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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection
The Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27
… 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.
Mighty God, strong, loving and wise, help us to depend upon your goodness and to place our trust in your Son; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.
The Gospel Matthew 25:1-13
Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Poem: “The Five Virgins” by Thomas Merton
There were five howling (or scatter-brained) virgins
To the Wedding of the Lamb
With their disabled motorcycles
And their oil tanks
But since they knew how
A person says to them
To stay anyhow.
And there you have it,
There were five noisy virgins
But looking good
In the traffic of the dance. (but well-involved in the action of the dance)
There were ten virgins
At the Wedding of the Lamb.
Jesus’s parable has an urgent, cautionary vibe that perhaps asks us whether we are ready and alert and anxiously awaiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. Thomas Merton’s poem paints the same scene, but with more joyfully chaotic colors. We’ve got motorcycles, dancing, and above all, a graceful invitation to the unprepared to stick around anyway. Without suggesting that one could ‘out-Jesus’ Jesus, we are nevertheless invited to consider two sides of Jesus’s love: justice and mercy.
Questions and resources for reflection:
- In our ever anxious times – with lots of anxious waiting! – what does it mean to you to know ‘how to dance’, despite, perhaps, a lack of preparation or foresight?
- Where do you go to balance urgency and anxiety with joy and sharing?
- Following Merton’s lead, how do we invite others ‘to stay anyhow’ in a socially-distanced world
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.