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:

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much…
-Luke 16:10
Little things, little events and little feelings are the subject of the Scripture reading from the Gospel of Luke. We are surrounded by a society with apparently insurmountable problems, compounded by a continuing feud with North Korea and the devastation from Hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria. If we take these societal problems seriously, as we should, it is easy to throw up one’s arms and say, “What’s the use?!” But then, every once in a while, we are given a sign, a hint that everything is going to be alright. We may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems on our own, but what we can do is simply to be faithful in a very little.

What might that mean for those of us gathered this morning in Cincinnati Meeting? In brief, I suggest that there are 3 facets of life in which this lesson from Luke applies: 1. In our families, 2. In our society, and 3. With our God. Within each of these areas of life there are little events in which we can find faith, and recognize that God has not abandoned us.

First, to be faithful in a very little means to be faithful in our family. Psychiatrists will tell you that the little events, the small things in the family experience are often the crucial experiences which are really remembered.

Second, to be faithful in a very little means to be faithful in our society. We can contribute to the Food Bank, Bethany House, the AFSC and FCNL. We can work for a society that can be more just.

Third, to be faithful in a very little means to be faithful with our God. Coming to worship each First Day might seem like a small thing, but it is here that we increase our awareness of God in all of the events of our lives, both big and small.

In what ways are you faithful in a very little, but also in much?
A Columbus Day Weekend Meditation

“White Supremacy: Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and the Sin of Racism”

Exodus 20:1-21 (Worship God/Do not Kill, Steal, Covet), Psalm 37: 11 (Be Humble), Matthew 5-7 (Be Meek), Matthew 4: 1-10 (Worship God)

Excerpted from, On Repudiation: A Cherokee Perspective, in BPFNA Solidarity 1017 Series

By Randy S. Woodley,

who is a Keetooway Cherokee descendant, husband to Edith, father of four, and grandfather of three. The Distinguished professor of faith and culture at George Fox Seminary and the co-sustainer of Eloheh Farm, Randy lives in the land of the Kalapuya with their blessing

This is a story I picked up when I was living in Cherokee country during my years in eastern Oklahoma. As the story goes, there were two White men who showed up on a remote path and asked if they could hunt buffalo and live for a while among the Cherokee. Since there were plenty of buffalo back then, and no one had ever heard of a White man (and thus no reason to distrust them), those Cherokees decided to give the men food and a place to sleep. After feeding them, they felt the best hospitality they could offer was to give them a nice buffalo robe on which to sleep and to let them know they would be secure. The Cherokees said, “Just lay this buffalo robe down and you will always have a place to stay here in Cherokee country. Where you lay down your buffalo robe, that place will be yours. It now belongs to you.”

Well, the two White men had an idea. And when the Cherokees came back later the next evening to check on them, they found out just what these two white men were up to. It seems the two men spent the whole day cutting the buffalo robe into one long, thin strip, starting from the outside and going all the way to the center. Now, a buffalo robe is a big hide, so that the strip ended up being very long indeed. The White men had stretched and laid that strip across this great big area, connecting it at the ends, making one enormous square. The Cherokees looked puzzled. Then the White men proclaimed, “You said that wherever we put this buffalo robe, the land is ours. Now you see where the buffalo robe is. Everything inside that square is ours.” The Truth About Stories: Like many of our Indigenous stories, the point is not whether or not this event really happened. The point is that this is what you can expect from Settlers. They can’t be trusted. Though generosity is extended to them, they’ll abuse the kindness and take advantage of it. It means that their gain, including the land and its bounty, is more important than the potential relationships that can be built between two peoples. The most important part of the story to me, though, is that this old story is still being told around Cherokee country today. …

… What is true in the story is that settler-colonial society thinks they have the right to steal Indian land, by whatever means necessary, and to remove the Indian to some other place. What is true in the story is that self-aggrandizing avarice is bound in the hearts of Settlers, regardless of their religious disposition. What is true in the story is that the motivation for justifying and maintaining these heinous acts is White, dominant culture supremacy. How do I know it is true? Because the Settlers still have the land. …

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…
-Psalm 84:5
Last weekend the Burris High School Graduating Class of 1967 met in Muncie, Indiana to reunite. I had not seen many of my classmates for 50 years. It was a joyous time of reconnecting...laughing together, and, at times, sharing some tears. As a part of the weekend, my brother and I toured our old neighborhood by car. A few years ago, as a way to begin “mining” my own personal mythology, I took a long slow walk through my old neighborhood, an experience I share in my book, Sacred Chaos. There are special places in everyone’s life where we would like time to stand still. One such place for me is the neighborhood in which I grew up. When I was growing up I knew every alley, every yard, every tree and every fence within a two mile radius from my front door. There was a sense of security in knowing all of this. I knew that there was always one area of Muncie, Indiana where my knowledge of the territory provided a safe place. Upon my return, not all was the same. As with all of life, the passing of time brings changes…

There is an old neighborhood in each of us—a place where we were formed and which we helped to form. The only place where it has stayed the same is in one’s mind, for we know that time cannot stand still. The houses now look smaller and are in need of repair, the streets seem more narrow, the trees larger, and the people older...But it is still my neighborhood.

Quakers believe that all of life is sacramental...Whether this sacrament of God in one’s life is experienced in the silence of a meeting for worship, along the streets and alleys of one’s old neighborhood, or in an experience of worship at Westminster Abbey, it is the REALITY of the spiritual experience that is important, not the form of the experience. In what places during your life pilgrimage, have you felt an awe-filled spiritual connection to the Living God?
Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.
Luke 15:6b
Jesus would often tell stories in order to give us a better look into the heart of God. At other times, Jesus seems to become a parable, a window into whose words and deeds we can catch a glimpse of what God is like. In this passage from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be doing both. The gathering storm begins when the righteous, the Scribes and the Pharisees, mutter charges against Jesus. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

The accusations from the Pharisees and Scribes are nothing new. They are the same charges we hear in other places in Luke’s Gospel—this Jesus is not conforming to our social standards...he is hanging out with the wrong types of people...he is sharing his table and fellowship with persons who are unclean, unlike us!

In response, Jesus tells these wonderful little stories. “Which one of you shepherds,” he says, “when watching your flock by night, when one strays will you not leave the other 99 sheep alone to rush out into the wilderness and search for the one? And when you find that sheep, which one of you will not place it on your shoulders, rush back to the others, wake up your friends, and say, ‘I have found my sheep...let’s party!’” Jesus says that this is what God is like. God searches...God finds...God throws parties of extravagant grace for the lost.

Being lost is a part of life...I know people who have said that when they were fully immersed in chaos, when they were totally lost...when they had hit rock bottom, that their lives began to turn around. It was at this point that they began to see God in the mire with them. Sometimes it is important to get step out of the boxes that make us feel safe and secure, and move into the darkness. Sometimes being lost remains the only way to be found.

Have you ever felt like you were totally lost in discontent? What spiritual disciplines can be helpful in finding contentment?