Epiphany 2 01/16/2022

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

 

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany   

… 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

Spirit of energy, Spirit of change, in whose power Jesus is anointed to be the hope of the nations: pour yourself also upon us, without reserve or distinction, that we may have confidence and strength to plant your justice on the earth, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 2: 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Poem: “A Wedding Toast”                                                                       By Richard Wilbur b. 1921  

St. John tells how, at Cana’s wedding feast,
The water-pots poured wine in such amount
That by his sober count
There were a hundred gallons at the least.

It made no earthly sense, unless to show
How whatsoever love elects to bless
Brims to a sweet excess
That can without depletion overflow.

Which is to say that what love sees is true;
That this world’s fullness is not made but found.
Life hungers to abound
And pour its plenty out for such as you.

Now, if your loves will lend an ear to mine,
I toast you both, good son and dear new daughter.
May you not lack for water,
And may that water smack of Cana’s wine.

Meditation

The setting of a wedding feast for Jesus’s first miracle may seem unusual. After all, a wedding is a private event, usually focused on family members and close friends. But it’s also a festive celebration of love, and the experience of a wedding can often take us out of ordinary time and day-to-day concerns. Jesus would later use the imagery of a wedding banquet to teach about the Kingdom of God.

In the poem by Richard Wilbur, the poet wonders about the enormous volume of wine resulting from this miracle. (The gospel writer was very specific about this, as well as about the quality of the wine!) It makes no sense, the poet says, except to show that when love blesses something or someone, it does so in abundance. A personal toast for the speaker’s son and new daughter, the poem reaches a wider audience by reminding us of both the joy we experience at a wedding and the overflowing fullness we may encounter in life through love.

Questions for Reflection

What do you find in the story of the wedding at Cana that is new, inspiring, or insightful? What is revealed about Jesus in this story?

When in your life have you encountered love in overflowing abundance, brimming “to sweet excess?” How did you (or do you) respond to this experience?

Prayers

We bring before God someone whom we have met or remembered today

We bring to God someone who is hurting tonight and needs our prayer

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

We bring to God, silently, someone whom we find hard to forgive or trust

We bring ourselves to God that we might grow in generosity of spirit, clarity of mind, and warmth of affection

We offer our thanks to God for the blessings in our lives

We name before God those who have died.

 

Gracious God, you hear all our prayers: those we speak aloud, those we hold in our hearts, and those prayers for which we have no words. Hear the prayers of your people, and grant them as may be best for us, for the sake of your holy name. Amen.           

Accept our thanks for all you have done, O God. Our hands were empty, and you filled them.

May Christ’s holy, healing, enabling Spirit be with us every step of the way, and be our guide as our road changes and turns, and the blessing of God our Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be among us now and remain with us forever. Amen.

   Poem and Reflections this month offered by: Frank Nowell

Second Sunday after Christmas 01/02/22

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The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

 

The Second Sunday after Christmas 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. 

Opening Prayer

Son of God, Child of Mary,

born in the stable at Bethlehem,

be born again in us this day,

that through us the world may know the wonder of your love.

Hear this prayer for your name’s sake. Amen.

 

The Gospel                                                                                                 Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

 

Poem: “Nativity”                                                               By John Donne (b.1572)  

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

Meditation

The second Sunday of Christmas provides us an opportunity to continue to ponder in awe the deep mystery of Incarnation.

Theologian Karl Rahner says this: “Through this fact, that God has become human, time and human life are changed. Now God’s self is on our very earth, where he is no better off than we and where he receives no special privileges, but our every fate. That the infinity of God should take upon itself human narrowness, that bliss should accept the mortal sorrow of the earth, that life should take on death—this is the most unlikely truth.”

Where theology leaves off, poetry and music may enter in. The poem by John Donne draws us into the mystery of immensity cloistered in the womb, to envision with the eyes of faith how “he fills all place, yet none holds him.” And ends with an invitation to go into Egypt, a foreign land, with Mary.

A powerful musical expression of the Incarnation is Morton Lauridsen’s exquisite 1994 setting of O Magnum Mysterium. Although often performed by large choirs to great effect, this performance seems more personal and intimate, with just eight voices singing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS4_l0osCx8

 

Questions for Reflection

What expressions and images of the Incarnation do you find most powerful and meaningful at this time?

What responses do these expressions invite and inspire?

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.

