Proper Twenty-four 10/17/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost  

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

 

Opening Prayer

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

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

 

Poem: “Sonnet 19”                                                                         By John Milton b. 1608

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one Talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he returning chide;

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait.”

 

Meditation

At the conclusion of today’s gospel, Jesus says that the Son of Man came into the world “not to be served, but to serve.” It seems that Jesus used the situation of the request made by James and John to convey to the disciples his hopes and expectations for them, and to provide a model of both leadership and service that may have been totally new to them. This teaching resonates to the present day as we consider our service to God and to each other.

The poem by Milton provides another angle to the concept of being a servant. The poet is reflecting on his own blindness and how that affects (and perhaps impairs) his ability to serve God through his talents and work. He finally concludes that God does not need our work! We do not always need to rush around to actively pursue work on behalf of God; “they also serve who only stand and wait.” Waiting may have a double meaning here – to wait upon or “attend as a servant,” and also to “remain stationary in readiness and expectation.”

In reflecting on both gospel and poem, some thoughts and questions might come to the surface:

  • How does Jesus give us a model of serving in this story from Mark?
  • How do service to God and service to each other interrelate?
  • How might we serve by “standing and waiting?”

Questions for Reflection

What new insights come to your mind and heart as you re-read the story of Jesus’ response to James and John, and his teaching to the disciples about serving each other?

Are there times when you have found yourself “standing and waiting,” either because of limitations and disability, or because of lack of clarity or direction?

The Prayers

 We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

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

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

Poem and Reflections offered by  Frank Nowell

Property Twenty-Two 10/03/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Nineteenth 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                                                                                                             Mark 10:2-16

Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Poem: “First days of Spring-the Sky”                                                      by Ryōkan(b. 1758)

First days of Spring – the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything’s turning green.
Carrying my monk’s bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.

First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
‘Why are you acting like such a fool?’
I nod my head and don’t answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what’s in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!

 

Meditation

The gospel for this day concludes with the marvelous image of Jesus taking children into his arms and blessing them. He had just told his disciples (sternly) to allow the children to come to him and made two startling statements: 1) the kingdom of God belongs to children such as these, and 2) it is necessary for a person to become like a child to enter the kingdom.

The poem casts light on these sayings of Jesus by taking us to a different time and place, but an experience that is universal. Ryōkan Taigu was a Zen Buddhist monk in late 18th and early 19th century Japan. He lived as a hermit and was known for his poetry and calligraphy. Ryokan’s poem delightfully depicts a day in which the beauty of the spring day inspired the poet to “play hooky” from his work and instead spend the day playing with children. (It’s interesting that the work he was escaping was begging for food!) The poem may take us in our memories to days when we could play endlessly – one game leads to another, and “time is forgotten, the hours fly.” The poem may also lead us to think of how we as adults might become more childlike: through wonder, playfulness, joy, being in the moment… and remembering our own childhood.

Questions for Reflection

Reflecting on your own life experiences and circumstances, what does it look and feel like to become more childlike? Does that create an openness to experience aspects of the kingdom that Jesus talks about?

In response to Jesus’ call to let the children come to him, what do you feel is especially important to do to care for children and their needs in these times? (You might think of this question in terms of various aspects of our life at St. Andrew’s, as well as the wider community and world we live in.)

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

 

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

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

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

  Poem and Reflection offered by: Frank Nowell   

Proper Twenty 09/19/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost  

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

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

Opening Prayer

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

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Poem: “Do Not Make things Too Easy”                                                  By Martha Baird b. 1921

Do not make things too easy.

There are rocks and abysses in the mind

As well as meadows.

There are things knotty and hard: intractable.

Do not talk to me of love and understanding.

I am sick of blandishments.

I want the rock to be met by a rock.

If I am vile, and behave hideously,

Do not tell me it was just a misunderstanding.

Meditation:

The gospel passage contains hard sayings of Jesus: God’s chosen one, the Son of Man (often now translated the Human One), will be betrayed and killed. His friends cannot understand this, any more than they can understand that they must let go the desire for power and status and become last, and servants. Jesus emphasizes this by showing them a child, the most vulnerable, least valued person in his world. It is tempting to receive Jesus’ sayings about children in a sentimental way, focusing on our notions of innocence, or wonder, or joy and play. But in bringing a child into their midst, Jesus is showing his friends the ultimate example of the last and least, the most dependent and helpless.

The poem, a bracing antidote to sentimentality, cracks open the notion that love makes things soft and easy. It is not too difficult to imagine Jesus, in the moments when his friends try to dissuade him from the hard truths of his mission, saying, with the poet, I am sick of blandishments. There are things knotty and hard, including the way that leads to the cross. And yet it is the way of truth.

Questions for Reflection:

The ancient spiritual practice of active imagination invites us to enter a scene from scripture and experience it through our senses. What happens for you if you enter one or more of the three scenes from this gospel passage?

