Proper 9, Year A


For just a few minutes, I want to take you back in time 1000 years …

to 11th century England, the middle ages;

It was a harsh time.

A terrible famine struck the whole of England in the spring of 1005;

it was cold March, and there was no food to put on the fire.

People’s lives were devastated.


More famines followed in the years to come—a famine all across Europe and a terrible famine in India that depopulated entire provinces.

To ancient and medieval people, regardless of their religion,

famine was a sign of the end times. It seemed as if the end was near.


But famine was not the only terrifying sign.

On April 7th, in the year 1000, there was a total eclipse of the sun.

The people thought this surely indicated the apocalypse was upon them.


If you remember the warnings about judgment day

and all the end of the world predictions we heard in the year 2000,

quadruple those reactions for the folks in the year 1000 who had little science to go on. Their world was full of mystical signs.


Christians have always predicted that Judgment Day

would be heralded in the skies…combine that with leaders calculating

that Christ’s return would come 1000 years after his conception

you may well picture the alarm.

And then, since Armageddon didn’t happen in 1000, folks recalculated

their predictions, reviving the anxiety in 1033,

with leaders now saying the end would be

1000 years after Christ’s resurrection.


It is fair to say that the tragedy of famine and the dire predictions of catastrophe from the solar (and lunar) eclipses made ordinary folks lives scary and unstable.

But the truth is, matters were already pretty lousy in 1000 and had been in England since King Aethelred the Unready came to power.

It is Awfully unfortunate the name history gave this man.

Aethelred the Unready.

To be fair, he inherited the throne at age 10,

just before the turn of the millennium, before the famine,

and during the eclipse, but the truth is,

Aethelred never in all his 38 years of reign

grew into a stable or powerful leader for the country.

Folks who remembered the years before all of these events,

saw their society flourishing.

There was a burgeoning Culture of Learning

and there were good reforms of the English Church and government,

but Aethelred as he came of age,

focused on gaining more power for himself.

Let his country grow weaker and divided;

England was unable to defend themselves against the Danish conquest and the Norman conquest that followed. Thus came the moniker: “the unready”

Things were so bad that the church’s Archbishop of York, Wulfstan,

warned of the end of society:

“Beloved men, realize what is true: this world is in haste

and the end approaches; and therefore in the world things go from bad to worse, and so it must of necessity deteriorate greatly on account of the people’s sins before the coming of Antichrist.” [i]


It was into all of this uncertainty and turmoil,

a man named Anselm was born in the year 1033.

Anselm was an extraordinarily bright young man—a great thinker and student of theology and philosophy.

Anselm’s mind was so excellent, and his work so great,

he was later named a saint of the Church.


His writings include proofs

for the existence of God and the goodness of God,

but that is not all; he went on to prove

that God is just,   self-existent,       merciful,     timelessly eternal,

non-physical,       non-composite,   and so forth.

It was a lot of writing.

Anselm argued that if God lacked any of these qualities,

God would be less than the greatest conceivable being, which is impossible.  Anselm was an intellectual through and through;

his work ushered in what we know as the age of scholasticism.  


Fascinating to me that he was born in 1033

and grew up in wake of all of worldly turmoil.

He lived through a tumultuous time of Papacy, too, as the One Church was fighting over who was real Pope.

Anselm came from a wealthy family, with a domineering father,

who was unwilling to let Anslem go into church.

Roaming for a while, Anselm hears that his father has died,

and with that he enters monastic life at age 27;

the religious order filled his needs for many years, and gave him a chance to study and write….then

At age of 60, he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury—

the Head of the Anglican church in England and leader of Anglican communion.

Stormy bishopric, fighting with Kings over control of Church—no such things as separation of Church and state then.

Exiled a few times from England.

Persevered—left us a legacy of his writings.


While much of Anselm’s work is over my head,

I have held on dearly to his most often quoted/famous writing—

—”I do not seek to understand that I may believe,

but believe that I might understand, for unless I first believe,

I shall not understand.”

He argued that faith necessarily precedes reason,

but that reason can expand upon faith. They work together.


People named Anselm’s motto:

“faith seeking understanding.” 

It means something like “an active love of God

seeking a deeper knowledge of God.”


Today we hear Jesus’ prayer thanking God,

modeling for his followers,

the way to a deeper relationship with God through prayer.

People were questioning who this man Jesus was, to speak so intimately with God,

And they wondered how was this man Jesus bold enough to make fun of their religious leaders—because you can’t miss the sarcasm when Jesus says,

 “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

because you have hidden these things from the “wise and the intelligent”

and have revealed them to infants,”

Jesus points out their failed logic in condemning both him and John the Baptist,

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say,

‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”


Jesus is referring to himself, as the Wisdom of God—as God’s way—

the way of nourishment, of light, of a secure dwelling place for all who follow. God’s way of bringing us into community and sharing his love for us.

“Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

It is God’s gracious will to act in ways that confound human wisdom,

and to reveal to infants what the “wise and intelligent” cannot see.


This wisdom is what Anselm’s simplest teaching invites all of us to enter into;

To begin not with human reasoning that will lead us astray, to seek power or money or spread fear.

but to begin with faith.

With God’s own wisdom made real in Jesus Christ, the anointed one.

Begin with Faith, an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God

Faith seeking understanding.


When this world seems to be falling apart,

with addiction continuing to plague us

and hunger, even here in this wealthy country, let alone across the ocean, with fighting politicians who divide rather than serve the common good…

I can let myself fall into the trap wanting a more consistent God,

one I can predict, perhaps one who controls the way I think things should be. Then, as BBT says,

I remember that “God’s power is not a controlling,

but a redeeming power—the power to raise the dead, to power to heal,

even those who are destroying themselves,

even those who seek power over others through creating fear.


Jesus ends his teaching that day with an invitation.

He bids his followers to come, to fall into the wisdom and care of God, where all things are made new.

 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Thanks be to God.