Easter 2 04/11/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second Sunday of Easter

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

                        Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Opening Prayer

Glorious Lord of Life,
we praise you,
that by the mighty resurrection of your Son,
you have delivered us from sin and death
and made your whole creation new;
grant that we who celebrate with joy
Christ’s rising from the dead,
may be raised from the death of sin
to the life of righteousness;
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever.
Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 20:19-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meditation

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Easter Day 04/04/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Evening of Easter Day

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

                    T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton 

                       Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Opening Prayer

Glorious Lord of Life,
we praise you,
that by the mighty resurrection of your Son,
you have delivered us from sin and death
and made your whole creation new;
grant that we who celebrate with joy
Christ’s rising from the dead,
may be raised from the death of sin
to the life of righteousness;
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever.
Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                     Luke 24:13-49

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

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

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

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

Poem: “Emmaus”                                                                                       by Rowan Williams

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

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

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

 

Meditation:

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

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

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

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

 Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

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

Prayers

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

 

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

 

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

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

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

Sunday of the Passion: 03/28/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Palm Sunday

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

                        Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Prayer

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

Scripture Reading                                                                                                          Mark 11:1-11

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

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

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

Poem: “In Jerusalem”                                                                     by Mahmoud Darwish

                                                                                                           translated by Fady Joudah

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,

I walk from one epoch to another without a memory

to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing

the history of the holy … ascending to heaven

and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love

and peace are holy and are coming to town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

then I become another. Transfigured. Words

sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger

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

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

biblical rose. And my hands like two doves

on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.

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

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

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

think to myself: Alone, the prophet Muhammad

spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”

Then what? A woman soldier shouted:

Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?

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

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

 Prayers:

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

 

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

 

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

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

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

Lent 5 03/21/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fifth Sunday in Lent 

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Peace on each one who comes in need;

Peace on each one who comes in joy.

Peace on each one who offers prayers;

Peace on each one who offers song.

Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

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

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 12:20-27

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

 

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

 

Think

how many long years

this tree waited as a seed

for an animal or bird or wind or rain

to maybe carry it to maybe the right spot

where again it waited months for seasons to change

until time and temperature were fine enough to coax it

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

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

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

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

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

adding blossoms and dancing

Next time

you see

a tree

think

how

much

hope

it holds

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

 

Prayers

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

 

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

 

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

 

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

 

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

Poem choice and reflections by Elizabeth Randall

Lent 4 03/14/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Peace on each one who comes in need;

Peace on each one who comes in joy.

Peace on each one who offers prayers;

Peace on each one who offers song.

Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

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

The Gospel                                                                                                             John 3:14-21

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

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

They staunched the wound with a stone.

They drew blue venom from his blood

until there was none.

When his veins ran true his face remained

Lifeless and all the mothers of the village

wept and pounded their chests until the sky

had little choice

but to grant their supplications.

God made the boy breathe again.

God breathes life into us, it is said,

only once. But this case was an exception.

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

and like a stranded fish, he shuddered, oceanless.

It was true: the boy lived.

He lived for a very long time.

The toxins were an oil slick: contaminated, cleaned.

But just as soon as the women

kissed redness back into his cheeks

the boy began to die again.

He continued to die for the rest of   his life.

The dying took place slowly, sweetly.

The dying took a very long time. 

Meditation:

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

Prayers

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

 

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

 

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Poem choice and reflections by Elizabeth Randall

Lent 3 03/07/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Third Sunday of Lent

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Peace on each one who comes in need;

Peace on each one who comes in joy.

Peace on each one who offers prayers;

Peace on each one who offers song.

Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 Opening Prayer 

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

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 2:13-22

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

 

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

translated by Peter Cole

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

You dwell deep within

 you’ve fixed the ends of creation.

You stand, a tower for the near,

 refuge to those far off.

You’ve lain above the Ark, here,

 yet live in the highest heavens.

