Easter 6 05/09/21

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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

Easter 5 05/02/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The 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

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

“O Taste and See”                                                                                    by Denise Levertov

The world is not with us enough.

O taste and see

The subway Bible poster said,

meaning The Lord, meaning

if anything all that lives

to the imagination’s tongue,

Grief, mercy, language,

tangerine, weather, to

breathe them, bite,

savor, chew, swallow, transform

Into our flesh our

deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,

living in the orchard and being hungry, and plucking the fruit.

Meditation:

In today’s reading from the gospel of John, Jesus invites us to follow him with the intimate metaphor of a plant with potential to bear fruit.  This age-old imagery is just one of many that connects us to Jesus through the natural world, and one of many that binds us organically to Jesus, as if we were of the same flesh.  We renew this relationship every time we partake of the Eucharist, and every time we fulfill our own unique role in the larger body of Christ.  The hope, of course, is that together, we (with Jesus) bear fruit.  Denise Levertov’s poem casts us not as bearers of fruit in a life with Christ, but partakers of that fruit.  Her imagery here is down to earth and real, taking inspiration from a subway poster, and reminding us that within our broken lives of grief and weather and language, we can still find and taste the sweetness of the orchard’s fruit.

Questions for Reflection:

When you hear or read Jesus talking about fruit, what do you picture?  Why do you picture that particular fruit?

What does it mean to you to be “living in the orchard” and “plucking the fruit”?

Levertov is inspired by a subway poster – where have you found inspiration in unlikely places lately?

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: Matt Bentley

Easter 4 04/25/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth 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 10:11-18

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” 

Poem: Whistling Swans                                                                            by Mary Oliver

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look
up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.
And don’t worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.
Even when the swans are flying north and making
such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening
and understanding.
Rumi said,  There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?
Yes, I know, God’s silence never breaks, but is
that really a problem?
There are thousands of voices, after all.
And furthermore, don’t you imagine (I just suggest it)
that the swans know about as much as we do about
the whole business?
So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.
Take from it what you can.

Meditation

The gospel for the fourth Sunday of Easter depicts Jesus as the good shepherd, which is also perhaps the earliest image of Christ in art. It is found in murals in Roman catacombs, and was evidently a powerful and important image for the early followers of Jesus. It seems remarkable in some ways that the good shepherd is such an enduring and meaningful image, even in a world where shepherds and sheep are not exactly part of our everyday experience. But it continues (along with the 23rd psalm) to provide direction and hope in times of anxiety, confusion, and loss.

A key aspect of this relationship is the ability of the sheep to hear the shepherd’s voice. But how do we hear that voice, especially when, in the words of the poem, “God’s silence never breaks?”  The poem invites us to listen for thousands of voices, such as those of the whistling swans: “…listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly. Take from it what you can.”

Questions for Reflection

What role has the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, as well as the 23rd psalm, played at different points in your life’s story? What insights do those provide in your current reflections?

Does the poem speak to you about the language and life of prayer – of both talking with God and listening for God’s voice?

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 3 04/18/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Third 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                                                                                                 Luke 24:36b-48

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

 

Poem: “Rain”                                                                      by Sandor Weores

(translated from the Hungarian by J. Kessler)

The rain is pounding away
at the rusty eves
Twirling, sliding bubbling foam
well that’s rain.

You too, and I should walk now
as free as that
on cloud, on air, the meadow
and the vapor roads.

Move around up there and here below
like this liquid thing
flowing into human life on rooftops
and on shoes.

 

Meditation

The gospel story again portrays the risen Jesus standing among the disciples, eating in their presence, and reassuring them while “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

The poem depicts a vigorous rain in which the poet urges that we too should “walk now as free” as the rain. An introduction to this poem in A Book of Luminous Things suggests that the poet builds upon various symbolic meanings of water, pointing to abundance and growth. For the poet, “the desire to become rain is his longing for the descent of grace into human life. For rain is also often the symbol of grace falling from above, a magnanimous gift.”

Questions for Reflection

Do joy, disbelief, and wonder ever blend together for you as they apparently did for the disciples?

Do the poem’s images of rain tap into the gospel’s messages of resurrection, repentance, and forgiveness? Do other, different images come to mind 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.

Easter 2 04/11/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second 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 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Poem: “Horses At Midnight Without A Moon”                                                 by Jack Gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

Meditation

Like last week’s story of the road to Emmaus, this week’s story of “doubting Thomas” is a highly dramatic yet very personal encounter with the risen Jesus. And it is one that has captured the imaginations of many artists through the centuries.

Although the poem (from 2005) does not directly relate to the gospel, it contains some intriguing intersection points, including the words “Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.”  The poem speaks of the promise of spring, of knowing things that cannot presently be seen, and of the strength of the human spirit to hope and persevere through struggles and suffering.

