Proper 22 10/02/22

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The Still Point

A Time of Meditation and Reflection

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost:

Proper Twenty-Two

… 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                                                                                                                         Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

Poem: “The Wild Geese”                                                  by Wendell Berry (b. 1934)

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Meditation

The gospel story feels hard and harsh. Jesus does not seem to answer the disciples’ question on how to increase their faith but rather rebukes them for their lack of faith. For some of us trying to follow Jesus today, we might have the exact same question and wonder how to deal with the answer Jesus gave. The question may be left hanging!

The poem by Wendell Berry — especially appropriate for this wonderous transition time between the summer and fall seasons — celebrates the abundance of life we see and taste around us. The poet often found this abundance on the farm and the land… and the lessons to be learned there. Writer and activist Parker Palmer points to this poem and what he learned in ten years living and working in a Quaker community: “A decade of experiences like these left me with no doubt that what we need is within us and between us, in the human heart and in various forms of life together.”

I wonder if the poem can help us with our questions of faith. The faith we seek and long for is close at hand, within us and between us. What we need is here.

Questions for Reflection

What questions do you have about faith?
Where does the gospel story and the image of faith the size of a mustard seed lead you today?
What insights, cues, and clues do you find in the poem, “The Wild Geese?”

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

Posted in The Still Point.