Proper Eleven 07/18/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11

… 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

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                                                                                             Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Poem                                                                 by Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1212–c. 1282) 

A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of creation,
God doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?

Meditation

In a remarkably brief space, the gospel for today reveals Jesus’s roles as teacher, shepherd, and healer. We also see his compassion to the apostles and their need for rest and refreshment, and his compassion for the great crowd, “because they were like a sheep without a shepherd.”

The poem provides a counterpoint but also perhaps a new entry point into the gospel.

Mechthild of Magdeburg was a mystic poet in the 13th century, and a member of the Beguines, lay women who lived communal lives of service. Her book “The Flowing Light of the Godhead” may have been the first book written in German. Mechtild’s poems provide a vision of God being everywhere and in every creature, and a wholly personal and intimate relationship with God.

Does the poem connect with what we know of Jesus’s teachings? Can it expand our sense of the wholeness and health to which his healing restores people?

Questions for Reflection

During a  time of quiet reflection you may wish to re-read and go deeper with both the gospel and the poem. Do you find connection points between the two?

Are there particular and personal ways you have  experienced Jesus as a teacher, shepherd, and healer?

What do you make of these remarkable words from the poem: “In the fire of creation, God does not vanish: The fire brightens.”

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 selection and reflections by Frank Nowell

Proper Nine 07/04/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9

… 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,
by your grace alone
we are accepted and called to your service;
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and empower our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

Scripture Reading                                                                                           Mark 6:1-13

Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Poem: “Remember”                                                                                   by Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

Meditation

In the gospel reading Jesus clearly identifies himself with a long tradition of prophets. Of course, prophets and their messages are often ignored, rejected, or misinterpreted; people may even be offended by the prophet’s message. Perhaps Jesus was preparing his disciples for this kind of treatment and how to deal with it. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Joy Harjo has been Poet Laureate in the US since 2019. In this role, she has collected and curated poems in the neglected but rich tradition of Native American poetry. Her own poems often carry a strong message of social justice. In an interview on her role as poet laureate, Harjo said that poetry “is prophetic by nature and not bound by time. Poetry is a tool for disruption and creation and is necessary for generations of humans to know who they are becoming in the wave map of history.” The poem Remember may point to a particular role of prophets – calling us to remember where we have come from… and who we are becoming.

Questions for Reflection

As you re-imagine the gospel story, are there new insights for you, related to our roles as followers of Jesus? Do we as a community play a role in receiving and communicating messages of prophecy?

In the present day and/or in our nation’s history, who do you see as continuing a prophetic tradition of truth-telling (and disruption)?

The poem speaks of our connectedness  – with our ancestors, with other people and living things, and with the earth. What images speak to you most powerfully, and how do you respond to those images?

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 and Meditation offered this week by Frank Nowell 

“Loaves and Fishes” Food Drive

Our longtime mission partner, Metro Caring, works with our community to meet people’s immediate need for nutritious food while building a movement to address the root causes of hunger.  Unsurprisingly, over the last year those facing food insecurity has grown tremendously and Metro Caring served 11,029 unduplicated households during the year.  Loaves and Fishes is a way that St. Andrew’s can support Metro Caring and those in the community dealing with hunger by donating food items.  This year Loaves and Fishes will be held on Saturday, July 24 from 9:30-11am in the church parking lot.  Please come by and drop off your donation during that time and spend a few minutes socializing outside with fellow parishioners.

 

Recommended food items include:  beans—canned or dry, brown or white rice, quinoa, peanut butter, unsweetened rolled oats, canned vegetables, canned soups, canned tuna or chicken (in water), whole grain pasta and pasta sauces, whole grain cereals, shelf-stable milk or milk substitutes, unsalted nuts and seeds, unsweetened dried fruits, and unsweetened applesauce.  Financial donations are also welcome—you may write your check to St. Andrew’s with Metro Caring noted in the memo line.

