and why we exist. Everything exists because God wants it to: and God wants it to exist because God is love and love has to have an object. You can’t have a lover without a beloved. If someone came up to us and said “I love”, we would think it more than a bit strange if they couldn’t answer when we asked them “Who is your beloved?” So, one of the ways to describe the Holy Trinity is as eternal Love (the Holy Spirit) flowing between the Lover (God the Father) and the Beloved (God the Son).

Now the love of God is infinite. It doesn’t have any boundaries. That means it can’t be limited within the triangle of Father, Son and Spirit. It overflows into creating the whole of our universe – and perhaps others besides. Everything exists (from the greatest galaxy to the tiniest microorganism – even sub-atomic particles like the Higgs Boson) – everything exists because God loves it and has loved it since before time began.

But that overflowing Love doesn’t make the universe any old how. The universe isn’t a random collection of things thrown together. There’s a pattern to it – a blueprint, if you like.

If you were in this church at midnight on Christmas Eve you may have some idea of what’s coming next: that the blueprint can be read off from Jesus. The blue-print of the universe is the kind of love that God has made known to us in Jesus’s life and death and resurrection.

Let’s listen again to some words from our first reading, words written by St Paul to the first Christian believers in Colossae: “He [that is, “God’s beloved Son”] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created.” And Paul goes on “all things have been created in him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That is more than just the human Jesus. It’s the Word about which St John wrote in our Gospel, the Word who was in the beginning with God. It’s the Word spoken by God to kick-start all creation. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

Everything that there is is loved by God. Every human being is loved by God, loved so much that they are literally “to die for”. That is the immensity of God’s love for human beings. That is the immensity of God’s love for all he has made. St Francis came to realise that. He came to realise how totally God gives himself to his creatures. That is why Francis called the sun and the moon his brother and his sister. That is why he would share his daily prayer with the crickets and the birds, because he knew that they were there because God loved them and that they responded to that love by praising God simply through being what God had made them to be.

julian of norwichTwo hundred years later Julian of Norwich also came to realise the greatness of God’s love for the whole of creation, which she was shown in God’s hand, as something fragile, the size of this hazelnut and was told that it exists because “God made it: God loves it: God keeps it”. Many years later she pondered this and all the other things that God had shown her, and she asked the question “What was our Lord’s meaning?”

The answer that came to her was this: “Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else – ever!”