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The Still Point
A Time of Meditation and Reflection
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.
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 19:1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Poem: “I Look at the World” by Naomi Shahib Nye(b. 1952)
The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.
In the gospel readings this month Jesus keeps turning things upside down! He does that again when he urges Zacchaeus, a notorious tax collector, to come down from the tree he has climbed and meet him in person. Zacchaeus was publicly known (or at least rumored) to have become rich through corruption, but Jesus calls him by his name and said he would be a guest at his house that day. Those who heard this were scandalized that Jesus would be the guest of a sinner. Zacchaeus simply wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, perhaps out of curiosity. But Jesus goes further and invites him into a relationship, even inviting himself to his home!
The poem by Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shahib Nye begins with a traditional Arab saying about hospitality to a stranger. The poet evokes in vivid terms what this depth of old-fashioned hospitality might be like, and states emphatically, “Let’s go back to that.” In this kind of hospitality, the host’s care and attention comes before ever knowing the details about who the guest is. Those details might get in the way of a new friendship!
Jesus’s reverse hospitality allows Zacchaeus the unexpected honor to be Jesus’s host. The people are shocked, but Jesus replied the Son of Man has come to seek the lost. That invitation from Jesus is always there for those of us who feel like we have lost our way. As his followers, we are called to practice the same hospitality to others.
Whether we are seeking a home for refuge or renewal, or have a home to offer, there is a place for us in this story.
Resources for Reflection
The Road Home
You may wish to listen to the short choral piece, The Road Home, by Stephen Paulus.
This is one of a number of lovely performance videos available:
The Way of Love
On the Episcopal Church website, The Way of Love offers a rich set of practices for Jesus-centered life: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love/
“If we listen closely, there is a spirit calling us to come back to ourselves, back to our purpose, back to something more meaningful.”
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