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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection
The Twenty-first Sunday After 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.
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 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Poem: “Sonnet 19” By John Milton b. 1608
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
At the conclusion of today’s gospel, Jesus says that the Son of Man came into the world “not to be served, but to serve.” It seems that Jesus used the situation of the request made by James and John to convey to the disciples his hopes and expectations for them, and to provide a model of both leadership and service that may have been totally new to them. This teaching resonates to the present day as we consider our service to God and to each other.
The poem by Milton provides another angle to the concept of being a servant. The poet is reflecting on his own blindness and how that affects (and perhaps impairs) his ability to serve God through his talents and work. He finally concludes that God does not need our work! We do not always need to rush around to actively pursue work on behalf of God; “they also serve who only stand and wait.” Waiting may have a double meaning here – to wait upon or “attend as a servant,” and also to “remain stationary in readiness and expectation.”
In reflecting on both gospel and poem, some thoughts and questions might come to the surface:
- How does Jesus give us a model of serving in this story from Mark?
- How do service to God and service to each other interrelate?
- How might we serve by “standing and waiting?”
Questions for Reflection
What new insights come to your mind and heart as you re-read the story of Jesus’ response to James and John, and his teaching to the disciples about serving each other?
Are there times when you have found yourself “standing and waiting,” either because of limitations and disability, or because of lack of clarity or direction?
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 Reflections offered by Frank Nowell