Questions for Reflection

In your own story, what role has doubt played, if any, in the development of your faith? Do you think of it as a counteracting force or a complementary one?

Consider which images from the poem speak to you in this moment – a convergence of Easter, the coming of spring, and of entering a new phase in the global pandemic.                                                                

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.

Easter Day 04/04/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Evening of Easter 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

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                                                                                     Luke 24:13-49

Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Poem: “Emmaus”                                                                                       by Rowan Williams

First the sun, then the shadow,
so that I screw my eyes to see
my friend’s face, and its lines seem
different, and the voice shakes in the hot air.
Out of the rising white dust, feet
tread a shape, and, out of step,
another flat sound, stamped between voice
and ears, dancing in the gaps, and dodging
where words and feet do not fall.

When our eyes meet, I see bewilderment
(like mine); we cannot learn
this rhythm we are asked to walk,
and what we hear is not each other.
Between us is filled up, the silence
is filled up, lines of our hands
and faces pushed into shape
by the solid stranger, and the static
breaks up our waves like dropped stones.

So it is necessary to carry him with us,
cupped between hands and profiles,
so that the table is filled up, and as
the food is set and the first wine splashes,
a solid thumb and finger tear the thunderous
grey bread. Now it is cold, even indoors;
and the light falls sharply on our bones;
the rain breathes out hard, dust blackens,
and our released voices shine with water.

 

Meditation:

The Gospel appointed for evening service on Easter is the story of two disciples encountering the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They do not recognize him until they invite him in and break bread with him.

The mystery of resurrection can sometimes seem slippery and even incomprehensible, even if the stories are familiar. We might look to poetry, music, and other arts to help us take it all in. The poem by Rowan Williams re-tells the Emmaus story with immediacy and rich imagery. It captures the strong emotions of the two disciples on their journey in palpable, physical terms. At the same time it connects the story with something beyond the physical.

The identity of the unnamed disciple in the story is a mystery to us, but some scholars speculate that it was a woman (perhaps the wife of Cleopas?). One artist who depicts the unknown disciple as a woman is Maximo Carezo Barredo, a Spanish-born artist, priest, and liberation theologian. The painting shown here is just one of many that depict the Emmaus story. “What I want to convey through painting is God’s way of being that is embodied in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s not a distant, absent God, but a God who became human in Jesus.”

Both the poem and the painting seem to expand our sense of time and place, and powerfully connect the Emmaus story to our experience of the Eucharist.

 Questions for Reflection:

 You may wish to spend some time with either the poem or the painting, paying attention to the images and what they evoke for you.

If you then re-read the Gospel story, do you find something new and unexpected? What images would you like to carry with you through the 50 days of Eastertide?

As we return to celebrating Eucharist as a community after a long absence, does Emmaus take on any different meanings?

To see more of Barredo’s Emmaus paintings, visit the blog Art and Theology at: https://artandtheology.org/2017/04/28/the-unnamed-emmaus-disciple-mary-wife-of-cleopas/

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.

Sunday of the Passion: 03/28/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Palm Sunday

… 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. 

 

Prayer

Jesus, receive our love and worship.
Show us how to give you what we have,
for nothing is too big or too small
for us to offer, or for you to use;
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever.  Amen.

Scripture Reading                                                                                                          Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Poem: “In Jerusalem”                                                                     by Mahmoud Darwish

                                                                                                           translated by Fady Joudah

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,

I walk from one epoch to another without a memory

to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing

the history of the holy … ascending to heaven

and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love

and peace are holy and are coming to town.

I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How

do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?

Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?

I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see

no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.

All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly

then I become another. Transfigured. Words

sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger

mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t be safe.”

I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white

biblical rose. And my hands like two doves

on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.

I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,

transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?

I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I

think to myself: Alone, the prophet Muhammad

spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”

Then what? A woman soldier shouted:

Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?

I said: You killed me … and I forgot, like you, to die.

Meditation:

In Mark’s telling of the Palm Sunday story, Jesus enters the temple and “looks around at everything,” and then leaves the city. This detail might provide a lens through which to wonder about Jesus’ own experience, rather than observing him as the crowd does, the king entering his city in triumph. In all of the gospels, Jesus tells his friends that his journey to Jerusalem will lead to his death, a claim they cannot accept. From the outside, his visit to the temple might seem like a validation of the crowd’s, and his friends’ understanding of him as a king. At the time, the temple was envisioned as  God’s dwelling place on earth. It was splendid and imposing, and yet its destruction would happen within a generation, a destruction Jesus foretells, as he does his own death and resurrection. What does he see when he enters the holy place at the center of the holy city?

