Advent 2 12/04/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Second Sunday of Advent

… 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

Come, O come Emmanuel,

you are the way, the truth and the life;

Come, living Savior

come to your world which waits for you.

Hear this prayer for your love’s sake.

Amen.

 

The Gospel                                                                                                             Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

Poem: “Possible Answers to Prayer”                                                       By Scott Cairns

Your petitions—though they continue to bear

just the one signature—have been duly recorded.

Your anxieties—despite their constant,

relatively narrow scope and inadvertent

entertainment value—nonetheless serve

to bring your person vividly to mind.

Your repentance—all but obscured beneath

a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more

conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.

Your intermittent concern for the sick,

the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes

recognizable to me, if not to them.

Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly

righteous indignation toward the many

whose habits and sympathies offend you—

these must burn away before you’ll apprehend

how near I am, with what fervor I adore

precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.

 

Meditation

John the Baptist, the forerunner and herald of the Holy One who is coming into our midst, breaks into the opening scenes of each gospel narrative. Some of the details are similar in every account, and still, the emphasis is different. In the account from Matthew’s gospel that we read this year, a focus is on the religious professionals who come seeking the form of baptism without understanding their own need for repentance. The John the Baptist who confronts this “brood of vipers” envisions a winnowing of grain and a purifying fire that will begin the renewal of all things and the ushering in of a good and fruitful time.

The poem is addressed to just the sort of sanctimonious “brood of vipers” who believe their heritage and adherence to traditional practices are all they need in order to be right with God – or their idea of God. The real, the true God – as the poet envisions that being – is tolerant and perhaps even indulgent of human attempts to “repent” and practice an acceptable piety. But God’s passion is to break through the layers of sanctimony in order to shower radical love on the despised, and even on the self-satisfied.

 

Questions for Reflection

What does “repentance” mean to you? Have you ever had a meaningful experience of repentance?

Have you ever known someone who reminded you of John the Baptist?  What were your encounters with that person like? Were you changed by an encounter with this person?

Is there any moment in the poem by which you feel convicted or called to account?

How do you experience the love and acceptance, the fervor and adoration, of the God you hear speaking in the poem?

 

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: Rev’d Elizabeth Randall    

Proper 29 11/20/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King  

Proper Twenty-nine

… 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                                                                                                             Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

 

Poem: “The Task”                          by Ruth Pitter (1897-1992)

Reverse the flight of Lucifer,

Hurl back to heaven the fallen star;

Recall Eve’s fate, establish her

Again where the first glories are:

Again where Eden’s rivers are.

Thrust back contention, merge in one

Warring dualities, make free

Night of the moon, day of the sun;

End the old war of land and sea,

Saying, There shall be no more sea.

With love of love now make an end;

Let male and female strive no more;

Let good and bad their quarrel mend

And with an equal voice adore;

The lion with the lamb adore.

Bow lofty saint, rise humble sin,

Fall from your throne, creep from your den:

The king, the kingdom is within,

That is for evermore, amen:

Was dead and is alive. Amen.

Meditation

Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church celebrates Christ the King. (The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year in 1970.)  Today’s gospel reading shows us two contrasting views of Jesus the King.  First we get the mocking, sarcastic inscription “King of the Jews” with its accompanying challenge to Jesus to prove his divinity by saving himself, followed by the thief’s sincere plea to Jesus to remember him in his kingdom.  This plea stands out for its eternal, hopeful perspective in the middle of an utterly depressing, scornful scene.  And today’s poem portrays what kind of kingdom the thief might be envisioning: one where the humble sinner rises and warring dualities (male/female, lion/lamb, good/bad) become obsolete.  Of course, we share kingship and queenship with Jesus, and the kingdom the thief imagines is within us here and now.

Questions for Reflection

What attributes do you imagine a divine king having?

In our bitterly divided world today, how do you imagine “warring dualities” merging into one?

How can the thief’s perspective and hope carry you through the darkness of our world?

As you think about the approaching Advent season and the humble birth of a king, what reasons for hope, faint though they be, can you intentionally keep alive?

 

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  

Stewardship Talk- Ralph Valentine

Link to PDF

Good morning!

When I retired from teaching high school music for 42 years in Connecticut, I made a vow to never attend another meeting or engage in public speaking as long as I lived.

Well, you can see how successful I was at keeping my promise.

I just happened to have encountered a little church in Denver called St. Andrew’s that changed my expectations for retirement in a rather dramatic fashion.

