Proper Eighteen 09/05/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost  

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

Opening Prayer

Praise to you, God, for all your work among us.
Yours is the vigor in creation,
yours is the impulse in our new discoveries.
Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful
in all we do. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 7:24-37

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 

Poem: “To Be Held”                                                                        By Linda Hogan b. 1947

To be held

by the light

was what I wanted,

to be a tree drinking the rain,

no longer parched in this hot land.

To be roots in a tunnel growing

but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves

and the green slide of mineral

down the immense distances

into infinite comfort

and the land here, only clay,

still contains and consumes

the thirsty need

the way a tree always shelters the unborn life

waiting for the healing

after the storm

which has been our life.

Meditation:

The gospel passage offers us two stories of Jesus’ healing ministry; though they appear quite different on the surface, a little more examination reveals their similarity. Jesus’ power brings gifts beyond physical healing. There is always an element of inclusion, restoration, or reconciliation. In these two stories, a woman who is an unwelcome (and even defiant) outsider is recognized as worthy of attention, and Jesus grants her heartfelt request. In the other story, a man who is isolated by his disability is restored to full participation in the community.

The poem offers a different vision of healing, inclusion, and restoration. The poet envisions her reintegration with the fullness of the earth “after the storm which has been our life” as the ultimate healing. In both gospel and poem, the source and culmination of the healing is the sense of oneness with “the More,” whether manifest in the person of Jesus or the sacredness of the earth.

Questions for Reflection:

Have you, or someone you know, experienced a healing that brought a sense of inclusion or reconciliation?

When you encounter the stories of Jesus’ healing ministry, what are your thoughts? Your feelings?  Are these stories difficult for you? Do you experience them as gift?

What images from the poem speak most powerfully to you?          

The Prayers

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem and Reflections offered by  Rev’d Elizabeth P. Randall

Proper Seventeen 08/29/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

Praise to you, God, for all your work among us.
Yours is the vigor in creation,
yours is the impulse in our new discoveries.
Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful
in all we do. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’  You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Poem:  “Though There are Torturers”                                                    by Michael Coady (b. 1939)

Though there are torturers in the world

There are also musicians.

Though, at this moment,

Men are screaming in prisons

There are jazzmen raising storms

Of sensuous celebration

And orchestras releasing

Glories of the Spirit.

Though the image of God

Is everywhere defiled

A man in West Clare

Is playing the concertina,

The Sistine Choir is levitating

Under the dome of St. Peter’s

And a drunk man on the road

Is singing for no reason.

Meditation:

After several weeks of exploring Jesus as bread of life, the eucharistic bread as Jesus, and the act of communion as a mysterious place where the divine and the human meet, Jesus now turns his attention not on what we consume, nor on how we might defile the body externally, but on what we produce internally with our very human words and thoughts.  He catches his critics off-guard with a list of potential offenses that come “from within.”  Today’s poem, in a way, does the opposite – Irish poet Michael Coady juxtaposes the tragedies of the day (and we probably are immediately thinking of other 2021 tragedies to add to the list) with sounds of divine music, exuberant joy, and transcendent song.  This, of course, is the flip side to Jesus’s admonishment: at our vilest moments, we do great harm to others, and yet we are also capable of great kindness, celebration, and love.

Questions for Reflection:

  • Think about the best thing anyone has ever said to you.  What did that feel like in the body?
  • Think about a time when you regretted having said something hurtful.  What did that feel like in the body?
  • Jesus’s admonishment of the Pharisees invites us to consider our cultural obsessions with protocol, logistics, the ‘right way’ to do things, etc.  When has following the ‘right way’ to do things gotten in the way of following love?

Prayers: 

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem selection and reflections by Matt Bentley 

Proper Fifteen 08/15/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost: Proper 15

… 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 6:51-58

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Poem: “Love Song”                                                                        by Carol Muske-Dukes (b. 1945)

Love comes hungry to anyone’s hand.

I found the newborn sparrow next to

the tumbled nest on the grass. Bravely

opening its beak.  Cats circled, squirrels.

I tried to set the nest right but the wild

birds had fled. The knot of pinfeathers

sat in my hand and spoke.  Just because

I’ve raised it by touch, doesn’t mean it

follows. All day it pecks at the tin image of

a faceless bird. It refuses to fly,

though I’ve opened the door. What

sends us to each other? He and I

had a blue landscape, a village street,

some poems, bread on a plate. Love

was a camera in a doorway, love was

a script, a tin bird. Love was faceless,

even when we’d memorized each other’s

lines. Love was hungry, love was faceless,

the sparrow sings, famished, in my hand.

Meditation:

Carol Muske-Dukes writes beautifully about a eucharistic moment with a baby sparrow who has been left without a home and without its parents.  The sensorial connection (touch, taste, sight) between human and bird becomes an intimate metaphor for the soul and the divine.  The sparrow, like our own souls, yearns for love, and yet pecks away at cheap imitations of what it is really hungering for.  At the end, the sparrow is still left famished, and many of us probably have firsthand experiences of failing to keep a rescued animal alive.  And yet, for the speaker, something has changed, and we can imagine her continuing to care for this sparrow, and to seek other opportunities for nurturing and feeding God’s creatures.

Bird crumbs and eucharistic wafers can seem like unsubstantial ways of satisfying literal or spiritual hunger, and yet the simplicity of these forms can sometimes do more than, say, artisan loaves of bread.  Lauren Winner has written about how poetry changed her mind about the form of the simple wafer, and you can read her essay here.

