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The Still Point
A Time of Meditation and Reflection: The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15
… 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.
Praise to you, God, for all your work among us. Yours is the vigor in creation, yours is the impulse in our new discoveries.
Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful in all we do. Amen.
The Gospel Matthew 15: 21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Poem: “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy” by Thomas Lux
For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentlessly they fall
into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long
and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown — but
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,
a reward for not loving
the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,
rats) creatures, if
you believe these things, then
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.
And in the morning
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors
and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,
as individuals, would not turn up
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld
of your socks, and that even —
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams —
they may tell the others
in a sign language
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s
that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.
Today’s Gospel reading is famously challenging. The disciples just want the Canaanite woman’s pestering to go away, while Jesus, at first, refuses to answer her pleas, either because of her ethnicity, or because he truly is just testing her faith. In any case, this is a difficult woman (some would call her “nasty”) whose persistence eventually wears down the protagonist Jesus. (At surface level, it is he, not her, who undergoes true change here.) Today’s poem casts a similar dynamic in a much more mundane context: the simple act of deciding to save (rather than squish) one of God’s uglier, more persistent creatures. Whether we see ourselves as Jesus, the ‘you’ in the poem, the Canaanite woman, or the tarantulas, we can perhaps consider in a new light both what it means to have faith, as well as what it means to overlook our biases and judgments when working towards justice and mercy.
Questions for reflection:
What role has persistence played in your own faith? What role has trust played?
How have you felt God’s “lifebuoys” in your life recently?
What “lifebuoys” have you offered to yourself when drowning seems imminent? To others?
How have you, like the tarantulas in the poem, spread the word that there is mercy and love and redemption in our broken world?
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.