When Lynne and I contemplated our move to Denver in 2010, I asked a good friend where we might find the best church music in town. He without hesitation exclaimed, “Why that would be St. Andrew’s, of course.”  So on our next visit to Denver, we went to see if he was correct. As we had our first look at the beautiful sanctuary and approached our pew, parishioner Henry Jesse instantly turned around in his seat in front of us and warmly welcomed us. Then the heavenly music began, and I was totally hooked. After the service I met Kappellemeister Krueger and organist Frank Nowell, who kindly asked me if I wanted to try out the impressive Buzard organ. Of course, I did. And we definitely wanted to experience Coffee Hour where we happily discovered that every parishioner we met made us feel totally at home. We quickly realized that this was where we belonged.

And both of us found so many things to love about St. Andrew’s that made us want to be involved, whether it was some painting projects, flower arranging, outreach committee, organ tuning, Friends of music planning or just doing my job, which I adore.

This is an important moment in St. Andrew’s history. We are beginning to emerge from a dark period of a serious pandemic, of critical environmental concerns,  challenges to our democracy, and a homeless and drug epidemic that seems to defy any solution.

St. Andrew’s has always faced significant financial challenges. If you don’t think so, read Phyllis Kester’s book “Small Church serves big city” and see how this place has continually struggled over the years. And yet, in the grimmest of times, this little parish has always found a way to stay relevant and  essential.

When I arrived twelve years ago, I  had never experienced a church that was able to so much with such a limited plant. When I took on the job of organist, I discovered that my office would be a gray Rubbermaid storage tub next to the organ console. OK, I said, I can make that work, but wait?  no choir rehearsal room? No problem. However, there are some issues that over time cannot be easily ignored. Most of our choir robes are at least a dozen years old and have exceeded their life expectancy. Our wonderful pipe organ Is now entering its 22nd year and beginning  to misbehave and give us some frustrating mechanical issues that need serious attention. Mind you, I am only talking about musical concerns here. Most of you are well aware of other parts of our building that desperately need repair such as the undercroft floor, the deteriorating parking lot surfaces, the church walls and ceilings damaged by leaks, and certain embarrassing areas in the parish house that I will not specify at this time. Many of us are homeowners, and we realize how much of our financial resources we have to devote to our failing furnaces and air conditioners, worn-out appliances, leaking roofs, crumbling siding, overgrown lawns, dead trees, peeling paint, etc. . The church is no different. We might assume that God will keep our splendid building standing forever, but I suspect that He already has more than He can handle.

Think about it. Are we willing to support this church home that we all love? And make it possible for the staff to do their jobs effectively, expand our vitally important outreach mission, give our children and grandchildren a quality religious education and preserve our exquisite sanctuary and parish house, initiating the maintenance and improvements that they need. I ask you to please join me in prayerfully considering your financial support of this special place in the coming year, our spiritual home where we can feel safe and loved and surrounded by beauty. Whatever you decide, remember the words of Winston Churchill when he said,

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

 

 

Stewardship Talk- Jill Ogborn

Link to PDF

“A Generous Community”

This an apt title for this year’s pledge campaign

I would like to start by sharing a small part of my spiritual journey. Mike and I have been attending St. Andrew’s for 13 years. But before St. Andrews’ I followed Mike from one Episcopal Church to another. I was fine with attending church. I like the music. I love to sing. There are beautiful words in church services, and often there is wisdom in the sermons. But what I liked most was the anonymity.

I will now skip to our first visit to St. Andrew’s. The most memorable part for me was Mother Elizabeth quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins – a poet I adore. I thought to myself, “I think I like it here.” I was not instantly comfortable, but I believe I felt God’s grace in a way I never had before.

I can tell one story that is amusing to me now, but not the first years at church. Before the Peace is given, I would start to sweat and not let go of Mike, and he would have to push me away. Now, the Peace, is something I relish, both the giving and the receiving. St Andrew’s and all of you have been more than generous to me. I so appreciate the friends who make up this congregation. Community is something I was missing in my life, and love is given freely here with no judgment. We all need hope, love, and an inclusive community in these troubled times.

Please share generously with whatever resources you have available.

I will close with Gerard Manley Hopkins.

PIED BEAUTY

Glory to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow and plough
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

All Saints’ Observed 11/06/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost:

Feast of All Saints’ Observed

… 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                                                                                                             Luke 6:20-31

Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 

Poem: “The Painted Saint in the Wood”                                    by M. Lyster

There is a saint in love with God,

That I often sit and watch

In the wood; and I cannot believe him,

For I love what I see and touch.