The poem, by the Palestinian Muslim Mahmoud Darwish, is filled with allusions to the three faiths of Jerusalem. The poet himself was arrested and imprisoned for reading his poems without a permit, and ultimately ended his life in exile. He reflects on the experience of being in the holy city, belonging and not belonging, where the light is for him, but he is “carrying the earth.” His voice can add richness to our understanding of the age-old complexity of the city that has always been a place of ultimate holiness and intractable conflict.

Questions for Reflection:

What are your early memories of the Palm Sunday story? What emotional resonance does it have for you? What do you see in this version of the story, this year?

Though this was certainly not the poet’s intention, it is possible to read the poem as the inner voice of Jesus during his last days in Jerusalem. If you read it this way, what do you see that you might want to carry with you into Holy Week?

The poem has its own integrity as the reflection of someone who experiences oppression in his own homeland. What insights might it offer you as you reflect on events in our own country now?

 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.

Lent 5 03/21/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fifth Sunday in Lent 

… 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

Lord, help us to see:
to see what is eternally good and true,
and having seen, to go on searching
until we come to the joys of heaven.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 12:20-27

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

 

Poem: “Whenever you see a tree”                                                             by Padma Venkatraman

 

Think

how many long years

this tree waited as a seed

for an animal or bird or wind or rain

to maybe carry it to maybe the right spot

where again it waited months for seasons to change

until time and temperature were fine enough to coax it

to swell and burst its hard shell so it could send slender roots

to clutch at grains of soil and let tender shoots reach toward the sun

Think how many decades or centuries it thickened and climbed and grew

taller and deeper never knowing if it would find enough water or light

or when conditions would be right so it could keep on spreading leaves

adding blossoms and dancing

Next time

you see

a tree

think

how

much

hope

it holds

Meditation:

The coming of the Greeks who wish to see Jesus is the culmination of his public ministry; the time has come for him to complete his work by revealing God’s glory, through his self-offering on the cross. As with the coming of Nicodemus to visit Jesus by night, this passage is not so much a story as a vignette introducing a discourse of Jesus, in which he offers us a way of entering the mystery of his death. As a seed cannot bring forth new life and growth unless it gives itself up and is transformed into something new, so Jesus must give himself up to death in order to transform life for all. Having done this, he invites us to join him in self-offering and transformation.

The poem offers another perspective on the seed, describing its patience in waiting for the moment when it can “burst its hard shell” to grow, “spreading leaves/adding blossoms and dancing.” The tree of the poem evokes distant echoes of the psalms, where the righteous are like trees planted by streams of water, whose leaves do not wither (Psalm 1), and the parable of the mustard seed, growing into a tree full of fruit and birds (Matthew 17). More important, though, is the invitation of the poet to see the tree as a sign of hope.

Questions for Reflection:

What role does “seeing” play in your spiritual life, whether as a metaphor, or an actual practice?

How might the images in the poem enhance your understanding of the self-offering of Jesus, who lets the seed of his life fall to the ground and die?

Where do you find hope in the gospel passage or the poem? Do you see signs of hope in your own life and in the world around 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 choice and reflections by Elizabeth Randall

Lent 4 03/14/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

… 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

Lord, help us to see:
to see what is eternally good and true,
and having seen, to go on searching
until we come to the joys of heaven.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             John 3:14-21

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Poem: “Snake Oil, Snake Bite”                                                     By Dilruba Ahmed

They staunched the wound with a stone.

They drew blue venom from his blood

until there was none.

When his veins ran true his face remained

Lifeless and all the mothers of the village

wept and pounded their chests until the sky

had little choice

but to grant their supplications.

God made the boy breathe again.

God breathes life into us, it is said,

only once. But this case was an exception.

God drew back in a giant gust and blew life into the boy

and like a stranded fish, he shuddered, oceanless.

It was true: the boy lived.

He lived for a very long time.

The toxins were an oil slick: contaminated, cleaned.

But just as soon as the women

kissed redness back into his cheeks

the boy began to die again.

He continued to die for the rest of   his life.

The dying took place slowly, sweetly.

The dying took a very long time. 

Meditation:

This passage from John contains one of the strangest moments in all the gospels, followed immediately by perhaps the most famous. “John 3:16” has become shorthand for the triumphant, universal proclamation of God’s act of love: giving eternal life through the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. In John, the ultimate revelation of God’s glory is the “lifting up” of Jesus on the cross; those who can “see” this mystery and trust its truth receive the gift of salvation.

The sentence preceding it is not often remembered, and seldom understood, but it might offer an unexpected way of reflecting on the mystery of the cross. It refers back to a moment in the story of the desert (Numbers 21:4-9), when the children of Israel complain so much that God sends poisonous snakes to bite and kill them. When Moses prays on their behalf, God tells him to lift up an image of a snake as a sign. This is an example of what is known as “sympathetic apotropaic magic,” meaning that like protects against like, and wards off the harm. Magic is almost always condemned in Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but there is really no other way to understand this strange bit of scripture.

