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:

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
-First John 4:7
Before we can ask the question, "What would Jesus do?" we need to ask, "What did Jesus think?" Thoughts lead to actions. Only when we understand the way a person thinks, can we begin to understand why a person acts.

What did Jesus believe about God, and what did Jesus think about human community? For Jesus, the primary character of God was love. He simplified his own faith down to just two propositions: Love God and love your neighbor. Therefore, Jesus embodied love in his own life in a more radical way than has ever before been demonstrated in human history. He loved the unlovable. He loved his enemies. He treated the shamed with honor and declared the unclean, clean. The basic character of anyone who does this is love. This, Jesus believed is the reality that calls us to live better than we live. This is the reality that is present within each one of us when we come to recognize what Jesus recognized, that the Kingdom of God is within us, and that the Kingdom begins and ends with love.

This is what Jesus believed about God, and what the author of the First Letter of John outlined as his understanding of God. Jesus also believed that the experience of God in one's life could be translated into human relationships and forms of community. He would speak of a NEW Kingdom and life together in this NEW Kingdom. What Jesus believed about community came from his experience of God. If God is that fundamental reality running through all of life and existence, and if the character of that fundamental reality is love, then the finest, most authentic form of human community must in some way embody love of one another.

How are we doing as we work to form community as Jesus envisioned human community, based on the love of God?
And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
-Luke 18:1
Jesus tells a parable about a widow and an unjust judge. Day after day the widow comes to see the judge seeking justice, and day after day he keeps kicking her out. The widow is relentless and persistent. The widow knows that life is not fair, but that does not mean that she is going to roll over and take it. Finally, following days of persistence, the judge gives this widow the justice she wants.

This parable is about prayer. It is not the kind of prayer that is a soothing sedative for the spirit. It is, instead, the kind of prayer that will not accept anything less than what is right.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in America, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about the kind of persistence that the widow in our story demonstrated. In strength and Love, King wrote, "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you..."

Working for justice is hard work. Sometimes it takes years of "sit-ins," countless demonstrations, numerous walks from the Freedom Center through downtown Cincinnati, and many, many prayers. We must, however, keep on working, and keep on praying, for whatever is just is on the right side of history.

Do you believe with MLK that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice?"
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer...
-Romans 12:12
Well, here we go again. Cincinnati Meeting could no longer ignore the fast spreading Omicron Variant of the Corona Virus. So, Ministry and Counsel with the support of our Health Committee, decided last week that we needed to go to an all-Zoom format for Worship and Centering Down.

Most of us thought we would be on the other side of this virus by now. Anne Lamott speaks for many of us when she posted on Facebook, "... I keep thinking bitterly that I am just done, like an overcooked rump roast; just done. I have been an excellent sport for nearly two years...Grace, which always bats last, saw me through pretty much unscathed relative to most people in the world...But the good sportsmanship was based on this all coming to an end at some point, and right now I am not convinced that it will. It's like being in a whiteout where you can't easily tell which is up and which is down or sideways..."

As I have counseled with people over the past two years, I have encouraged them to express their feelings of anger. I have felt it and you have felt it, and it is alright to feel it.

I have also encouraged them to mourn. This is a time of grief where we need to mourn.

Beyond the anger and mourning, we need to, remember to remember. We need to remember that spring will be here soon. We remember the old tried and true things that bless us. We remember to give thanks that after so much has been taken from us, so many blessings remain.

"Be patient in tribulation," writes Paul. It is difficult to do, but an important spiritual discipline, especially now.

How are you faring during this time of Omicron?
"Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I unless someone guides me?"
Because of its mystery and difficulty, there has been a great deal of biblical illiteracy among those who claim to love the Bible and follow its guiding principles. In a survey by the Gallup Organization, there are these statistics: 45 percent nationwide can name fewer than five of the Ten Commandments. A total of 46 percent can state all four of the Gospels correctly, and only 42 percent know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. "Biblical illiteracy in America stems partly from ignorance of scripture," writes George Gallup, "but also from functional illiteracy among an estimated 27 million Americans, about one adult in five." Compare this statistic to Colonial America where the literacy rate was nearly 100 %.

In the passage from the Book of Acts which serves as an epigraph to this page, the Ethiopian is reading from the Book of Isaiah. Philip asks him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I unless someone guides me." The point is that we all need guides and teachers, critical thinking and one another, when it comes to understanding what we are reading.

When I was Editor of Quaker Life magazine, I solicited an article from my colleague at ESR...the professor of theology...who defined his discipline of study as, "The intellectual love of God." To love God with the intellect leads to reflective examination of all that we read, including the Bible. Examination leads to questions and questions, in the end, lead to spiritual growth. This does not mean that one's heart is not important when reading the Bible; it only means that we need our minds to balance where our heart is leading us.

How has the Bible helped you to grow spiritually?