Centering Down

photo-nov-06-10-58-37-amCentering Down is an adult spiritual sharing group that takes place in the meetinghouse library every Sunday at 10 AM, before worship. All are welcome to join at any time.

Each week’s topic is included in the bulletin. It typically includes a few passages from the minister’s message, as well as some queries—questions to stimulate self-examination and thought. We might spend several minutes in silent reflection before anyone speaks. Individuals are encouraged to speak from their own experiences and to listen deeply to one another, allowing a little time for reflection between speakers. In this way, we can come to know one another better and share our unique portion of Light with one another.

The following are recent centering down passages:

Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again… -John 8:11
If you ever tried to find a story that demonstrated the surprising GRACE of God, this story in Chapter 8 of John’s Gospel is the best that you will find. The “Grace of God” is a phrase associated with the Christian faith, and is, I believe, one of its essential tenets. It simply means that God’s love does not depend on one’s behavior, and it is not predicated on what you believe. In brief, Grace is about extending God’s love to any and to all. It is indiscriminate and it is overwhelming.

Quaker author Phil Gulley and James Mulholland co-authored a book titled, If Grace Is True. It makes the bold claim that God will save every person. Phil writes, “Long before I believed God would save every person, I claimed God as a loving parent...If God is a loving parent, then his love will persist until every one of his children is reconciled to him.” If we take the Grace of God seriously, it completely undermines the image of God as a judgmental lawgiver enforcing on us a life of requirements before we are allowed to receive God’s love. Marcus Borg writes, “If one does not leave the world of conventional wisdom, with its hypercritical nature and its eagerness to point out and condemn sins, then one remains in it...That, not hell, is the biggest threat to the eternal life that Jesus offered.”

The story of the woman caught in adultery that we find in John 8, is telling us that God is more than ready to forgive us. Remember the words of Jesus in the story, “Neither do I condemn you…” And he sent her away.

I am grateful to the scribe who placed this story in the Gospel of John. It was not a part of the original text. It is an important picture of the way God feels about us...A Grace that extends to every one of us.

Have you ever experienced the Grace of God in your own life?
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God… -1st John 4:7
My mother died of complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. These words are difficult for me to share. I grew up in a home knowing a different mother—a mother of sharp mind and quick wit. An accomplished organist and pianist, it was not uncommon to be awakened by her playing Bach, Beethoven or Mozart on the piano.

Toward the end of her life, my mother, this woman who took such great pride in her family, did not know me. When I would look into her eyes and speak to her, she did not understand. Quietly she would sit in her chair by the bed, staring down at the floor.

As my mother’s condition worsened, I began to slowly become aware that there were still certain gifts that we could share.

First is the gift of grief. As with any loss, grief is a natural response. I grieved my mother’s continuous cycle of memory loss.

Second is the gift of laughter. Although clueless about the reason for the laughter, mom could still smile as I shared fun family memories.

Third is the gift of gratitude. I became grateful for the experience of spiritual connection that I felt as I sensed her confusion.

Fourth is the gift of forgiveness and repentance. The length of my mother’s illness provided the opportunity for forgiveness, repentance and jubilee. Finally, there is the gift of love. As my mother slowly drifted beyond this earthly realm, we could still share love.

What gifts, if any, did your mother give to you?

How did your time at home shape your values?
Compassion is the wellspring of religion…
-Karen Armstrong
We are living in a dangerous and intolerant time, when many issues and culture clashes threaten to undo the fabric of tolerant diversity that holds our world together. These clashes are no more prevalent than within our various religious communities and cultures.

Intolerance will always be with us. The best of our religious traditions, however, and the best that is within us, will seek to discover those areas within all faith traditions that unite and sustain us, and provide a basis of understanding toward those who are different from us.

Karen Armstrong said that compassionis the touchstone of all of the major faith traditions. When I heard her say this, I began to think, “What else unites and sustains?” “On what can we agree?” I will limit myself to what we call the three Abrahamic Traditions.

At the heart of all three of the traditions is the hunger for a divine/human encounter. We all have mystical traditions that greatly enhance our love of and search for the Living God.

Justice is also at the core of all of our faith traditions. We are all concerned with the issue of justice, especially justice for the poor.

Finally, faith communities that are built on the values of truth and integrity are also at the core of our traditions. Ethical conduct within the cultures where we reside is a concern of us all.

These do not exhaust all of the ways that we can connect, but it is a beginning.

Are there other elements, values and /or teachings and truths that we can respect and honor within the Christian tradition, as well as within Judaism and Islam?