Can you think of a time when someone offered you blandishments instead of a hard truth? Or when you offered someone a soft word instead of the truth? If you bring Jesus with you into that memory, does he show you a different way?

What are your first memories of the stories of Jesus with children: welcoming the child, blessing the children? What do these stories say to you now?       

The Prayers

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

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

Proper Eighteen 09/05/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost  

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One.  

Opening Prayer

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

The Gospel                                                                                                             Mark 7:24-37

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

 

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

To be held

by the light

was what I wanted,

to be a tree drinking the rain,

no longer parched in this hot land.

To be roots in a tunnel growing

but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves

and the green slide of mineral

down the immense distances

into infinite comfort

and the land here, only clay,

still contains and consumes

the thirsty need

the way a tree always shelters the unborn life

waiting for the healing

after the storm

which has been our life.

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

What images from the poem speak most powerfully to you?          

The Prayers

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

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

Proper Seventeen 08/29/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

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

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

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

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

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

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

Though there are torturers in the world

There are also musicians.

Though, at this moment,

Men are screaming in prisons

There are jazzmen raising storms

Of sensuous celebration

And orchestras releasing

Glories of the Spirit.

Though the image of God

Is everywhere defiled

A man in West Clare

Is playing the concertina,

The Sistine Choir is levitating

Under the dome of St. Peter’s

And a drunk man on the road

Is singing for no reason.

Meditation:

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

Prayers: 

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem selection and reflections by Matt Bentley 

Proper Fifteen 08/15/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost: Proper 15

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

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

Opening Prayer

Praise to you, God, for all your work among us. Yours is the vigor in creation, yours is the impulse in our new discoveries.

Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful in all we do. Amen.

The Gospel                                                                                     John 6:51-58

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

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

Love comes hungry to anyone’s hand.

I found the newborn sparrow next to

the tumbled nest on the grass. Bravely

opening its beak.  Cats circled, squirrels.

I tried to set the nest right but the wild

birds had fled. The knot of pinfeathers

sat in my hand and spoke.  Just because

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

follows. All day it pecks at the tin image of

a faceless bird. It refuses to fly,

though I’ve opened the door. What

sends us to each other? He and I

had a blue landscape, a village street,

some poems, bread on a plate. Love

was a camera in a doorway, love was

a script, a tin bird. Love was faceless,

even when we’d memorized each other’s

lines. Love was hungry, love was faceless,

the sparrow sings, famished, in my hand.

Meditation:

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

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

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

Questions for reflection:

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

 Poem and Reflection offered by: Matt Bentley  

Proper Thirteen 08/01/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 13

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

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

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

The Gospel                                                                                                 John 6:24-35

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

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

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

Poem:  “Fish Tea Rice”                                                                                          by Linda Gregg

It is on the Earth that all things transpire,

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

down into it. Wading and stepping, pulling

and lifting. The heft in the seasons.

Knowledge in the bare ankle under water

amid the rows of rice seedlings. The dialogue

of the silent back and forth, the people moving

together in flat fields of water with the patina

of the sky upon it, the green shoots rising up

from the mud, sticking up seamlessly above the water.

The water buffalo stepping through as they work,

carrying the weight of their bodies along the rows.

The wrists of the people wet under the water,

planting or pulling up. It is this Earth that all

meaning is. If love unfolds, it unfolds here.

Here where Heaven shows its face. Christ’s agony

flowers into grace, spikes through the hands

holding the body in place, arms reaching wide.

It breaks our heart on Earth. Ignorance mixed

with longing, intelligence mixed with hunger.

The genius of night and sleep, being awake

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

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

Meditation:

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

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

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

Reflection:

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

Prayers:

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem selection and reflections by Matt Bentley

Proper Eleven 07/18/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11

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

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meditation

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

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem selection and reflections by Frank Nowell

Proper Nine 07/04/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9

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

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

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

 

Scripture Reading                                                                                           Mark 6:1-13

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

Poem: “Remember”                                                                                   by Joy Harjo

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

Meditation

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

Poem and Meditation offered this week by Frank Nowell 

Proper Seven 06/20/21

Link to PDF

The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

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

 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

 

            Peace on each one who comes in need;

                        Peace on each one who comes in joy.

                        Peace on each one who offers prayers;

                        Peace on each one who offers song.

                        Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son,

                        Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One. 

 

Opening Prayer

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

Scripture Reading                                                                                   Mark 4:35-41

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

Poem: “To Be Held”                                                                       by Linda Hogan

To be held

by the light

was what I wanted,

to be a tree drinking the rain,

no longer parched in this hot land.

To be roots in a tunnel growing

but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves

and the green slide of mineral

down the immense distances

into infinite comfort

and the land here, only clay,

still contains and consumes

the thirsty need

the way a tree always shelters the unborn life

waiting for the healing

after the storm

which has been our life.

 

Meditation:

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

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

Questions for Reflection:

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

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

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

Prayers

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

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

We bring to God a troubled situation in our world

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

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

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

We name before God those who have died.

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

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

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

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