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:

Centering Down, May 19, 2019 Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
-Matthew 18:3
I believe that growth in the Spirit will inevitably issue in transformation, or to an awakening within that will move us to see life from a new and transformed perspective. And, I believe that developing a density of readiness can help to make such transforming experiences sacred. What does such a density of readiness look like?

First, we can prepare by seeking to live in a spirit of patience and simmering. We are, by and large, an impatient people. We want it yesterday! Developing a density of readiness requires a slower pace of patience and simmering.

Secondly, developing a density of readiness requires immersing ourselves in silence. As Friends we believe that silence is an important vehicle for continued spiritual growth and reflection. It is a means to a deeper relationship with God.

Third, we develop a density of readiness by growing through our pain. In his book, Sacred Journey, Frederick Buechner writes about his own painful experiences, and how he sought to grow through each one. “God speaks,” writes Buechner, “and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys…Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him…”

Finally, a density of readiness is developed by living in a spirit of child-like expectancy and wonder. Jesus says that we must become like children to ender the kingdom of heaven.

How are you developing a density of readiness?
Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?
-Matt. 12:48
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day. According to many, it is a day that we celebrate the Christian home and Christian family. Like me, you may be wondering just what a Christian home looks like. Is it one in which there are regular family devotions and times of prayer? Maybe a Christian home can be defined as a home where everyone goes to church or meeting each First Day? Is it one where parents teach their kids not to smoke, drink or chew or go with girls that do!?

I would submit that a family…any family of faith…is defined by one thing and one thing alone: It is defined by the love of God. If you are trying to love and care for others, especially those who are nearest to you in your family, then you are doing all that God asks of you. I believe that all that God wants of you is love, and this is whether or not you are married or divorced, whether you are single or widowed, whether you are young or old, whether you have or don’t have children, and whether or not you make mistakes as a father or mother, or are as perfect as perfect can be.

Jesus changed the definition of just what a family is. He told us that there is only one family that really counts, and that is the family that he came to make us a part of, the family of God. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

A Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist home and family exists wherever the love of God is shown. Embrace your nuclear family for sure, complete with flaws and imperfections, remembering those who helped to raise you and care for you. But also embrace your faith community and your community at large, remembering to love and encourage one another.

While growing up, how were you cared for, nurtured and loved?
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
-Matthew 11:30
Have you ever heard yourself or someone else say, “I am exhausted,” “I feel drained,” “If I have to see one more Presidential Tweet, I think I will go crazy!?" At one time or another, most of us have been there. We live in a fast-paced world of instant news, and where we are hurrying, rushing and working too hard, until our energies are depleted, and our well-being needs some serious renewal.

And then we come to Meeting. Jesus understood the need for sanctuary, for rest and for renewal. The pattern of his life was to confront the world with teaching, preaching and healing, and then to leave for a quiet place to pray and to renew his spirit.

There are at least three gifts wrapped in Jesus’ invitation to rest. The first gift is the gift of Sabbath. Jesus was a Jew who knew about Sabbath time…a time of rejuvenation, restoration and renewal. Resting means living in the present moment, not regretting the past or feeling anxious about the future.

The second gift is that of release. This gift offers the opportunity to let go of stresses and pressures, to release the inner obstacles that block us. In the words of Princess Elsa from Disney’s movie, Frozen, “Let it go…Let it go.” Whatever the dilemma or anxiety that is causing us inner turmoil, “Let it go.”

Finally, there is the gift of spiritual energy for our work and ministry in the world. Jesus was both a mystic and a social reformer. Following his times away for renewal, he came back energized for ministry in the world. We have been given this gift as well.

How do you renew your spirit?
Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.
-John 20:25
You know the story. Following the crucifixion, the disciples were locked in a house for fear that they too would be killed. For some reason, Thomas was not with them, and so the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas replied by telling the other disciples what is written in the epigraph above. These words earned him his nickname, “Doubting Thomas.”

For me, there are two things that stand out in this story, both of which have to do with vulnerability. First is the courage that Thomas showed by his doubting, thus making him vulnerable to ridicule from his believing colleagues. The second thing that I find so meaningful is the vulnerability that Jesus shows by openly showing his disciples his scars.

For Thomas the crucifixion had destroyed his hope. In the courageous act of doubting, Thomas put his hands into the nail prints and in Jesus’ side, thus moving him to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” A new transformative experience took place, and a new paradigm of understanding the work of God in the world was beginning to unfold.

Life is an accumulation of scars, both physical and emotional. Healing the wounds of our lives is a continuous process of growing in our ability to allow love into our injured hearts and souls. Here in the safety of this small company of persons that Jesus had come to trust and love, he becomes vulnerable by showing his scars.

You have your doubts and I have mine. You have your scars and I have mine.

How do you relate to the vulnerability of both Thomas in his doubting and Jesus in showing his scars?