The poem offers another oblique way of reflecting on the mystery of God’s gift of life. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, the boy dies from a snake bite, and God answers prayer and restores him to life – not with sympathetic magic, but with a huge gust of wind like that of creation. Just like the rest of us the boy continues to move, for the rest of his life, towards death – but his life is sweet.

Questions for Reflection:

What is your own history with John 3:16? Has it been important to your faith life? Or off-putting? When you see it on billboards, or faces, how do you respond? Might you find, in this season of our common life, an invitation to revisit these words?

What images or moments in the poem do you find most gracious? How would you integrate the poem’s description of the boy’s restored life, “the dying took place slowly, sweetly,” with the inheritance of eternal life proclaimed by the gospel?

Does the strange comparison of the serpent in the wilderness with Jesus on the cross enhance your faith life in any way?

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 choice and reflections by Elizabeth Randall

Lent 3 03/07/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Third Sunday of Lent

… 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 

Lord, help us to see:
to see what is eternally good and true,
and having seen, to go on searching
until we come to the joys of heaven.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 

Poem: “Where Will I Find You”                                                   by Yehudah Halevi

translated by Peter Cole

Where, Lord, will I find you:
your place is high and obscured.
And where won’t I find you:
your glory fills the world.

You dwell deep within

 you’ve fixed the ends of creation.

You stand, a tower for the near,

 refuge to those far off.

You’ve lain above the Ark, here,

 yet live in the highest heavens.

  Exalted among your hosts,

  although beyond their hymns—

   no heavenly sphere

   could ever contain you,

   let alone a chamber within.

In being borne above them

 on an exalted throne,

you are closer to them

  than their breath and skin.

Their mouths bear witness for them,

 that you alone gave them form.

  Your kingdom’s burden is theirs;

   who wouldn’t fear you?

    And who could fail

     to search for you—

     who sends down food when it is due?

I sought your nearness.

 With all my heart I called you.

And in my going out to meet you,

 I found you coming toward me,

as in the wonders of your might

 and holy works I saw you.

 Who would say he hasn’t seen

  your glory as the heavens’

  hordes declare

  their awe of you

  without a sound being heard?

But could the Lord, in truth,

 dwell in men on earth?

How would men you made

 from the dust and clay

fathom your presence there,

 enthroned upon their praise?

  The creatures hovering over

  The world praise your wonders—

  your throne borne high

  above their heads,

   as you bear all forever.

Meditation:

There are many lenses through which we can examine the gospel story often known as “the cleansing of the temple.” A psychological reading invites us to look at Jesus’ anger and reflect on his humanness. A social justice stance focuses on the stratification of a society in which even the means of access to the divine – animal sacrifice in the temple – shows one’s power and wealth, or poverty: the rich sacrifice valuable animals, and the poor, doves. Theologically speaking, the unique features of the story as it is told in John’s gospel offer important insights into its particular understanding of Jesus as the co-eternal, creating Word, and the cross as the revelation of his glory.

Another way to approach this story is to focus on its location. The setting in the temple is not incidental to the action; in fact, the temple is the story. The temple – already destroyed at the time this story was written – was the house of God, the place where God’s glory had come to dwell, transcendent and yet clearly established in time and space. Reverence for the temple was a focus of the prophets’ passion, and the vision of rebuilding the temple after its first destruction, and then its second, was a sign of the ushering in of the messianic age.

Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity are separate, but related, attempts to deal with the crises provoked by the destruction of the temple, and the death of Jesus. Where is God’s glory, if there is no temple? Where is God’s glory, if the co-eternal Word can die? Christians, particularly in those communities shaped by the witness of John, claimed God’s glory was manifest in the person of Jesus, and revealed in an ultimate way in his self-offering on the cross. The resurrection of the temple of Jesus’s body is a sign of the messianic age foretold by the prophets. God’s glory is now present forever among the people who proclaim Jesus as Lord.

The poem, by the medieval philosopher, physician, and poet Yehudah (Judah) Halevi – a Spanish Jew who ended his life in Jerusalem – responds to the question, “where is God’s glory to be found?” in a gracious, universal way that may seem very contemporary to us, and yet is shaped by the language of the psalms. A careful look may uncover echoes of the loss of the temple, as well as a reference to the Christian mystery of the incarnation. More important, the poem stands on its own as powerful expression of mystical union with the divine, a mysticism that transcends the divisions and differences of tradition among the seekers for God.

Questions for Reflection:

Where have you seen God’s glory most clearly?

Is there a place that is most important to you, if you want to feel close to God? Have you ever had to find a new place to come close to God?

What is the invitation for you in this story now? A call to self-examination? To examination of justice issues in your own religious tradition? A search for new ways of seeking union with the divine?

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 choice and reflections by Elizabeth Randall