 

As always, the Mission and Outreach Ministry thanks all of St. Andrew’s for their willingness to support our mission partners and care for the vulnerable in our community.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Janice Woodward (Janice.L.Woodward@gmail.com)

Proper Seven 06/20/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

… 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,
by your grace alone
we are accepted and called to your service;
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and empower our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Scripture Reading                                                                                   Mark 4:35-41

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Poem: “To Be Held”                                                                       by Linda Hogan

To be held

by the light

was what I wanted,

to be a tree drinking the rain,

no longer parched in this hot land.

To be roots in a tunnel growing

but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves

and the green slide of mineral

down the immense distances

into infinite comfort

and the land here, only clay,

still contains and consumes

the thirsty need

the way a tree always shelters the unborn life

waiting for the healing

after the storm

which has been our life.

 

Meditation:

The gospel passage invites us to contemplate the nature of Jesus and his relationship to his disciples. Their question, “who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” invites a ready answer grounded in Hebrew Scripture, where God has immediate and manifest power over nature, beginning with the moment of creation, continuing through the parting of the Red Sea, and evoked again and again in the psalms and prophets. “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters [and] makes the cedars crack.” (Psalm 29) The disciples, though they cannot yet articulate “the Messianic secret” that Jesus is Lord, are in awe of his power.

The poem, though it is grounded in the image of a tree rooted in the earth, rather than a boat on the sea, connects with the gospel at the beginning and the end. “To be held by the light” might be a way of speaking of our relationship with the divine, just as we might hope to have Jesus with us in the boat of our souls. And the cry of the disciples, “do you not care that we are perishing,” finds its ultimate resolution in the poem, where the writer is “waiting for the healing/ after the storm/ which has been our life.”

Questions for Reflection:

Which image speaks to you more powerfully of your soul, or your inner life? A boat? A tree? Or something else?

When you recall a storm in your own life, were you able to call Jesus to come to your aid?

If you spend some time with van Gogh’s drawing “A Fishing Boat on the Sea” (1888), how does it speak to you of the experience of being in a small open boat in a storm, or a calm sea?

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 and Meditation offered by Rev’d Elizabeth P. Randall, Rector 

Proper Six 06/13/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6

… 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,
by your grace alone
we are accepted and called to your service;
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and empower our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Scripture Reading                                                                                              Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Poem: I Worried”                                                                        by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Meditation:

The gospel passage contains perhaps the best-known and best-loved of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom: the tiny mustard seed that contains within itself the potential of the great tree, which offers shelter to all the birds of the air. But the parable that comes before it also has transformative power, when we can stop and wonder within it. The sower scatters seed, but the miracle of growth is made possible not by the sower, but by the earth itself. The partnership between sower, seed, and earth, brings forth fruit only when each partner acts according to its nature.

The poem – though more clearly a response to Jesus’ sayings in the Sermon on the Mount (“why do you worry about your life… consider the birds of the air… consider the lilies of the field…”) – can be in dialogue with this gospel as well. It offers us a way into a gracious humility, where we see our proper place in the harmony of creation. We have a role, an essential role, in tending the things of earth. But the bounty of the harvest, for all our care, and all our knowledge, remains a mystery beyond our understanding. Acceptance of our limitations, our inability to control anything by worrying, sets us free to embrace the most essential task of the children of God – joyful song, like the birds’, in response to the goodness of creation.

Questions for Reflection:

Worry has been a constant for most of us during this time. Have there been moments when you have gotten free of worry? Have there been moments when you, like the poet, have let all your preoccupations slip away, so that you could go out into the morning and sing? If so, do the gospel parables and the poem help you recapture that? If you have been beset by worry all the time, is there anything in the gospel parables or poem that opens up a space where you might let some worry go?

If you spend some time with van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with Poppies” (1887), how does it speak to you of the wisdom of Jesus’ parable: the earth produces of itself?

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 and Meditation offered by: Rev’d Elizabeth P. Randall, Rector 

Proper Five 06/06/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 5

… 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,
by your grace alone
we are accepted and called to your service;
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and empower our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Scripture Reading                                                                                               Mark 3:20-35

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Poem: “Pax”                                                                                    by D.H. Lawrence

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
in his own and greater being, as of the master sitting at the board
in the house of life.

