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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection
The Second Sunday of Advent
… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…
T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
Peace on each one who comes in need;
Peace on each one who comes in joy.
Peace on each one who offers prayers;
Peace on each one who offers song.
Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,
Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.
Keep your Church alert, Holy Spirit, ready to hear when you are calling, and when you challenge us.
Keep us hopeful, Holy Spirit, Knowing Christ will come again. Amen.
The Gospel Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Poem: “John” by Lucille Clifton
somebody coming in blackness
like a star
and the world be a great bush
on his head
and his eyes be fire
in the city
and his mouth be true as time
he be calling the people brother
even in the prison
even in the jail
I’m just only a baptist preacher
somebody bigger than me coming
in blackness like a star
The Gospel according to Mark is striking in its sense of urgency. Whereas the other gospels, each in their own way, set the stage with a prologue that orients us to the themes and style in which they will tell the good news of Jesus, this gospel bursts on the scene with the appearance of the wild and wooly John the Baptist. Often it’s tempting to focus on the outlandish nature of John, but it’s his message that is truly extraordinary. The coming of the powerful, long-awaited one is an invitation to turn around, accept forgiveness, and enter into the baptism of the Holy Spirit – after which anything could happen.
The poem, after shaking us awake with a startling image – blackness like a star – and recalling to us other moments of revelation, like the burning bush, helps us to see the liberating project of Jesus in concrete terms: his solidarity, even kinship, with those held in any kind of captivity. And the self-understanding of John as “only a Baptist preacher” might be a way for us, as Anglicans, to see his humility and his edginess in a new way.
Questions for reflection:
Have you ever encountered someone who reminded you of John the Baptist? What was your reaction to that person at the time? When you recall that moment now, what do you notice?
What insights might the poem offer you into the witness of John? Into the mission of Jesus?
This Advent season, for many, is darker than usual, even as some hopes are beginning to dawn. What might the image “coming in blackness like a star” offer in this time?
We bring before God someone whom we have met or remembered today
We bring to God someone who is hurting tonight and needs our prayer
We bring to God a troubled situation in our world
We bring to God, silently, someone whom we find hard to forgive or trust
We bring ourselves to God that we might grow in generosity of spirit, clarity of mind, and warmth of affection
We offer our thanks to God for the blessings in our lives
We name before God those who have died.
Gracious God, you hear all our prayers: those we speak aloud, those we hold in our hearts, and those prayers for which we have no words. Hear the prayers of your people, and grant them as may be best for us, for the sake of your holy name. Amen.
Accept our thanks for all you have done, O God. Our hands were empty, and you filled them.
May Christ’s holy, healing, enabling Spirit be with us every step of the way, and be our guide as our road changes and turns, and the blessing of God our Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be among us now and remain with us forever. Amen.