Lent 2 02/28/21

Still Point gathers over Zoom this Sunday at 5:30 pm.

 

The Collect

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                       Mark 8:31-38 

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Lent 1 02/21/21

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The Still Point :A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The First Sunday of Lent

… 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. 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness;
give us grace to direct our lives in obedience to your Spirit;
and as you know our weakness
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Poem: “The Good News”                                                                           by Thich Nhat Hanh

They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

Meditation:

At first glance, today’s poem by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk may seem out of place for the first Sunday in Lent.  But today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel also sandwiches Jesus’s 40-day trial in the desert between two surprisingly life-giving events: baptism and the proclaiming of Good News.  Perhaps it may serve as a reminder to us that, even in the darkness of Lent (or the darkness of apocalyptic weather, or soul-draining cultural divisions, or an isolating pandemic), as a people of God we can still find newness of life and help engage in the renewal of the world.  Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem lifts the weed-status of the dandelion to a source of beauty, and lifts us as the bearers of good news instead of merely passive recipients.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What dandelions in your life can you imagine reconsidering as flowers?
  • In the midst of so much bad news, where do you find hope?
  • As you begin this year’s Lenten journey, what are your hopes? What moments in your past have given you new life?

 Prayers

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.

Poem choice and reflections by Matt Bentley

Last Sunday after the Epiphany 02/14/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany

… 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.  

 

Opening Prayer

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 9:2-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Poem: “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Meditation:

Today’s well-known poem paints a world shimmering and vibrating with Godly energy.  And yet we often find ourselves trodding through the ruts of our routines and forget to look up and notice.  Though the poem begins and ends with explicit references to God and the Holy Spirit, in the middle Hopkins finds the sources of human, incarnate, natural grandeur – that is, Christ’s grandeur.  This makes a fitting partner for today’s reading from Mark, which portrays the contrast between the transfigured Christ (in “dazzling white”) and those bound to earth. Famous for his adept use of sounds, Hopkins seems to apply the divine transfiguration to language, too, finding the potential within everyday words to become something new.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Where have you recently found God’s Grandeur in nature? In words?
  • What are your favorite uses of language in this poem? Is there a juxtaposition of images that surprises you?
  • Listen to Benjamin Britten’s setting of this poem here.  How does this setting capture the sense of surprise or awe?
  • For another take on our latent capacity for godly grandeur, read Rainer Maria Rilke’s selection from a letter.  Where do you feel God calling forth your song from within?

The Prayers

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.

Epiphany 5 02/07/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

… 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.  

 

 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, give us such a vision of your purpose and such an assurance of your love and power, that we may ever hold fast the hope which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:29-39

After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Poem: Selections from “Eighteen Ways of Looking at Cancer”

                                                                                        by Eleanor, Louise, Lydia, Nell, Rosetta and Sandra

I

I love my mother, my brother and my grandmother

But I’m not ready to go and be with them yet

What about my three children?

 

III

A lot of people think, “Why me?”

I never did go through, “Why me?”

 

VI

I felt like a marionette

My strings being pulled in every direction

They want me to have this scan, and this test,

And this bloodwork.

Where do you want me now?

 

X

Lost in this never-ending struggle or tunnel

The struggle is the tunnel

On and on

Never-ending

Dark

 

XIII

Sleep

What’s a good night’s sleep?

Waking up exhausted

The lack of energy is indescribable

 

XVII

Other people’s insensitivities:

“We’re not talking about cancer.”

 

XVIII

Other people’s kindnesses:

A bag of tomatoes

A rotisserie chicken.

Meditation:

Today’s poem comes from a writing and healing workshop at Cancer Services in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the selections give us a counterpart to today’s Gospel reading, focusing not on the healer, but on the healed.  These selections also remind us about how the miracle of healing works in the real world: a combination of scientific invention, experiments, human kindness, painful side effects, existential anguish, and the ongoing need for the basics: sleep, nutrition, and hope.  We all can be – we all are – part of Jesus’s miracle of healing, and like the body of Christ, we are each uniquely equipped to be part of that process.

Questions for Reflection:

  • For more of the ‘eighteen ways’ of looking at illness, see https://writingandhealing.org/2007/02/04/eighteen_ways_o
  • What would you add to this kaleidoscope of the very real human experience of suffering and healing?
  • In moments when you have asked, “Why me?”, how has your faith helped you answer the question?  What doubts and questions remain?
  • In the space between ‘other people’s insensitivities’ and ‘other people’s kindness’, there is a lot of room for indifference, apathy, and what we might call ‘sins of omission.’  What has helped you both acknowledgethe kindness of others, as well as tap into your own kindness?
  • How are you best equipped to help the work of Jesus in the world?

