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The Still Point: A Time of Meditation and Reflection
The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11
… 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 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Poem by Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1212–c. 1282)
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?
In a remarkably brief space, the gospel for today reveals Jesus’s roles as teacher, shepherd, and healer. We also see his compassion to the apostles and their need for rest and refreshment, and his compassion for the great crowd, “because they were like a sheep without a shepherd.”
The poem provides a counterpoint but also perhaps a new entry point into the gospel.
Mechthild of Magdeburg was a mystic poet in the 13th century, and a member of the Beguines, lay women who lived communal lives of service. Her book “The Flowing Light of the Godhead” may have been the first book written in German. Mechtild’s poems provide a vision of God being everywhere and in every creature, and a wholly personal and intimate relationship with God.
Does the poem connect with what we know of Jesus’s teachings? Can it expand our sense of the wholeness and health to which his healing restores people?
Questions for Reflection
During a time of quiet reflection you may wish to re-read and go deeper with both the gospel and the poem. Do you find connection points between the two?
Are there particular and personal ways you have experienced Jesus as a teacher, shepherd, and healer?
What do you make of these remarkable words from the poem: “In the fire of creation, God does not vanish: The fire brightens.”
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 selection and reflections by Frank Nowell