 Poems and Reflections this month offered by: Frank Nowell

First Sunday after Christmas Day 12/26/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

 

The First Sunday after Christmas 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. 

Opening Prayer

Son of God, Child of Mary,

born in the stable at Bethlehem,

be born again in us this day,

that through us the world may know the wonder of your love.

Hear this prayer for your name’s sake. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 1:1-18

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

 

Poem: “Go to the Limits of your Longing”                                 By Rainer Maria Rilke (b. 1875)

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Meditation

After the precious, timeless story we share on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day, and the Sunday following we confront the mystery of the Incarnation by reading the prologue to John’s gospel, the hymn to the creating Word of God. The God in whom we live and move is a God who speaks us into being, a God who enters the world and offers the divine self to the world in love through word

The poem invites each of us into the mystery of incarnation by calling us back to, and yet beyond our making, urging us to go to the limits where we can be actors together with God — the God who promises to be with us always, holding us by the hand.

Questions for Reflection

Do you find it comforting to think of Jesus as the divine creating Word? Is there an image or title for Jesus that you find more congenial?

What happens for you if you read the poem as addressed to Jesus?  What happens if you hear the words addressed to you?

Prayers

We bring before God someone whom we have met or remembered today

We bring to God someone who is hurting tonight and needs our prayer

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

We bring to God, silently, someone whom we find hard to forgive or trust

We bring ourselves to God that we might grow in generosity of spirit, clarity of mind, and warmth of affection

We offer our thanks to God for the blessings in our lives

We name before God those who have died.

 

Gracious God, you hear all our prayers: those we speak aloud, those we hold in our hearts, and those prayers for which we have no words. Hear the prayers of your people, and grant them as may be best for us, for the sake of your holy name. Amen.   

Accept our thanks for all you have done, O God. Our hands were empty, and you filled them.

May Christ’s holy, healing, enabling Spirit be with us every step of the way, and be our guide as our road changes and turns, and the blessing of God our Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be among us now and remain with us forever. Amen.

   Poem and Reflection offered by: Rev’d Elizabeth Randall     

Fourth Sunday of Advent 12/19/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Fourth 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                                                                                                                                 Luke 1: 39-55

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Poem: from “Appalachian Elegy”                                                             By bell hooks (b. 1952)  

listen little sister

angels make their hope here

in these hills

follow me

I will guide you

careful now

no trespass

I will guide you

word for word

mouth for mouth

all the holy ones

embracing us

all our kin

making home here

renegade marooned

lawless fugitives

grace these mountains

we have earth to bind us

the covenant

between us

can never be broken

vows to live and let live

Meditation

There are many ways to look at the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Often readers focus on the personal relationship between these two women, one considered too old to have a baby, and the other too young. For each of them, God’s intervention, heralded by the visit of an angel, opens up the possibility of new and transformative life. Sometimes overlooked is the reality that this visit, and this relationship, is not only personal; it is political. These two women are prophets, empowered by the Holy Spirit to show forth God’s truth. Elizabeth shows us the wonderful identity of Mary’s child – the incarnation of the Holy One as one of us. And Mary, in the tradition of the prophets of old, tells us in concrete terms what the coming of God’s reign of love and justice looks like.

The poem bears no direct relationship to the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. But the activist poet bell hooks – who died this week on December 15 – invites us to reflect on the generations of women who have resisted oppression and spoken truth to power. Sometimes that resistance means taking refuge away from the centers of power – “renegade marooned lawless fugitives” in the hills where angels make their hope. If we allow ourselves to encounter the revolutionary implications of Mary and Elizabeth’s prophetic words, we may be able to imagine that they too might have had to take to the hills. 

Questions for Reflection

What portion of Mary’s radical song brings you hope?

What images in the poem connect you to the gospel story?

Below is an image of the visitation by the 15th c. Italian painter Piero di Cosimo, from the National Gallery of Art. It is followed by a closeup of Mary and Elizabeth’s hands, the center of the picture. How does this view of the two women’s hands change or enrich your reading of the gospel passage and 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    

Third Sunday of Advent 12/12/21

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The Still Point:A Time of Meditation and Reflection

 

Third 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                                                                                                             Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply, he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Poem: ” From Locusts and Wild Honey”                                   By Dante Micheaux

On a lesser diet than that of the wretched

rests a prophecy: some of us come to prepare.

