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:

It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.
-Luke 15:32
The parable of the prodigal son is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Perhaps the reason I like it so well is because it is a story of redemption, and wherever and whenever there is redemption, there is cause for celebration.

With whom do you identify in the story?

The prodigal son?

The older brother?

The father?

Why?

One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.
-John 9:25
In preparing for this message, it occurred to me that I ought to get an official ruling on what it really means to be religious. So, I turned to Webster’s Dictionary…Do any of you still have a dictionary? This is what I found: “Religious…To be devout, earnest and sincere…pious, zealous in religious obligations…To be careful, conscientious, exact and scrupulous.”

Webster’s definition seems to fit well with the Pharisees and the Disciples in the story about the blind man in John Chapter 9. It is important to note that though the Quakers feel that John is more of a Quaker gospel than the others, it is also the most anti-Semitic of the gospels. The gospel of John is especially hard on the Pharisees.

The Disciples do not fair very well either. The first question they ask Jesus when they encounter the blind man is, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” The implication being that good families do not suffer. And the Pharisees zero in on the fact that Jesus healed on the sabbath, which means he is no man of God.

It is ironic that so great a blessing in the community as the restoring of a person’s sight, which should have resulted in great thanksgiving, was greeted, instead, with a cry of heresy and an accusation of sin. I wonder what that has to say to those who are religious as they can be, demanding that everything conform to patterns and rituals, compared to the less rigid sort of folk like the man in the story who enjoys a kind of free-wheeling spirit which can accept God’s goodness and beauty and truth wherever it is to be found.

Are you open to an “out of the box” experience of God?
I determine to live the outer life in the inward sanctuary.
-Howard Thurman
Often it is very hard for me to realize that I am one. The outer life seems utterly outer. It seems a part of a separate order. It is made up of the things I do, of my relationship of one kind or another with work, play, job, people and things. The standard by which the outer is judged tends to be an artificial standard, made up of that which is convenient, practical, expedient. The outer seems public, it seems ever to be an external net of physical relationships.

The inward sanctuary is my sanctuary. It is the place where I keep my trust with all my meanings and values. It is the quiet place where the ultimate issues of my life are determined. What I know of myself, my meaning; what I know of God, God’s meaning; all this and much more, is made clear in my secret place. . .

I determine to live the outer life in the inward sanctuary. The outer life must find its meaning, the source of its strength in the inward sanctuary. As this is done, the gulf between outer and inner will narrow and my life will be increasingly whole and of one piece. What I do in the outer will be blessed by the holiness of the inward sanctuary; for indeed it shall be one.

-Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman

Do you seek to live your outer life in what Thurman calls “the inward sanctuary?”

What are the obstacles to the wholeness we all seek?
“There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to your condition;” and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy…And this I knew experientially.
-George Fox
I am very grateful to have had a sister like Darlene. Before she left this earthly life a week ago from last Friday, I had never known a day in my life without her. I already miss her wise counsel and loving spirit, and I will for the rest of my life.

Darlene loved being a Quaker minister. What is it about our Quaker theology that was so meaningful to my sister, and is so meaningful to all of us? I am sure that responses to this question will vary, but for me, and I know for Darlene, because we talked about it, four basic elements stand out:

First, a Quaker theology is a theology of experience. We believe with George Fox and the early Friends that Christ has come to teach us himself. Experience with the Living Christ is at the center of our theology.

Secondly, a Quaker theology is relational. We believe in the gathered fellowship…the community. It is here where we share our pain with one another and where we share our joys with one another.

Third, a Quaker theology is processional. We believe in a God of process, journey and continuing revelation. This is a God “on the move,” who is a richly related being whose innermost nature is in his ceaseless participation and sharing.

Finally, a Quaker theology is ministerial. We believe that we are called to do ministry in the world…working for peace and justice and being examples of integrity and simplicity.

What do you love about our Quaker theology?