 

Yesterday at this time

Some heavy carts passed by;

One peasant sang, as he passed,

A wandering melody.

 

I was sitting and watching the saint

Painted in white and red —

I shall not understand him

 

Meditation

Today’s poem presents to us something that is probably a familiar feeling: admiring from afar someone else’s devotion, thinking to ourselves, “That could never be me!”  At the same time, the poet’s perspective is probably intentionally naïve – “what I see and touch,” after all, is so often the way we are nudged (or even catapulted) into an experience with the divine.  This is the gift that the saints offer us: real lives in the world of touching and seeing that allow us to see and feel God’s presence.  We may recognize ourselves in this poet’s viewpoint – watching someone else’s faith life unfold – unaware that someone else is also watching, admiringly, our own attempts at a life of faith.

Questions for Reflection

Whose are the lives of faith that you admire today? Who embodies being ‘in love with God’ to you?

What physical images and feelings have meaning for you in your spiritual life?  How does the materiality of those senses connect you to the divine?

What are the ‘wandering melodies’ that accompany your most holy moments?

Have you ever felt ‘in love with God’? When?

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  

Proper 26 10/30/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost:

Proper Twenty-Six

 

… 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                                                                                                             Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

 

Poem: “I Look at the World”                                                        by Naomi Shahib Nye(b. 1952)

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.

Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

 

Meditation

In the gospel readings this month Jesus keeps turning things upside down! He does that again when he urges Zacchaeus, a notorious tax collector, to come down from the tree he has climbed and meet him in person. Zacchaeus was publicly known (or at least rumored) to have become rich through corruption, but Jesus calls him by his name and said he would be a guest at his house that day. Those who heard this were scandalized that Jesus would be the guest of a sinner. Zacchaeus simply wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, perhaps out of curiosity. But Jesus goes further and invites him into a relationship, even inviting himself to his home!

The poem by Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shahib Nye begins with a traditional Arab saying about hospitality to a stranger. The poet evokes in vivid terms what this depth of old-fashioned hospitality might be like, and states emphatically, “Let’s go back to that.” In this kind of hospitality, the host’s care and attention comes before ever knowing the details about who the guest is. Those details might get in the way of a new friendship!

Jesus’s reverse hospitality allows Zacchaeus the unexpected honor to be Jesus’s host. The people are shocked, but Jesus replied the Son of Man has come to seek the lost. That invitation from Jesus is always there for those of us who feel like we have lost our way. As his followers, we are called to practice the same hospitality to others.

Whether we are seeking a home for refuge or renewal, or have a home to offer, there is a place for us in this story.

Resources for Reflection

The Road Home

You may wish to listen to the short choral piece, The Road Home, by Stephen Paulus.

This is one of a number of lovely performance videos available:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjTTLLZKmws

The Way of Love
On the Episcopal Church website, The Way of Love offers a rich set of practices for Jesus-centered life: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love/

“If we listen closely, there is a spirit calling us to come back to ourselves, back to our purpose, back to something more meaningful.”

 

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: Frank Nowell

Proper 24 10/16/22

Link to PDF

 

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost:

Proper Twenty-Four 

… 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                                                                                                                         Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

 

Poem: “I Look at the World”                                                        by Langston Hughes (b. 1901)  

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!

I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

 

Meditation

When you hear the word justice, what do you think of ? Do you think of “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair,” from one dictionary definition? Or do you think of social justice — “the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth” (United Nations) or “a communal effort dedicated to creating and sustaining a fair and equal society in which each person and all groups are valued and affirmed” (The John Lewis Center for Social Justice)?

One focuses more on justice as a quality in an individual, the other on justice in the social and communal sphere. They seem interrelated and connected, so does the distinction help, or is it misleading? For those who follow Christ, there are a multitude of scriptural references about justice that might fit one category or another, or both. (And thank goodness for all of those people who, like the widow in the parable, persistently bother us about injustices of all kinds!)

The poem by Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes is short and simple, yet powerful. As the poet sees the world through awakening eyes in a black face (perhaps asking the reader to do the same) and sees the “silly walls” built by oppression, he turns to himself and the work that needs to be done to break down these walls. The poem closes with an urgent call to his comrades to hurry and find the road with him!

In the times we live in, we may feel that basic injustices are increasing every day… or perhaps we simply have a clearer, fuller understanding of them. Either way, it’s easy to become discouraged. The parable tells us of the “need to pray always and not to lose heart.” The epistle reading for the week may reinforce this with the words, “I solemnly urge you, proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.”