  Exalted among your hosts,

  although beyond their hymns—

   no heavenly sphere

   could ever contain you,

   let alone a chamber within.

In being borne above them

 on an exalted throne,

you are closer to them

  than their breath and skin.

Their mouths bear witness for them,

 that you alone gave them form.

  Your kingdom’s burden is theirs;

   who wouldn’t fear you?

    And who could fail

     to search for you—

     who sends down food when it is due?

I sought your nearness.

 With all my heart I called you.

And in my going out to meet you,

 I found you coming toward me,

as in the wonders of your might

 and holy works I saw you.

 Who would say he hasn’t seen

  your glory as the heavens’

  hordes declare

  their awe of you

  without a sound being heard?

But could the Lord, in truth,

 dwell in men on earth?

How would men you made

 from the dust and clay

fathom your presence there,

 enthroned upon their praise?

  The creatures hovering over

  The world praise your wonders—

  your throne borne high

  above their heads,

   as you bear all forever.

Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

Where have you seen God’s glory most clearly?

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

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

Prayers

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

 

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

 

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

 

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

 

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

Poem choice and reflections by Elizabeth Randall

Lent 2 2/28/21

Link to Leaflet

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Second  Sunday in Lent

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

                       Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

 

Opening Prayer

We praise you God, that the light of Christ shines in our darkness and is never overcome; show us the way we must go to eternal day; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 8:31-38

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “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, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

Poem: The Shadow-Cross                                                       by Amit Majmudar

I just couldn’t breathe in its shadow.

It weighed what the cross weighed, that shadow

Cross, more than any shadow should.

No sun could shoulder that kind of shadow,

No man kneels there without a shudder.

The dark beams crushed me flat as shadow,

My flesh, grass, matted by the shade. No

Way a mere cedar cross could shed so

Much dark matter, so weighty a shadow.

I just couldn’t breathe in that shadow

Until I made myself a shadow-

Swallowing sea and swallowed shadow

The way a sea will swallow daylight.

The shadow splashed down, and the sun’s light

Spilled over—only I was the light’s

Sole source, both the prism and the light

Beam split into the eye’s wide palette.

The splash displaced a volume of light

Equal to one sun, this light the light

That made of the shadow cross a light

Cross to bear, the light that raised my light-

Weight body until then strange to flight

But now, death made light of by his dying,

Light-footed, fallen, risen, flying.


Meditation/Homily:                                                                                                
Offered by Matt Bentley

I must confess that I’ve always been a little puzzled by the phrase ‘take up your cross’. This year, though, I feel compelled to jump into the darkness of Lent to explore what, at least, taking up the cross means to me. Amit Majmudar’s poem gives us a possible way forward, connecting the cross of the crucifixion to our own shadow selves. And, in fact, when I imagine Jesus asking us to take up our shadows, that seems like an invitation I can navigate, whether we’re talking about the shadow of death, the shadow of the self, or the shadow of community.

But let’s start at the cross anyway. Its long dark shadow is everywhere in the church and the church year – it’s the shadow of death from the 23rd Psalm, it’s the sword piercing Mary’s soul, it’s the smudge of dead palms on our foreheads at Ash Wednesday, and it’s just around the corner of Christmas with the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Wherever we turn, there is the shadow of death.

The shadow of death, for mere mortals, is everywhere, too. Our own fear of death extends like the arms of the cross into all sorts of directions: What if I die before I have the opportunity to x,y, or z? What if a loved one dies before I do? What if I die before a loved one does? There’s an odd comfort in the fact that the answer to all of those questions is, first, you will. They will. You will.

But the shadow of death also pops up in other ways, leading in one extreme, to a cautious life lived so carefully, so afraid of taking risks, that the fear of harm or death ends up taking all of the life out of life. Or, in the other extreme, to a glorification of war, of hero worship, of selfish risk-taking that ends up sacrificing community for self, rather than the other way around.