The Prayers

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

Poem selection and meditations by Matt Bentley

Epiphany 4 01/31/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

… 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.  

 

 

Opening Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

 

 

Poem: Hymn 15 from Hymns of Divine Love                                                                          by Symeon

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous?—Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.


Meditation
Symeon the New Theologian (949‒1022) was a Byzantine Christian monk and mystic, better known to Eastern Christians than Western. In the words of Richard Rohr, “Symeon believed humans had the capacity to experience God’s presence directly. He visualized this union happening within the ‘force field’ of the Body of Christ. Symeon’s Hymn 15 from his collected Hymns of Divine Love beautifully names the divine union that God is forever inviting us toward.”

This poem from the Hymns of Divine Love may provide a new lens for viewing the gospel story of Jesus casting out unclean spirits, and the words “What is this? A new teaching – with authority!”

 

Questions for Reflection

Where does the gospel story intersect with your story?

What do you find “new” in the teachings and actions of Jesus?

What does the poem invite you to consider?

           

The Prayers

 

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

Epiphany 3 01/24/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

… 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.  

 Opening Prayer

Almighty God, give us such a vision of your purpose and such an assurance of your love and power, that we may ever hold fast the hope
which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:14-20

After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Poem: From “Six Recognitions of the Lord”                 by Mary Oliver

Of course I have always known you

are present in the clouds, and the

black oak I especially adore, and the

wings of birds. But you are present

too in the body, listening to the body,

teaching it to live, instead of all

that touching, with disembodied joy.

We do not do this easily. We have

lived so long in the in the heaven of touch,

and we maintain our mutability, our

physicality, even as we begin to

apprehend the other world. Slowly we

make our appreciative response.

Slowly appreciation swells to

astonishment. And we enter the dialogue

of our lives that is beyond all under-

standing or conclusion. It is mystery.

It is love of God. It is obedience.

Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with

the fragrance of the fields and the

freshness of the oceans which you have

made, and help me to hear and to hold

in all dearness those exacting and wonderful

words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:

Follow me.

Meditation

The gospel story for today is striking, in terms of Jesus’ direct calls to Simon, Andrew, James and John, and their quick and immediate response. How did they recognize the Lord, and how were they able to make that commitment in the moment? The excerpts from the poem “Six Recognitions of the Lord” constitute the fourth and fifth sections, or recognitions. The poet reflects on recognizing the Lord in the natural world, but also in the body. She relates her own process of recognition and response – a slower, more gradual one. 

Questions for Reflection

What do you hear and notice as you re-read this story of the call to follow and the disciples’ response?

 

What “recognitions of the Lord” have you experienced – in yourself, in the world, in your communities?

 

How do you react to the poem’s discussion of recognizing the Lord’s presence in the body, but not through physical touch?

 

How do these words intersect with your own experience: “we enter the dialogue of our lives that is beyond all understanding or conclusion. It is mystery. It is love of God, It is obedience.”

The Prayers

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Poem selection, meditation, and reflection by Frank Nowell

Epiphany 2 01/17/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

… 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.  

 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, give us such a vision of your purpose and such an assurance of your love and power, that we may ever hold fast the hope which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                       John 1:43-51

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Poem: Last Night as I Was Sleeping                                                            by Antonio Machado

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

Translated by Robert Bly

Meditation:

The poem leads us into dreams remembered and shared, of extraordinary experiences of feeling water, a beehive (!), light, and ultimately God in the poet’s heart. The words “marvelous error” may throw us off, but perhaps the poet is suggesting indirectly that it would be a mistake to reject these experiences as unreal. (Another translation of this poem uses the words “blessed illusion”). In this week’s gospel story, one might wonder if Philip and Nathanael felt something deep and palpable when they met Jesus, something extraordinary they had never felt before. Maybe they also wondered if this was real – could this be the Messiah they were hoping for?

Questions for reflection:

  • Have you had experiences similar to the ones related in the poem… in dreams or while awake?
  • What especially strikes or moves you about the stories of Jesus calling his disciples?
  • What do you feel you are being called to this Epiphany season?

 

The Prayers

 

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.

Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ 01/10/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord

… 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.  