Today’s Gospel reading continues Jesus’s “Bread of Life” speech, this time establishing for his all-too-literal listeners the symbols and meaning of the Eucharist.

Questions for reflection:

  • Who do you most identify with in Carol Muske-Dukes’s poem? The sparrow or the speaker?
  • In her essay (linked above), Lauren Winner talks about the eucharistic host as a full moon.  What other metaphors or images help you explain what the Eucharist means to you?
  • In our ongoing efforts to seek opportunities to care for our unsheltered neighbors, how does this poem give you direction or inspiration?

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

 Poem and Reflection offered by: Matt Bentley  

Proper Thirteen 08/01/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 13

… 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 6:24-35

The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Poem:  “Fish Tea Rice”                                                                                          by Linda Gregg

It is on the Earth that all things transpire,

and only on the Earth. On it, up out of it,

down into it. Wading and stepping, pulling

and lifting. The heft in the seasons.

Knowledge in the bare ankle under water

amid the rows of rice seedlings. The dialogue

of the silent back and forth, the people moving

together in flat fields of water with the patina

of the sky upon it, the green shoots rising up

from the mud, sticking up seamlessly above the water.

The water buffalo stepping through as they work,

carrying the weight of their bodies along the rows.

The wrists of the people wet under the water,

planting or pulling up. It is this Earth that all

meaning is. If love unfolds, it unfolds here.

Here where Heaven shows its face. Christ’s agony

flowers into grace, spikes through the hands

holding the body in place, arms reaching wide.

It breaks our heart on Earth. Ignorance mixed

with longing, intelligence mixed with hunger.

The genius of night and sleep, being awake

and at work. The sacred in the planting, the wading

in mud. Eating what is here. Fish, bread, tea, rice.

Meditation:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus first seems to rebuke those who have sought and found him, implying that their interest in him was “because you ate your fill of the loaves,” and not for any more transcendent purpose or sign.  In his own wonderfully slippery way, Jesus sets a sort of trap for his followers, who fall right in, asking “what sign are you going to give us then?”.  The answer Jesus gives takes his followers, paradoxically enough, right back to the very bread they had consumed as part of the five hundred: I am the Bread of Life.

We are left with all sorts of wondering conclusions that remind us of Jesus’s incarnational role.  For one, Jesus brings everyone right back down to earth.  He seems to be saying that our life with God all starts with bread and all that it implies: the companionship (literally “together with bread”) of worship; the creation of something fundamentally fulfilling out of disparate parts; the Eucharist; the breaking of bread as a reminder of Christ’s broken body and our own brokenness.

This ‘down-to-earth’-ness is portrayed wonderfully in Linda Gregg’s poem, which swaps out bread and wine for rice and tea (and still manages to include loaves and fishes!).  In her poem, Gregg asks us to consider the holiness of every aspect of our earthiness, from our ignorance and mud-wading to our intelligence and slumber.  She starts with a provocative claim that Earth is really all we have, and yet within that seemingly limited scope there is divinity in humanity, transcendence in struggle, heaven on earth, and even eternal life in plain old rice.

Reflection:

  • In our time away from an in-person Eucharist, what has hunger felt like to you?  (Or, in our pandemic times, what has the yearning for companionship felt like to you?)
  • If you have been able to partake of the host in person in the recent months, what has that return felt like? (Or, if you have been able to ‘break bread’ with friends or family lately, what has that return to companionship felt like?)
  • What might it mean for you personally to never be hungry or thirsty?
  • So many of the inequities and crises of our world have to do with the cultivation of, access to, and consumption of food.  How does Jesus’s “Bread of Life” statement help you navigate those inequities and crises?
  • If Jesus is the Bread of Life and we are the Body of Christ, what role can we play in alleviating the literal and metaphorical hunger of the world?

Prayers:

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem selection and reflections by Matt Bentley

Proper Eleven 07/18/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

Praise to you, God, for all your work among us.
Yours is the vigor in creation,
yours is the impulse in our new discoveries.
Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful
in all we do. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                             Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

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

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

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

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

Meditation

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

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem selection and reflections by Frank Nowell

Proper Nine 07/04/21

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

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

 

Scripture Reading                                                                                           Mark 6:1-13

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

Poem: “Remember”                                                                                   by Joy Harjo

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

Meditation

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem and Meditation offered this week by Frank Nowell 

“Loaves and Fishes” Food Drive

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

 

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

 

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

Proper Seven 06/20/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

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

Scripture Reading                                                                                   Mark 4:35-41

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

Poem: “To Be Held”                                                                       by Linda Hogan

To be held

by the light

was what I wanted,

to be a tree drinking the rain,

no longer parched in this hot land.

To be roots in a tunnel growing

but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves

and the green slide of mineral

down the immense distances

into infinite comfort

and the land here, only clay,

still contains and consumes

the thirsty need

the way a tree always shelters the unborn life

waiting for the healing

after the storm

which has been our life.

 

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

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

Proper Six 06/13/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

                         Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

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

Scripture Reading                                                                                              Mark 4:26-34

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

Poem: I Worried”                                                                        by Mary Oliver

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

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

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

Proper Five 06/06/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 5

… At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

                        Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer 

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

Scripture Reading                                                                                               Mark 3:20-35

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

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

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

Poem: “Pax”                                                                                    by D.H. Lawrence

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

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

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

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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