So, what is one to do? Majmudar’s words may resonate with you: I just couldn’t breathe in that shadow until I made myself a shadow. Paradoxically, embracing our mortality just might allow us a certain relief – relief that being mortal means we don’t have to live forever. relief at the gift of not having to be perfect.

Being mortal means not only living under the shadow of death, but also coming to terms with the shadow of the self.

It’s no wonder that many religious traditions include some kind of shadow symbolism of duality, whether it’s the yin and yang of Taoism, or St. John of the Cross’s Dark night of the Soul.

If we make ourselves shadows, if we take up our cross, if we take up our shadows, we admit our mortality, we acknowledge the ugly parts of the self and hold them up to the divine light, in part because hiding them only makes them creep out or leap out like an unwanted growth.

Some attributes of our shadow selves are results of cultural shadows: scars of trauma or abuse, shadows of sexism, racism, homophobia, and other discrimination.

And some of our shadows are just part of who we are: negative versions of positive attributes. Stubbornness that in better light looks like confidence, debilitating passivity that in better light looks like saintly forbearance.

To pretend that these shadows don’t exist is to love only part of oneself, and therefore to not love completely. Again, there’s a comfort in allowing ourselves the freedom to ‘own’ what we most hate about ourselves, and to let go of the pressure of keeping those things unnamed. (Before coming out of the closet, I remember keeping a list of all of the people who knew my big secret – and it was stressful to manage that list, to manage conversations, and to carry that weight of worrying who else might know. That shadow is mostly no longer a shadow, one cannot avoid absorbing societal and culture homophobia deep in the soul.)

Anyway, the alternative to taking up our shadow is to go on silencing and ignoring the shadow. In doing so, we let those shadow attributes, like the unnamed Voldemort in Harry Potter, continue to have power. As Dumbledore said, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

To me, then, to deny oneself as Jesus asks in today’s reading from Mark requires us first to take up our shadow and embrace our full self – shadow and light, fear and hope, clumsy ineptitude and graceful gesture. To be a shadow is to face the light, to own the light of truth, to accept the healing presence of Christ’s light.

Of course, it isn’t ever all about us – at some point, following Jesus’s invitation to take up the cross means to acknowledge the shadows in our culture and society. This means naming and admitting the role we play in our societal shadows. Owning our participation in the shadow of systematic racism, in the shadow of harm done to the earth. It means, in short, to shine the light of truth on injustice, and to seek the light of Christ in all persons.

But it all starts with taking up the cross and facing our shadows.

Lent is the time for reconfiguring the shadow not as a mark of shame, but of evidence of the beauty of brokenness and of mortality. All – or at least most – beauty reaches the eye, the ear, the heart, the brain, because of the effect of contrasting forces: dark/light, loud/soft, high/low. Why would the beauty of our own selves be any different?

Questions for reflection: 

  • What are your own shadows? How do these shadows show up in your day-to-day existence? When have you been able to see them as gifts?
  • Imagine a beloved figure – a grandmother, a mentor – wrapping your shadow self in an embrace of light. What does that feel like?
  • Re-read Majmudar’s poem, this time considering its yin/yang structure. What does the poem leave you feeling? wondering?

           

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.

Lent 1 02/21/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point :A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The First Sunday of Lent

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Peace on each one who comes in need;

Peace on each one who comes in joy.

Peace on each one who offers prayers;

Peace on each one who offers song.

Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness;
give us grace to direct our lives in obedience to your Spirit;
and as you know our weakness
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Poem: “The Good News”                                                                           by Thich Nhat Hanh

They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

Meditation:

At first glance, today’s poem by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk may seem out of place for the first Sunday in Lent.  But today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel also sandwiches Jesus’s 40-day trial in the desert between two surprisingly life-giving events: baptism and the proclaiming of Good News.  Perhaps it may serve as a reminder to us that, even in the darkness of Lent (or the darkness of apocalyptic weather, or soul-draining cultural divisions, or an isolating pandemic), as a people of God we can still find newness of life and help engage in the renewal of the world.  Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem lifts the weed-status of the dandelion to a source of beauty, and lifts us as the bearers of good news instead of merely passive recipients.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What dandelions in your life can you imagine reconsidering as flowers?
  • In the midst of so much bad news, where do you find hope?
  • As you begin this year’s Lenten journey, what are your hopes? What moments in your past have given you new life?

