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The Still Point
A Time of Meditation and Reflection
Seventh Sunday of Easter:
Sunday after Ascension 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!
Son of Righteousness, so gloriously risen, shine in our hearts as we celebrate our redemption, that we may see your way to our eternal home, where you reign, one holy and undivided Trinity, now and forever. Amen.
The Gospel John 17:20-26
Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Poem: “A Fish Cannot Drown in Water” by Mechthild of Magdeburg (b. 1207)
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?
Today’s Gospel reading features part of Jesus’s longest prayer, a plea for a unity that goes in all sorts of directions: unity between Jesus and God, between Jesus and his people, and between God and all humanity. Or maybe that’s just one way of reading it. What can accomplish this kind of unity? The Spirit, which will come upon Jesus’s disciples on Pentecost. As part of Jesus’s farewell as depicted in the Gospel of John, it seems like this is a sneak preview of what is to come after Jesus leaves his friends: a plea to be united, despite the inevitable divisions that will emerge, and a clue that they will not be left alone, and that God’s presence will be with them through the Spirit. Mechtild of Magdeburg, a German 13th-century mystic, portrays this unity as the very essence that surrounds us and fills us. Like fish in their element, God’s people – all of us – are surrounded by, made of, and filled with life-giving Spirit. The ‘last word,’ so to speak, of Jesus’s prayer is love, and we answer this prayer every time we truly seek Christ in all persons, every time we become one with the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and every time we seek unity actively, despite our differences.
Questions for Reflection
When have you seen the unity of Christ at work in your life?
When has this unity as a goal been challenging to achieve?
Take a moment to imagine yourself surrounded by love. Imagine being filled with love every time you breathe. How does that image feel physically? What happens to your posture and your pulse?
What images, phrases, or actions from our liturgy and our worship practices remind you of ‘oneness’ with Christ? Oneness with each other?
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