Meditation:

Half-hidden within this difficult gospel passage is a great wisdom: our true home is with God. Among the better known moments in this discourse within a story is “a house divided,” a phrase which has played such an important role in our nation’s history, and has become all too pertinent again in our own time.  And the mysterious “binding the strong man,” has become the basis for an influential socio-political commentary on Mark’s gospel. The seeming rejection of family ties, so threatening to many, actually clears the way for the liberating discovery that wherever, however, and to whomever we were born, we are first and always God’s children, and that when we put allegiance to God above all else, we are set free.

The poem, which may at first seem cozy, like a cat before the fire, reveals itself as a powerful and liberating expression of that same wisdom: in the house of God, there is a place at the table for everyone. The great stillness of the poem is a sign, not of passivity, but of strength and confidence. In the house of life, those who sit at the table are at peace within themselves, and at home in the greater being of God.

Questions for Reflection:

What are your feelings, now in this time of bitter national strife, when you hear the phrase, “a house divided?”

In the gospel passage, Jesus and his friends are so busy they have no time even to eat. His family fears he has gone out of his mind. When have you felt that way? What helped you get out of that cycle, and back to a place more like the hearth and table in the house of life?

Can you envision your true home? What does the house of life look like for you?

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.

Trinity Sunday 05/30/21

Link to Leaflet from in-person service

 Homily

Trinity Sunday
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Denver
Matthew Bentley
Don’t start googling ‘metaphors for the trinity’ online. I was immediately
drawn to this poem as what seemed to me an apt description of the divine
(as well as similar imagery from 16th-century mystic St. John of the
Cross). St. John describes God the Creator as the spring or source, the
Redeemer as the flowing river, and though he doesn’t specify much about
the Spirit, it could either be the water seeping back into the soil,
replenishing the source itself, or the water we partake of (from the spring
and the river)
Or, as Raymond Carver’s poem puts it:
Can anything be more wonderful than a spring?
But the big streams have my heart too.
And the places streams flow into rivers.
The open mouths of rivers where they join the sea.
The places where water comes together
with other water. Those places stand out
in my mind like holy places.
Anyway, it seems that many are quick to dispel any metaphor for the
trinity, not because of its mystery, but because they seem to be so certain
about what the trinity is to disqualify a particular image because of some
specific characteristic. There is a frustrating irony in so many people using

so many words to explain away this most mysterious attribute of the
Christian God, this one thing that seems to transcend language and logic.
So, true confession – I don’t pretend to understand what God is, let alone
how the trinity works. And maybe I’m in good company. Maybe you are,
too. Maybe, like Nicodemus from today’s Gospel, you also find it puzzling
to know what it means to be so in touch with the divine that one can be
‘born of water’ or ‘reborn’.
Perhaps that’s why I love this poem – water, too, is a mystery. It’s
everywhere (60% of our bodies, 71% of our planet), and yet that same
planet is at risk for both too much water, with oceans rising and polar ice
caps melting, and too little water, with drought and fire as the new normal
in California and Australia.
Beyond the practical, though, water is simply wondrous. Its sounds – even
in digitally simulated versions – provide a soothing white noise to fall
asleep to. Its smell wafting in from the open windows this morning in this
very space was reviving. Its seemingly infinite expanse from the point of
view of a beach has us contemplating other infinities of time and space.
Carver’s poem taps into the utter wonder that we often feel when
contemplating water. This is a grown man with a child’s eye for the
mystical world of nature, almost as if seeing a river for the first time, with
the eyes of someone much younger.
The poem does speak for itself, but knowing a bit more about Raymond
Carver may help us further appreciate his wide-eyed curiosity.