 Prayers

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

 

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

 

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

 

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

Poem choice and reflections by Matt Bentley

Last Sunday after the Epiphany 02/14/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany

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

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

 

Opening Prayer

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 9:2-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Poem: “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Meditation:

Today’s well-known poem paints a world shimmering and vibrating with Godly energy.  And yet we often find ourselves trodding through the ruts of our routines and forget to look up and notice.  Though the poem begins and ends with explicit references to God and the Holy Spirit, in the middle Hopkins finds the sources of human, incarnate, natural grandeur – that is, Christ’s grandeur.  This makes a fitting partner for today’s reading from Mark, which portrays the contrast between the transfigured Christ (in “dazzling white”) and those bound to earth. Famous for his adept use of sounds, Hopkins seems to apply the divine transfiguration to language, too, finding the potential within everyday words to become something new.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Where have you recently found God’s Grandeur in nature? In words?
  • What are your favorite uses of language in this poem? Is there a juxtaposition of images that surprises you?
  • Listen to Benjamin Britten’s setting of this poem here.  How does this setting capture the sense of surprise or awe?
  • For another take on our latent capacity for godly grandeur, read Rainer Maria Rilke’s selection from a letter.  Where do you feel God calling forth your song from within?

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.

Epiphany 5 02/07/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Peace on each one who comes in need;

Peace on each one who comes in joy.

Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

 

 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, give us such a vision of your purpose and such an assurance of your love and power, that we may ever hold fast the hope which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 1:29-39

After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Poem: Selections from “Eighteen Ways of Looking at Cancer”

                                                                                        by Eleanor, Louise, Lydia, Nell, Rosetta and Sandra

I

I love my mother, my brother and my grandmother

But I’m not ready to go and be with them yet

What about my three children?

 

III

A lot of people think, “Why me?”

I never did go through, “Why me?”

 

VI

I felt like a marionette

My strings being pulled in every direction

They want me to have this scan, and this test,

And this bloodwork.

Where do you want me now?

 

X

Lost in this never-ending struggle or tunnel

The struggle is the tunnel

On and on

Never-ending

Dark

 

XIII

Sleep

What’s a good night’s sleep?

Waking up exhausted

The lack of energy is indescribable

 

XVII

Other people’s insensitivities:

“We’re not talking about cancer.”

 

XVIII

Other people’s kindnesses:

A bag of tomatoes

A rotisserie chicken.

Meditation:

Today’s poem comes from a writing and healing workshop at Cancer Services in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the selections give us a counterpart to today’s Gospel reading, focusing not on the healer, but on the healed.  These selections also remind us about how the miracle of healing works in the real world: a combination of scientific invention, experiments, human kindness, painful side effects, existential anguish, and the ongoing need for the basics: sleep, nutrition, and hope.  We all can be – we all are – part of Jesus’s miracle of healing, and like the body of Christ, we are each uniquely equipped to be part of that process.

Questions for Reflection:

  • For more of the ‘eighteen ways’ of looking at illness, see https://writingandhealing.org/2007/02/04/eighteen_ways_o
  • What would you add to this kaleidoscope of the very real human experience of suffering and healing?
  • In moments when you have asked, “Why me?”, how has your faith helped you answer the question?  What doubts and questions remain?
  • In the space between ‘other people’s insensitivities’ and ‘other people’s kindness’, there is a lot of room for indifference, apathy, and what we might call ‘sins of omission.’  What has helped you both acknowledgethe kindness of others, as well as tap into your own kindness?
  • How are you best equipped to help the work of Jesus in the world?

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 selection and meditations by Matt Bentley