I stood before my god, at a foreign altar,

and promised to guide you; me, with my heretic

theology. I practice the ways passed to me

by descendants of followers of a wild man:

followers in the desert downwind of his musk,

listening to him confess himself unfit to

loose latchets on shoes; they believed his words holy,

ignored bits of insect wing in his beard. And then,

he told them of a dove that no one else could see.

I have learned to retain my head while speaking truth.

                                                                                                            From “Theologies for Korah”

 

Meditation

This week’s gospel, like last week’s, invites us to consider the complex, perhaps uncongenial mission and ministry of John the Baptist. John harangues the crowds who come out to hear him, calling them a brood of vipers, and proclaiming the coming of divine wrath. In contrast to the dramatic fire and brimstone he preaches, however, his actual advice is focused on simple justice: share with those in need, do not exploit the weak, or abuse power. John’s ultimate vocation, though, is not to dispense maxims or prophecy the end times, but to proclaim the coming of the holy one of God, whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. It seems ironic, when we consider John’s words, that the gospel writer calls these exhortations good news. But the heart of the good news is the heart of his message: prepare, because God’s anointed one is on the way.

The poem picks up many of the details that stick in our minds when we think of John: the smell of his clothes, the shoelaces, the “bits of insect wing in his beard.” But of the essence, again, is the mission of John. The poet, perhaps, sees this mission less in terms of proclaiming the coming of the holy one, as heralding the beginning of a reign of justice, where goods are shared equitably, and power yields to compassion. The poet practices, it seems, these way of justice, “the ways passed to me/by descendants of followers of a wild man.” The anointing of the holy one, by “a dove that no one else can see,” becomes not the culmination of his mission, but a deflection from it. By contrast, the poet has “learned to keep my head while speaking truth.”

Questions for Reflection

What is most important to you about John the Baptist? When do you find him difficult? Can you imagine going out into the wilderness to encounter him and listen to him preach?

In the extended poem of which “From Locusts and Wild Honey” is the first part, the poet reflects on different aspects of a personal theology described as “heretic.” Many of us claim various parts of our own theologies to be heretical and derive meaning from identifying them as outside the perceived mainstream. Do you have personal beliefs, important to you, that you suspect would be called heretical? What do they contribute to your life in faith? Would you ever share them with someone in conversation?

Where do you see good news in the gospel passage?

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     

Second Sunday of Advent 12/5/21

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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                                                                                                             Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

Poem: “Isaiah 40:3-5”

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Meditation

John the Baptist lives in the popular imagination as a wild and wooly outsider who eats bugs and dresses in skins. But when John appears in Luke’s gospel, the writer invites us to focus on his mission, not his person. In contrast to the Emperor Tiberius and his underlings, Pontius Pilate and Herod and the other “rulers of this world,” all firmly fixed in the territories where they have been placed by imperial power, John the Baptist “appears” in the wilderness, the place of revelation. He proclaims a change that will turn the world upside down. The change John announces is the repentance that leads to forgiveness – a change of heart that restores our relationship with the Holy.

John, like Jesus, grounds this renewal and reconciliation in the promise of the prophets. The words of the prophet Isaiah – impossible for many of us to hear now without Handel’s music sounding in the background – offer us a vision of change that encompasses all of nature. Our relationship to the natural world is different from that of our ancestors in faith, and we may have a hard time celebrating the flattening of mountains and the filling in of valleys. But if we move beyond the details to contemplate the wonder of nature responding to the word of God, perhaps we can see these words in a new light.

Questions for Reflection

“Repentance” is a difficult word for many of us to wrap our minds around. “Turning around” and “change of mind” or “change of heart” are ways of understanding repentance that may be more congenial for us. When have you experienced a change of heart that restored a relationship, with another person or with God?

What memories or associations do you have with the words of Isaiah, so familiar to many of us from Handel’s Messiah?

 

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 Twenty-nine 11/21/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Last Sunday After Pentecost: Proper 29
Feast of Christ the King   

… 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                                                                                                             John 18:33-37

Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Poem: “The Kingdom of God”                                                      by Jessica Powers (b. 1905)

Not toward the stars, beautiful naked runner,

Not on the hills of the moon after a wild white deer;

Seek not to discover afar the unspeakable wisdom —

The quarry is here.

Not in the quiet arms, O sorrowful lover,

O fugitive, not in the dark on a pillow of breast,

Hunt not under the lighted leaves for God —

Here is the sacred guest.

