Proper Twenty~Three 10/11/2020

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23

… 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                                                                                                 Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

   

 

Poem: Love (III)                                                                                            by George Herbert

 

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

        Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

         From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

         If I lacked any thing.

 

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

        Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

        I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

       Who made the eyes but I?

 

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

        Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

        My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

        So I did sit and eat.

______

Reflection

There is a lot going on in the parable of the wedding feast that is today’s gospel. But my mind was drawn to this sentence, ‘Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. What would it be like for just one of the people unexpectedly invited to a wedding banquet?

The poem by George Herbert provides an intimate glimpse into a conversation between Love and the Soul, in which Love provides the gentle invitation to be the guest at the table. “You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat: So I did sit and eat.”

 

Questions/Prompts for Meditation:

Does the poem provide a particular entry point for you into the parable, or the parable into the poem? 

For a recitation of the poem by Ralph Fiennes, go to: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kZSH4iywhY

There are two choral settings of this poem you may want to listen to as well.

By Judith Weir:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a60wg6_caaw

By Ralph Vaughan Williams:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx1oWf2zPcY

                                                                                            

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.

 

Proper Twenty ~ Two 10/4/20

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The Still Point A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 22

… 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                                                                                                   Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

 

Poem: “Cornerstones”                                                                by Charlotte Higgins

Every one of us is a stone
dappled grey and edges age-worn rough
alone, we are solid enough

but together, we could make towers, mark paths,
build a home that is safe from the night
make infinite ripples from pebbles skimmed
on the loch in the gloaming light

we could make prison walls, barbed-wire crowns
or we could be cornerstones
piled up together we’re cairns, immemorial –

we cannot make it alone
but built up together we’re trail markers, trailblazers
we’ll lead you –
we’ll keep you –
home.

 

Reflection

 

In the gospel reading, Jesus is quoting scripture in saying that the stone that is rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The chief priests and Pharisees realize he is speaking to them when he says that those who fall on this stone will be crushed. This gospel may also remind us that Jesus was “despised and rejected…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Or it may remind us of Jesus’ ministry in the margins, among those who are devalued and discarded by those in power.

 

The image of a cornerstone is powerful, representing the foundation and reference stone upon which a building is made. It sometimes takes on significance for ceremony and the marking of time. (St. Andrew’s is one of the buildings that has used time capsules in its cornerstones!) A cornerstone can have the effect of stating, “something important is happening here.”

 

The poem by Charlotte Higgins was written as part of a poetry project for Hands Across the Border, an initiative set up to mark the Scottish Referendum, commissioning new works from young poets exploring “the concepts of borders, crossings, unions and separations – and what it is to build something together as a community.”

 

Questions/Prompts for Meditation:

 

How might the poem’s image of a community of cornerstones (or of cairns) speak to us as followers of Jesus in this time and place?

 

If you have had the opportunity to learn about the St. Andrew’s land development proposal and partnership with Attention Homes, does the poem connect with some of the possibilities that are before us as a parish?

 

What thoughts and feelings emerge when you consider the words from the gospel, “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?”

 

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.

 

Proper Twenty~One 9/27/20

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 21

… 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.

Scripture Reading                                                                     Philippians 2:1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Poem: “He that is Down”                                                                         by John Bunyan

He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave
Because Thou savest such.

Fulness to such a burden is
That go in pilgrimage;
Here little and hereafter bliss
Is best from all to age.

 

Reflection:

The well-known passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi contains what is widely believed to be one of the earliest hymns in the Christian tradition, which is in its turn the source of one of the best-loved hymns in the Anglican tradition, “At the name of Jesus,” set to the Vaughn Williams tune King’s Weston. Its description of the self-emptying of the pre-existent second person of the Trinity, the “humbling” of the Holy One, and his subsequent exaltation, along with the essential proclamation of faith, “Jesus is Lord,” had a profound effect on the development of Christian doctrine.

John Bunyan – author of The Pilgrim’s Progress – was a Puritan writer and thinker whose influence on popular Protestant faith persisted through the Victorian era. Though his sensibility and style may now strike us as old-fashioned, his emphasis on the journey in faith as a series of individual moral choices, and his emphasis on humility as a key to life-giving relationship with God, continue to shape the spiritual formation of many.

Questions for Meditation:

What do you think of when you hear the word “humility”? How would you distinguish it from humiliation? Can you think of someone who is humble in a way that makes this old-fashioned virtue attractive? How might a more widespread practice of this virtue transform our common life?

How does the emphasis on Jesus’ humility shape your understanding of what it means for God to become human? How might it transform your sense of self?

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.

 

 

Proper Twenty 9/20/20

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20

… 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                                                                                                    Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Poem: “Mysticism for Beginners” by Adam Zagajewski                           translated by Clare Cavanagh

The day was mild, the light was generous.

