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The Still Point A Time of Meditation and Reflection
The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 22
… 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 21:33-46
Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Poem: “Cornerstones” by Charlotte Higgins
Every one of us is a stone
dappled grey and edges age-worn rough
alone, we are solid enough
but together, we could make towers, mark paths,
build a home that is safe from the night
make infinite ripples from pebbles skimmed
on the loch in the gloaming light
we could make prison walls, barbed-wire crowns
or we could be cornerstones
piled up together we’re cairns, immemorial –
we cannot make it alone
but built up together we’re trail markers, trailblazers
we’ll lead you –
we’ll keep you –
In the gospel reading, Jesus is quoting scripture in saying that the stone that is rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The chief priests and Pharisees realize he is speaking to them when he says that those who fall on this stone will be crushed. This gospel may also remind us that Jesus was “despised and rejected…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Or it may remind us of Jesus’ ministry in the margins, among those who are devalued and discarded by those in power.
The image of a cornerstone is powerful, representing the foundation and reference stone upon which a building is made. It sometimes takes on significance for ceremony and the marking of time. (St. Andrew’s is one of the buildings that has used time capsules in its cornerstones!) A cornerstone can have the effect of stating, “something important is happening here.”
The poem by Charlotte Higgins was written as part of a poetry project for Hands Across the Border, an initiative set up to mark the Scottish Referendum, commissioning new works from young poets exploring “the concepts of borders, crossings, unions and separations – and what it is to build something together as a community.”
Questions/Prompts for Meditation:
How might the poem’s image of a community of cornerstones (or of cairns) speak to us as followers of Jesus in this time and place?
If you have had the opportunity to learn about the St. Andrew’s land development proposal and partnership with Attention Homes, does the poem connect with some of the possibilities that are before us as a parish?
What thoughts and feelings emerge when you consider the words from the gospel, “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?”
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.