Carver is known principally for his short stories, and the fact that he’s one
of those archetypal mid-century White Man writers made me hesitant to
choose his poem for today’s service. I worried that he had some kind of
mid-twentieth century baggage – like so many of his compatriots – that
would perhaps prevent his words from reaching us as purely as they seem
to have been composed. It turns out that Carver’s brokenness actually
adds a compelling layer to his poem – his baggage, his burden was
alcoholism, so much so that, during a teaching appointment after his first
forays into publishing, by his own account he did more drinking than
writing or teaching. After being hospitalized several times, and after
seeking various treatments, he finally stopped drinking on June 2, 1977
with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. He called this new period of his
life “his second life.” Or, in other words, a rebirth.
So, within that context, and with Nicodemus’s puzzlement about being
born by water, let’s take another look at Carver’s poem. Is it any wonder
that he finds such joy at the purifying, mystifying, life-giving powers of
water? Is it any wonder that this renewing source of life makes his blood
run and his skin tingle?
Whatever we call God – love, beauty, the way things are, nature – Carver’s
story reminds us to reopen our eyes to that divine presence, and perhaps
to deliberately ask ourselves what else we’ve been submerging ourselves
in instead. For Carver, it was alcohol. For others, it might be addiction to
technology, or negative thoughts, or unfair judgment, or crippling distrust
or fear. Maybe we’ve grown so used to social distancing that re-engaging
with the world is unexpectedly challenging. Maybe the isolation of
pandemic times has drawn out long latent vices. Or maybe it has just
been a really long time since you’ve tapped into child-like wonder.

Carver died in 1988, just ten years after his “second life” began. Carver’s
tombstone is inscribed with his poem “Gravy”. (Yes, another liquid!) It
starts,
“No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman.”
and ends:
“Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.”
During our time of meditation, you may simply choose to re-read Carver’s
poem. Other questions you might consider:
When have you felt immersed in the divine?
When has that sense been hard for you to access? Why?
When has water caused you to wonder?
When have you experienced a sense of “rebirth”?

PDF of Homily linked here

Whitsunday 05/23/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Day of Pentecost

… 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. 

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Opening Prayer:

O Lord, when your Son ascended into heaven, he sent down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit, as he had promised, that they might comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom: Distribute among us also, we pray, the gifts of the selfsame Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                     John 15:26-27;16:4b-15

Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Poem: Caedom                                                                               by Denise Levertov  

All others talked as if

talk were a dance.

Clodhopper I, with clumsy feet

would break the gliding ring.

Early I learned to

hunch myself

close by the door:

then when the talk began

I’d wipe my

mouth and wend

unnoticed back to the barn

to be with the warm beasts,

dumb among body sounds

of the simple ones.

I’d see by a twist

of lit rush the motes

of gold moving

from shadow to shadow

slow in the wake

of deep untroubled sighs.

The cows

munched or stirred or were still.  I

was at home and lonely,

both in good measure.  Until

the sudden angel affrighted me — light effacing

my feeble beam,

a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying:

but the cows as before

were calm, and nothing was burning,

nothing but I, as that hand of fire

touched my lips and scorched my tongue

and pulled my voice

into the ring of the dance.

Meditation:

Denise Levertov’s poem works within two traditions: the season of Pentecost, which we mark today, and the tradition of Caedmon, known as the earliest identified English poet.  According to the Venerable Bede, Caedmon was an illiterate lay brother who cared for the animals at Whitby Abbey.  Caedmon’s Pentecostal moment comes when, at an already advanced age, he departs in shame from a singing event just when the harp was about to be passed to his hands (or, “when the talk began”).

Aware of his inferiority (and his lack of singing experience), Caedmon instead seeks refuge and comfort in the barn.  That night, a divine being visits him in a dream, asking Caedmon to sing.  At first reluctant, he finally produces what is now known as “Caedmon’s Hymn”.  Levertov beautifully tells this story with vivid imagery evoking the Pentecostal flames and the liberation of the tongue as a vessel for the Holy Spirit.

Questions for Reflection:

  • All of us feel woefully inadequate because of our humanity.  And yet, we all are also endowed with gifts of the spirit.  What are your gifts?  When have they surprised you?
  • Levertov’s poem starts and ends with the image of “the dance” – a reminder that merry-making and celebration can be divinely blessed acts.  When was the last time you felt like dancing?  Did you dance? If not, what kept you from dancing?
  • What hope does the story of the Pentecostal act give you?

