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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection
The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 21
… 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.
Scripture Reading Philippians 2:1-13
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Poem: “He that is Down” by John Bunyan
He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave
Because Thou savest such.
Fulness to such a burden is
That go in pilgrimage;
Here little and hereafter bliss
Is best from all to age.
The well-known passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi contains what is widely believed to be one of the earliest hymns in the Christian tradition, which is in its turn the source of one of the best-loved hymns in the Anglican tradition, “At the name of Jesus,” set to the Vaughn Williams tune King’s Weston. Its description of the self-emptying of the pre-existent second person of the Trinity, the “humbling” of the Holy One, and his subsequent exaltation, along with the essential proclamation of faith, “Jesus is Lord,” had a profound effect on the development of Christian doctrine.
John Bunyan – author of The Pilgrim’s Progress – was a Puritan writer and thinker whose influence on popular Protestant faith persisted through the Victorian era. Though his sensibility and style may now strike us as old-fashioned, his emphasis on the journey in faith as a series of individual moral choices, and his emphasis on humility as a key to life-giving relationship with God, continue to shape the spiritual formation of many.
Questions for Meditation:
What do you think of when you hear the word “humility”? How would you distinguish it from humiliation? Can you think of someone who is humble in a way that makes this old-fashioned virtue attractive? How might a more widespread practice of this virtue transform our common life?
How does the emphasis on Jesus’ humility shape your understanding of what it means for God to become human? How might it transform your sense of self?
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.