Questions for Reflection

  1. In your experience, how do faith and justice relate to each other?
  2. What might it mean to pray persistently for justice, as individuals and as a community?
  3. Where might those prayers lead… in relation to action, community, and formation?

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: Frank Nowell

Proper 22 10/02/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost:

Proper Twenty-Two

… 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                                                                                                                         Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

Poem: “The Wild Geese”                                                  by Wendell Berry (b. 1934)

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Meditation

The gospel story feels hard and harsh. Jesus does not seem to answer the disciples’ question on how to increase their faith but rather rebukes them for their lack of faith. For some of us trying to follow Jesus today, we might have the exact same question and wonder how to deal with the answer Jesus gave. The question may be left hanging!

The poem by Wendell Berry — especially appropriate for this wonderous transition time between the summer and fall seasons — celebrates the abundance of life we see and taste around us. The poet often found this abundance on the farm and the land… and the lessons to be learned there. Writer and activist Parker Palmer points to this poem and what he learned in ten years living and working in a Quaker community: “A decade of experiences like these left me with no doubt that what we need is within us and between us, in the human heart and in various forms of life together.”

I wonder if the poem can help us with our questions of faith. The faith we seek and long for is close at hand, within us and between us. What we need is here.

Questions for Reflection

What questions do you have about faith?
Where does the gospel story and the image of faith the size of a mustard seed lead you today?
What insights, cues, and clues do you find in the poem, “The Wild Geese?”

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: Frank Nowell

Easter 7 05/29/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Seventh Sunday of Easter:

Sunday after Ascension Day

… 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

Son of Righteousness, so gloriously risen, shine in our hearts as we celebrate our redemption, that we may see your way to our eternal home, where you reign, one holy and undivided Trinity, now and forever. Amen. 

The Gospel                                                                                     John 17:20-26

Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Poem: “A Fish Cannot Drown in Water”                       by Mechthild of Magdeburg (b. 1207)

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

Today’s Gospel reading features part of Jesus’s longest prayer, a plea for a unity that goes in all sorts of directions: unity between Jesus and God, between Jesus and his people, and between God and all humanity.  Or maybe that’s just one way of reading it.  What can accomplish this kind of unity? The Spirit, which will come upon Jesus’s disciples on Pentecost.  As part of Jesus’s farewell as depicted in the Gospel of John, it seems like this is a sneak preview of what is to come after Jesus leaves his friends: a plea to be united, despite the inevitable divisions that will emerge, and a clue that they will not be left alone, and that God’s presence will be with them through the Spirit.  Mechtild of Magdeburg, a German 13th-century mystic, portrays this unity as the very essence that surrounds us and fills us.  Like fish in their element, God’s people – all of us – are surrounded by, made of, and filled with life-giving Spirit.  The ‘last word,’ so to speak, of Jesus’s prayer is love, and we answer this prayer every time we truly seek Christ in all persons, every time we become one with the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and every time we seek unity actively, despite our differences.

Questions for Reflection

When have you seen the unity of Christ at work in your life?

When has this unity as a goal been challenging to achieve?

Take a moment to imagine yourself surrounded by love.  Imagine being filled with love every time you breathe.  How does that image feel physically? What happens to your posture and your pulse?

What images, phrases, or actions from our liturgy and our worship practices remind you of ‘oneness’ with Christ? Oneness with each other?

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  

Easter 5 05/15/22

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Fifth 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

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

The Gospel                                                                                     John 13:31-35

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Poem: “love is more thicker than forget”                                               by e.e cummings (b.1894)  

love is more thicker than forget

more thinner than recall

more seldom than a wave is wet

more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly

and less it shall unbe

than all the sea which only

is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win

less never than alive

less bigger than the least begin

less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly

and more it cannot die

than all the sky which only

is higher than the sky

 

Meditation

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples his New Commandment, a radical reconsideration or recontextualization of all other commandments.  This, of course, is surrounded by other acts of love: the washing of the feet, Jesus’s establishment of the Eucharistic bread and wine, and the Paschal sacrifice that awaits him.  Today’s poem – as is typical for e.e. cummings – plays with English syntax and standards of pronunciation, as well as with the concept of love.  Paired with the Gospel reading, the poem may help us consider how, if we act in love, we hold in tension the enduring qualities of love with the very human limits (forgetting, death, competition) that make love difficult to maintain.

Musical setting: If you’re interested, watch this local performance of a setting of the poem, featuring two friends of your poem selector for the month.

Questions for Reflection

What phrases of the poem resonate most with you?

When has love given you a glimpse of the divine?

When has loving another helped you love God?

 

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