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 and Reflection offered by: Matt Bentley  

Sunday after Ascension Day 05/16/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

… 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. 

 

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Opening Prayer

The heavens are open wide
since Jesus our brother, our Redeemer,
has entered through the veil.
We thank you for his new and living way,
by which we join the unnumbered millions
who are with you forever.
Praise to you our God; you answer prayer. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             John 17:6-19

Jesus prayed for his disciples, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Poem: “The Best Thing in the World”                                 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What’s the best thing in the world?

June-rose, by May-dew impearled;

Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Light, that never makes you wink;
Memory, that gives no pain;
Love, when, so, you’re loved again.
What’s the best thing in the world ?
— Something out of it, I think.

Meditation:

Jesus’s prayer from John can come across at times as a clash of so many pronouns – my/mine/me/your/yours/their/theirs – that it can sometimes be hard to understand what, exactly, Jesus is saying/praying.  Perhaps the power in his prayer is simply that we belong to God, and therefore to something transcending “the world”.  And yet, isn’t it through our everyday, mundane lives that we are repeatedly surprised by God and taken out of those same everyday, mundane lives? Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s simple, powerful poem reminds us of this fundamental paradox.  Like the incarnate God as Jesus, everyday experiences of worldly beauty, truth, and pleasure are also our way of glimpsing the otherworldly presence of God.

Questions for Reflection:

For you, today, what is the best thing in the world?

Think of transcendent moments of beauty or truth that have caught you by surprise.  What ‘worldly’ experience sparked that ‘otherworldly’ experience?

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 Selection and Meditation by Matt Bentley

Easter 6 05/09/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

… 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. 

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Opening Prayer

Glorious Lord of Life,
we praise you,
that by the mighty resurrection of your Son,
you have delivered us from sin and death
and made your whole creation new;
grant that we who celebrate with joy
Christ’s rising from the dead,
may be raised from the death of sin
to the life of righteousness;
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever.
Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Poem: “Only if Love Should Pierce You”                                      by Salvatore Quasimodo                                                                                                                                                               trans. from Italian by Jack Bevan

Do not forget that you live in the midst of the animals,

horses, cats, sewer rats

brown as Solomon’s woman, terrible

camp with colors flying,

do not forget the dog with harmonies of the unreal

in tongue and tail, nor the green lizard, the blackbird,

the nightingale, viper, drone. Or you are pleased to think

that you live among pure men and virtuous

women who do not touch

the howl of the frog in love, green

as the greenest branch of the blood.

Birds watch you from trees, and the leaves

are aware that the Mind is dead

forever, its remnant savors of burnt

cartilage, rotten plastic; do not forget

to be animal, fit and sinuous,

torrid in violence, wanting everything here

on hearth, before the final cry

when the body is cadence of shrivelled memories

and the spirit hastens to the eternal end;

remember that you can be the being of being

only if love should pierce you deep inside.

Meditation:

Today’s reading from John is so well-known that its shock has probably worn off.  To obey, Jesus says, is not to submit to a tyrant, or to follow nitpicky rules, or to passively, robotically check off a list of duties.  To obey is to love, and to obey is to seek joy.  Or, the way Jesus would probably frame it: to love is to obey; to seek joy is to obey.  We can imagine the sense of relief and of a burden being lightened when hearing these words for the first time.  Not that love is easy, of course.  But imagine the ragtag group of Jesus’s followers hearing that the one item on the ‘to do’ list (in a world filled with them) is simply to love.

Salvatore Quasimodo, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959, surprises us further by reminding his human readers that they are also animals, and therefore just as capable of violence, just as prone to primal desires, and just as doomed to die as a frog, a horse, or a sewer rat.  But despite our bestial natures, he tells us, if we let the commandment of love pierce us “deep inside,” we can transcend our animal nature and be the “being of being.”

Reflection:

How does our world of obligation and duty limit our capacity to love?

Think of your ‘to do’ list today.  What happens to your mood if you replace that entire list with “love”?

When have you felt “pierced” by love in the past year?  What other verbs would you use to describe that feeling?

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 Selection and Meditation by Matt Bentley