The German on the café terrace

held a small book on his lap.

I caught sight of the title:

Mysticism for Beginners.

Suddenly I understood that the swallows

patrolling the streets of Montepulciano

with their shrill whistles,

and the hushed talk of timid travelers

from Eastern, so-called Central Europe,

and the white herons standing—yesterday? the day before?—

like nuns in fields of rice,

and the dusk, slow and systematic,

erasing the outlines of medieval houses,

and olive trees on little hills,

abandoned to the wind and heat,

and the head of the Unknown Princess

that I saw and admired in the Louvre,

and stained-glass windows like butterfly wings

sprinkled with pollen,

and the little nightingale practicing

its speech beside the highway,

and any journey, any kind of trip,

are only mysticism for beginners,

the elementary course, prelude

to a test that’s been

postponed.

 

Reflection:

The gospel parable of the laborers in the vineyard invites us to confront some of our most basic assumptions about human life: that it ought to be fair, that we deserve some reward for work well done, that more work translates to greater reward. When we can enter into the parable, we find ourselves in a different “economy” where there is no measuring of more and less, but sufficiency, abundance, and unmerited generosity for all. 

In the poem, we begin at the place where the parable is usually seen to end, with a sense of pure gift. And yet, the poet let us know that even our perceptions of the “beyond” are only the beginning. The last moment implies, perhaps, that there is more to be learned, for which we are not yet ready. 

Questions for Meditation:

Think of a time in your life, or in the life of someone you know, when deeply ingrained assumptions about fairness, deserving, and reward have given way to a more generous stance that allows a greater freedom. Is there something in your life right now where that kind of transformation might happen? 

If you were to catalogue some of your recent experiences of “mysticism for beginners” like those in the poem, moments of beauty and timelessness, what be on your list? 

If you enter the parable again, holding those memories of transformative insight, what do you discover there?  

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.

 

Patronal Feast 9/13/20

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The Still Point A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Feast of St. Andrew

… 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

Everliving God,your apostle Andrew obeyed the call of your Son and followed him without delay;
grant that we like him may give ourselves readily to do what you command; through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                               Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Poem: Fishing                                                                        by A.E. Stallings

The two of them stood in the middle water,

The current slipping away, quick and cold,

The sun slow at his zenith, sweating gold,

Once, in some sullen summer of father and daughter.

Maybe he regretted he had brought her—

She’d rather have been elsewhere, her look told—

Perhaps a year ago, but now too old.

Still, she remembered lessons he had taught her:

To cast towards shadows, where the sunlight fails

And fishes shelter in the undergrowth.

And when the unseen strikes, how all else pales

Beside the bright-dark struggle, the rainbow wroth,

Life and death weighed in the shining scales,

The invisible line pulled taut that links them both.

 

Reflection

In the familiar gospel story, Jesus calls Andrew and his brother to leave their traditional work to follow him. In language that was clearly compelling to them, he makes a connection between their accustomed lives and the unknown challenge he offers. 

The poem draws out some insights that are unspoken in the gospel story, and perhaps calls into question some of our assumptions. The daughter’s reluctance, once recognized, may seem more natural to us than the immediate eagerness of the first disciples. And still, the lessons she remembers, that fishing requires subtlety, patience, and a deft hand, seem a promising program for winning disciples. And perhaps most compelling, she understands that the project of fishing, whatever the object, is a “bright-dark struggle” which draws fisher and fished into transformative relationship. 

 

Questions for Meditation

What do you remember about the first time you heard this very familiar gospel story? 

What feelings does the poem evoke for you? What insights? What images in the poem speak to you of your life in faith, especially in these times? 

What skills do you possess that might be “repurposed” in this time, so that you could be an authentic witness to the good news? 

 

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.

 

Proper Seventeen 8/30/20

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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Thirteenth 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                                                                                                 Matthew 16:21-28

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

Poem: “The Thread of Life”                                                                  by Christina Rossetti

1

The irresponsive silence of the land,
The irresponsive sounding of the sea,
Speak both one message of one sense to me: —
Aloof, aloof, we stand aloof, so stand
Thou too aloof bound with the flawless band
Of inner solitude; we bind not thee;
But who from thy self-chain shall set thee free?
What heart shall touch thy heart? what hand thy hand?—
And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,
And sometimes I remember days of old
When fellowship seemed not so far to seek
And all the world and I seemed much less cold,
And at the rainbow’s foot lay surely gold,
And hope felt strong and life itself not weak.

