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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.
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
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
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?
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