There is a Tenant here.

Come home, roamer of earth, to this room and find

A timeless heart under your own heart beating,

A Bird of Beauty singing under your mind.

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 Jesus answering questions about his kingship with what we come to expect from him: evasiveness, turning the question back to the asker, and a mystical description of his kingdom as “not from this world”.

Jessica Powers, poet and Carmelite nun from Wisconsin, proposes that the kingdom of God is always accessible to us, and does not depend on a lover, or the achievement of a goal.  This, of course, is just as mystical as Jesus’s “not from this world,” as mystics like St. Teresa of Avila would teach.  The soul is the lover, and the kingdom is God.

Questions for Reflection

What attributes do you imagine a divine king having?

The word ‘king’ can carry some semantic baggage for many of us.  How does Jesus’s response to Pilate help you make sense of Christ as King?

Imagine God as a ‘sacred guest’ in your heart.  How does that image affect your waking up, your to-do list, and your treatment of yourself and others?

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 

Reflection From Building our Vision (BOV)

As announced in Fruits on November 9, the Stewardship Committee has adopted the theme of “Good Gifts: Receiving and Giving” for the 2021 pledge campaign. For the Building Our Vision Committee (BOV) this theme fits with the goals of the Committee, which are to give tangible expression to the vision and mission of St. Andrew’s by creating opportunities for socially and economically diverse populations and providing a place of sanctuary, safety, and rest. During the time BOV has worked to fulfill its goals, it has received innumerable good gifts from members of this parish and has worked to provide gifts to those in need of a sanctuary in the city. The gifts of our fellow parishioners during this stewardship campaign will allow BOV to continue its work in reaching the goals each of us support.

 

Reflection From Garden Guild

The St. Andrew’s Garden Guild was formed in 2018 to plant two native gardens on our property: one in the front yard and one on a corner of the then Rose Garden. I recruited a group of fellow gardeners who worked throughout the summer to bring the plans to fruition. Except for a landscaper we hired to deliver mulch and put in edging, all the work was done by this group and a few other volunteers. We did not have a Guild budget and do not today, but an anonymous woman in the neighborhood who was happy with the cleanup and gardening several of us had done in past, gave us $5000. This enabled us to buy plants and materials, repair the sprinkler system, and have the trees pruned for the first time in years. We also seeded the Hell strip with native wildflower seeds that turned into a sea of yellow sunflowers and pink bee pants the next summer. The donor must have been very happy with our progress because she gave us another $5000 a year for the next two years that allowed us to add more plants and continue work on the sprinkler system. We were all terribly sad to learn that she died unexpectedly this year and are grateful for her support of our continuing efforts to restore and reenvision our grounds.

When I asked the Guild members to reflect on this ministry, all who responded said it enhances our parish life both aesthetically and spiritually. While many parishioners have expressed appreciation for the gardens, the most overwhelming show of support has come from the community. Every one of us has a story about someone who has thanked her/him for restoring the lovely gardens, especially the green space in the former Rose Garden. People walk their dogs here, sit on the bench to eat lunch, bring their kids to play; others simply walk around to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the gardens – the plants, green space, birds, bees, and butterflies, squirrels, rabbits, and other wildlife.

All responders agreed that the gardens manifest our mission statement by offering sanctuary in the city. One Guild member wrote, “I think our garden guild is an excellent example of stewardship as we work to create a place of repose, inspiration, and example in the landscape around our church. With our largely native plantings of flowers, grasses, and trees, we provide an environment that hopefully nurtures not only our spirits and those of all who pass through or walk by but also the various forms of wildlife that cross our property.” What better way to seek renewal of the world in this otherwise concrete jungle?

Reflection From Mission and Outreach

The theme of this year’s Stewardship Campaign is Good Gifts: Received and Given. This theme fits with the mission of the Mission and Outreach Ministry, which states that it “seeks to renew the world by serving the needs of the marginalized through action, love, and compassion. The ministry collaborates with like-minded partners in the areas of poverty, homelessness, education, and physical & mental health both locally and globally.” Throughout its history at St. Andrew’s, Mission and Outreach has received good gifts from the parish and distributed those gifts to meet the needs of the marginalized through action, love, and compassion. Your continued support through giving during this campaign will allow Mission and Outreach to use the gifts God has given us, to do the work God is calling us to do.