2

Thus am I mine own prison. Everything
Around me free and sunny and at ease:
Or if in shadow, in a shade of trees
Which the sun kisses, where the gay birds sing
And where all winds make various murmuring;
Where bees are found, with honey for the bees;
Where sounds are music, and where silences
Are music of an unlike fashioning.
Then gaze I at the merrymaking crew,
And smile a moment and a moment sigh
Thinking: Why can I not rejoice with you ?
But soon I put the foolish fancy by:
I am not what I have nor what I do;
But what I was I am, I am even I.

3

Therefore myself is that one only thing
I hold to use or waste, to keep or give;
My sole possession every day I live,
And still mine own despite Time’s winnowing.
Ever mine own, while moons and seasons bring
From crudeness ripeness mellow and sanative;
Ever mine own, till Death shall ply his sieve;
And still mine own, when saints break grave and sing.
And this myself as king unto my King
I give, to Him Who gave Himself for me;
Who gives Himself to me, and bids me sing
A sweet new song of His redeemed set free;
He bids me sing: O death, where is thy sting?
And sing: O grave, where is thy victory?

 

Reflection:

The first section of this poem seems to speak to our peculiar times: nostalgia for fellowship and warmth in a distant, ‘aloof,’ and ‘cold’ era.  In the second and third sections, Rossetti connects this sense of separation (from merriment, from love, from nature’s joys) to an act of self-will and self-denial, as if answering Jesus’s call to take up the cross and lose one’s life. Like the gospel reading, Rossetti sees a fruitful return and a sense of redemption after giving herself to God.

 

Questions for meditation:

  • Where does this poem speak most intimately to you?

 

  • The gospel reading contains that Christian paradox of gaining by losing, saving by sacrificing, living by dying.  What paradoxes do you see in the poem?

 

  • In a life with God, how does the prison of self become free 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.

 

 

 

Proper Fifteen 8/16/20

Link to PDF

The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection: The Eleventh 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                                                                                                 Matthew 15: 21-28

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

Poem: “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy”                                                by Thomas Lux

For some semitropical reason

when the rains fall

relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise

bright and scary

arachnids.  They can swim

a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.

They usually drown — but

if you want their favor,

if you believe there is justice,

a reward for not loving

the death of ugly

and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,

rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then

you would leave a lifebuoy

or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning

you would haul ashore

the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them

back to the bush, and know,

be assured that at least these saved,

as individuals, would not turn up

again someday

in your hat, drawer,

or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even —

when your belief in justice

merges with your belief in dreams —

they may tell the others

in a sign language

four times as subtle

and complicated as man’s

that you are good,

that you love them,

that you would save them again.

Meditation:

Today’s Gospel reading is famously challenging.  The disciples just want the Canaanite woman’s pestering to go away, while Jesus, at first, refuses to answer her pleas, either because of her ethnicity, or because he truly is just testing her faith.  In any case, this is a difficult woman (some would call her “nasty”) whose persistence eventually wears down the protagonist Jesus.  (At surface level, it is he, not her, who undergoes true change here.)  Today’s poem casts a similar dynamic in a much more mundane context: the simple act of deciding to save (rather than squish) one of God’s uglier, more persistent creatures.  Whether we see ourselves as Jesus, the ‘you’ in the poem, the Canaanite woman, or the tarantulas, we can perhaps consider in a new light both what it means to have faith, as well as what it means to overlook our biases and judgments when working towards justice and mercy.

Questions for reflection:

What role has persistence played in your own faith?  What role has trust played?

 

How have you felt God’s “lifebuoys” in your life recently?

 

What “lifebuoys” have you offered to yourself when drowning seems imminent? To others?

 

How have you, like the tarantulas in the poem, spread the word that there is mercy and love and redemption in our broken 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.

 

 

Proper Fourteen 8/9/20

Link to PDF

The Still Point: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

… 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                                                                                                 Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Poem: “Walking Water”                                                                            by Wyatt Townley

Inside us the ocean

sways like a cradle

in which we rock, rock

and are drawn like the tide

to the moon twice a day

we carry our water and it carries us

we are a good pail with legs

foot by foot on the turning

mountain of the world

water walking on the prairie

walking water on the road

up the stairs through a door

where the view rushes out of us

through the window to the woods

rushing water in the desert

rushing water in this chair

and that one you’re in

water walking

and what is solid is not at all

what we thought  the rock

worn away by the rocking

Meditation:

Wyatt Townley’s poem offers some compelling perspectives on the familiar image of Jesus walking on the water (and coaching Peter to do the same) from today’s Gospel.  We are, after all, mostly composed of water, and so we might consider, as one perspective, that Peter’s fear – and his subsequent appeal to Jesus’s saving hand – is a fear of one’s own water-ness.  Fear of storms and turbulent waters might take the shape of our own fear of our own turbulence, and to enter into a life with God is, perhaps, to find the calming waters of Jesus deep within ourselves.  Jesus’s rebuke of Peter is, perhaps, a way of saying to him, “You were always walking on water!”

