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:

And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.
-Luke 7:10
Jesus enters Capernaum. Right from the beginning that should suggest something to us as listeners. This little city is a hot spot for healings. Jesus heals a man of an unclean spirit in the Capernaum synagogue. Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law of a “high fever” at Simon’s house in Capernaum. And, “All those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on them and they were cured.” All of this happened in Capernaum. So, when we are told that Jesus entered Capernaum, we should realize what is about to happen…more miracles.

In the passage from Luke just read, it is not a miracle that Jesus performed a miracle…miracles were a dime a dozen in the ancient world, and remember we are in Capernaum. The centurion expects Jesus to do that after he “heard about Jesus.” That is why he sends Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. And what does Jesus seemingly do…what is implied without Jesus even speaking a healing word as the centurion requested? The slave is found “well.” Healing has occurred. Another miracle in Capernaum.

What I find most interesting about this story is that the health needs of the slave galvanized a community to work on his behalf for healing. Jews, Gentiles, political, military and religious powers collaborate to seek the health of the least of these, the slave. Those in power take the initiative to aid the slave, the vulnerable one in their midst.

How much different we would be if we could be like Capernaum—an inter-relational web of healing by the grace of God. No one should have to suffer alone. How do we become a society and community that will take care of “the least of these?” What must change within us?
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.
-Ephesians 4:31-32
Mary Oliver is one of my favorite writers. In her piece titled, “Of the Empire,” she says, in part, “We will be known as a culture that feared death and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity for the few and cared little for the many. We will be known as a culture that taught and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke little if at all about the quality of life for people…other people, for dogs, rivers. All the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a commodity. And they will say also that our politics was no more than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of the heart, and that the heart, in those days, was small and hard, and full of meanness.”

These are not easy words for us to read or hear, for we are a part of the time that Mary Oliver is describing. Of course, the antidote to a hardened heart full of meanness is a tender heart, and it is important to note that there are many tender hearts today who are working tirelessly for a more loving and tolerant society. A tender heart is humble and grateful, empathetic and open to listening to others. A tender heart is non-judgmental and loves diversity and is open to an ever-expanding understanding of God.

A few weeks ago someone sent me a beautiful thought, which I keep on my desk as a reminder of the image of God in my midst: “What if every man and every woman—every victim of abuse, every abandoned child, every lonely senior, every intellectually and physically challenged person, every single person, every gay, transgendered person, every prisoner, every homeless person, everyone we love and everyone we fear, were actually the image of God in our midst, equal in humanity, in dignity and worth.

How should we then live?”
Blessings at Year’s End

I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living. I remember the beautiful things that I have seen, heard and felt—some as a result of definite seeking on my part, and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit. I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity. I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes. I remember the awareness of the spirit of God that sought me out in my aloneness and gave to me a sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.

-Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart
What are the blessings that you have experienced this past year?

What are your hopes and dreams for the coming year?
Beloved let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
-I John 4:7
I love this time of year, and I am always spiritually uplifted by the words of John Rutter: “Love came down at Christmas—Love all lovely, love divine. Love was born at Christmas, stars and angels gave the sign.” They are words that move us both emotionally and spiritually and help us to prepare for what we will experience tomorrow evening and Tuesday morning. They are words of mystery, and although our minds cannot fully understand all of the implications surrounding the birth of Jesus, our hearts are still inspired.

As I reflected on the words of John Rutter, I began to ask, “What are the implications of such love?” “How do these most inspiring of words move us to experience the practical ways in which they become manifest?”

First, “love was born at Christmas” to offer hope for society’s outcasts and expendables. Jesus was an apocalyptic Jewish Prophet, whose main audiences were those who lived their lives on the edges of Roman society. Roman society was a brokered society. If you had nothing to broker, you were an outcast or expendable. “Love was born at Christmas” to offer hope to those on the margin, the outcasts and expendables.

Secondly, “love was born at Christmas” to offer community and fellowship to all who are feeling lonely and unloved. We may be able to live alone and survive physically, but we need one another to survive spiritually. This is what Jesus knew… “Love was born at Christmas” to offer a beloved community to all who are feeling lonely and unloved.

Finally, “love was born at Christmas to offer hope for persons who have lost their child-like expectancy and wonder. Christmas is a time for wonder…the invisible and the eternal. It is a time when only the soul that wonders can really grasp the true meaning of Christmas.

How have you experienced love during this Christmas Season?