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The Still Point
A Time of Meditation and Reflection
Nineteenth 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.
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 18:1-8
Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Poem: “I Look at the World” by Langston Hughes (b. 1901)
I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.
When you hear the word justice, what do you think of ? Do you think of “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair,” from one dictionary definition? Or do you think of social justice — “the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth” (United Nations) or “a communal effort dedicated to creating and sustaining a fair and equal society in which each person and all groups are valued and affirmed” (The John Lewis Center for Social Justice)?
One focuses more on justice as a quality in an individual, the other on justice in the social and communal sphere. They seem interrelated and connected, so does the distinction help, or is it misleading? For those who follow Christ, there are a multitude of scriptural references about justice that might fit one category or another, or both. (And thank goodness for all of those people who, like the widow in the parable, persistently bother us about injustices of all kinds!)
The poem by Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes is short and simple, yet powerful. As the poet sees the world through awakening eyes in a black face (perhaps asking the reader to do the same) and sees the “silly walls” built by oppression, he turns to himself and the work that needs to be done to break down these walls. The poem closes with an urgent call to his comrades to hurry and find the road with him!
In the times we live in, we may feel that basic injustices are increasing every day… or perhaps we simply have a clearer, fuller understanding of them. Either way, it’s easy to become discouraged. The parable tells us of the “need to pray always and not to lose heart.” The epistle reading for the week may reinforce this with the words, “I solemnly urge you, proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.”
Questions for Reflection
- In your experience, how do faith and justice relate to each other?
- What might it mean to pray persistently for justice, as individuals and as a community?
- Where might those prayers lead… in relation to action, community, and formation?
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