 

Reflection:

  • How would you describe your own “walking water” today?  When your “walking water” is tranquil and calm, what does that feel like? What about in moments of troubled waters?
  • Water is, of course, a rich spiritual image, and though water evokes life, sanctuary, and refreshment, it can also evoke storms, flooding, and fear.  What water places or images have meaning in your life?
  • In our cultural moment of turbulent waters, perhaps you had at times risen above fear.  What helped you do that?

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.

 

 

Proper Thirteen 8/2/20

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Ninth 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                                                                                                 Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Poem: “Realism”                                                                                        by Czeslaw Milosz

 

We are not so badly off if we can

Admire Dutch painting.  For that means

We shrug off what we have been told

For a hundred, two hundred years. Though we lost

Much of our previous confidence.  Now we agree

That those trees outside the window, which probably exist,

Only pretend to greenness and treeness

And that the language loses when it tries to cope

With clusters of molecules.  And yet this here:

A jar, a tin plate, a half-peeled lemon,

Walnuts, a loaf of bread — last, and so strongly

It is hard not to believe in their lastingness.

And thus abstract art is brought to shame,

Even if we do not deserve any other.

Therefore I enter those landscapes

Under a cloudy sky from which a ray

Shoots out, and in the middle of dark plains

A spot of brightness glows.  Or the shore

With huts, boats, and, on yellowish ice,

Tiny figures skating.  All this

Is here eternally, just because once it was.

Splendor (certainly incomprehensible)

Touches a cracked wall, a refuse heap,

The floor of an inn, jerkins of the rustics,

A broom, and two fish bleeding on a board.

Rejoice! Give thanks! I raised my voice

To join them in their choral singing,

Amid their ruffles, collets, and silk shirts,

One of them already, who vanished long ago.

And our song soared up like smoke from a censer.

 

Meditation:

This poem’s literal connections to today’s Gospel reading include fleeting references to “a loaf of bread” and “two fish bleeding,” within the context of several other mundane, everyday details of what might seem like an uninteresting life.  Yet there are other ways to approach both this poem and today’s “loaves and fishes” miracle.  Milosz’s poem invites us to consider how we reflect on what is around us, whether we’re absorbed in the details of famous paintings, transformative miracles, or simply caught briefly by something glorious that we hadn’t noticed before.  The transcendence of art is, like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, life-giving and nurturing.  Language, after all, can’t capture every “cluster of molecules,” let alone our deepest hopes, our faith.

 

Questions for reflection:

What “ray” of light gives you joy during cloudy times?

What small miracles have you observed recently?

Perhaps this poem gives you inspiration for how to think about our sacred texts: how does scripture’s “lastingness” feed 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.

 

 

Proper Twelve 7/26/20

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12 

… 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                                                                                     Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Jesus put before the crowds another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Poem: On the Parable of the Mustard Seed                                by Denise Levertov

Who ever saw the mustard-plant,
wayside weed or tended crop,
grow tall as a shrub, let alone a tree, a treeful
of shade and nests and songs?
Acres of yellow,
not a bird of the air in sight.

No, He who knew
the west wind brings
the rain, the south wind
thunder, who walked the field-paths
running His hand along wheatstems to glean
those intimate milky kernels, good
to break on the tongue,

was talking of miracle, the seed
within us, so small
we take it for worthless, a mustard-seed, dust,
nothing.
Glib generations mistake
the metaphor, not looking at fields and trees,
not noticing paradox. Mountains
remain unmoved.

Faith is rare, He must have been saying,
prodigious, unique—
one infinitesimal grain divided
like loaves and fishes,

as if from a mustard-seed
a great shade-tree grew. That rare,
that strange: the kingdom
a tree. The soul
a bird. A great concourse of birds
at home there, wings among yellow flowers.
The waiting
kingdom of faith, the seed
waiting to be sown.

Reflection

The poem by Denise Levertov suggests that the parable of the mustard seed may be better understood if we consider how rare and strange – how startling even – it would be for a mustard seed to actually grow into a large shade tree! With this in mind, the parable grabs our attention with a jolting metaphor for the miraculous nature of faith: “the seed within us, so small we take it for worthless.”

Meditation

A few possibilities/prompts for a period of silent meditation:

  • The seed within you, taken at first as as worthless…dust…nothing.
  • The image of a “great concourse of birds at home” in a tree that provides abundant shade. What do your senses experience with this image? Does it connect for you with the image of a growing “tree of life” we often refer to at St. Andrew’s?
  • Of the various metaphors in the gospel reading – yeast, hidden treasure, precious pearl, fishing net – which one speaks to you most powerfully at this time?

 

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.