 

Opening Prayer

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:4-11

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.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Poem: Like The Water                                                                               by Wendell Berry

Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.
In its abundance
it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
and sleep,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters
thirsty.

We enter,
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.

 

Meditation

The poem invites us to consider water is an apt simile for love. Like the water of a deep stream, love is always abundant – there is always more than we can ever receive. And, it is offered as a gift (“we did not make it”). This first Sunday of Epiphany is traditionally focused on baptism, prompted by the day’s gospel reading. The story is dramatic and sweeping, with the announcement of Jesus as the Son and Beloved. But it can also invite us to reflect personally on our own baptism: in what ways does baptism connect us with the infinite Love made incarnate at Christmas?

 

Questions for Reflection

When (either recently or in the distant past) have you experienced love as being abundant… or even as “too much?”

The poet uses the simile of a deep stream. Are there other physical images you would use to express this experience?

Or, you may wish to reflect on baptism (both the “outward and visible sign” and the “inward and spiritual grace”). What meanings and images are foremost for you at this time?

          

The Prayers

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.

Christmas 2 01/03/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second Sunday after Christmas

… 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.  

 

Opening Prayer

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel                                             Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Poem: On the Edge                                                                     by Malcolm Guite

Christmas sets the centre on the edge;
The edge of town, out-buildings of an inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin
Of  turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed-at cosmic origin.
Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
And from this day our world is re-aligned
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
Becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed,
The End begins, the tomb becomes a womb,
For now in him all things are re-aligned.

Meditation:

After the gospel readings for Christmas Eve/ Christmas Day, with gentle and peaceful images of mother and child, and the reading for last Sunday, focusing on the mystery of Word made flesh, today’s gospel reading seems jarring and even alarming. We see Joseph and Mary with their newborn in a dangerous world, fleeing as refugees without a home. The story of escape from Herod and exile in Egypt is told rapidly; there is room to wonder and imagine what these experiences were like for Mary and Joseph. It concludes with the family finding their home in the small town of Nazareth.

In the poem, the events of Christmas are seen as re-aligning the world such that “the center”  is far from what we would usually consider the center (if determined by political power and empire). The poem also frames this re-alignment in cosmic terms: the mystery of Incarnation happening on the edge of a galaxy, which itself is on the edge. And it reverses what is expected: end becomes beginning, and tomb becomes womb.

What do the gospel reading and poem say to us about Incarnation and Love, in a world often defined by political power and privilege?

Reflection:

  • Are there new insights or feelings you experience when reading this gospel story this year?
  • What words and images from the poem do you find most meaningful?
  • If Christmas indeed means a re-aligned world, how do we respond to that news?

 

The Prayers

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.

 

 

 

Advent 4 12/20/20

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth 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.  

 

Opening Prayer

God of all hope and joy,
open our hearts in welcome,
that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming may
find in us a dwelling prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and forever.  Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Poem: “Advent”                                                                   by Charles R. Murphy

Out of a silence greater than all words;

Over the unspeakable, dumb,

Everlasting hills

With their muter herds;

Swifter than a blade that kills;

Mightier than a prayer;

Fairer than the dawn

When some dew yet remains unbroken;

Stronger than despair;

From the unspoken to the spoken,

While the heart rests momently;

Lovely as the half-uttered words of a child,

More delicate, more mild;

Terrible as the torn breasts of anguish

When strong wills languish:

Suddenly, dreadfully, exquisitely,

Love, death, and God shall come.

Meditation:

Few passages of scripture, if any, have inspired more music, painting, and poetry than this account of the angel’s message to Mary. And few have caused more puzzlement and even anguish on the part of those who feel the need to wrestle with the doctrinal issues that gather around this passage. For those who are untroubled by the doctrine of the virgin birth, however, or who can set the issue aside, perhaps this response from a contemporary teenager will give rise to fresh wondering: “It’s too beautiful not to be true.”

The poem, without making explicit reference to this passage from Luke’s gospel, evokes a multitude of scriptural and traditional images connected to the expectation and arrival of God with us. Just a few of them: the herds on the everlasting hills, the sword that pierces the heart, the spoken that emerges from silence, and finally, in just three words, an encapsulation of the mystery of the incarnation: “Love, death, and God shall come.”

Reflection:

After reading the gospel passage, and the poem, paying attention to the words and images that resonate for you in this very different year, which of the following paintings seems most compelling to you?

The Prayers

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paintings:

Fra Angelico, c. 1440

Dante Gabriel Rosetti, 1882

Gloria SSali, 2001