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:

But it shall not be so among you...
-Mark 10:43
James and John make up quite a pair. They have the audacity to ask that each of them might sit beside Jesus in his glory--one on his right and one on his left. And when the other disciples hear about this, they become very angry. Who do these two think they are?

Now, as angry as we may feel towards the James and Johns in our lives, and we all have them in our lives, they are not the only ones who have missed the point of Jesus' words in the scripture reading. The response of Jesus to the anger of the other ten disciples reveals that they have missed the point as well. Jesus called ALL of the disciples together and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles, those whom they recognize as their ruler, lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you."

Jesus envisions a wholly different conception of power. He imagines for his disciples a radically different community, in which power is conceived and enacted in alternative practices. They are alternative practices to the politicians who seek power, and that are built on lies. It is a vision that stretches our imaginations. It requires a break from the ways the world has conceived and envisioned the practices of power.

Jesus invites us into a way of living and acting that transforms life as we know it. Rather than all of this vying for power...Rather than all of this scrambling for prestige and recognition and admiration, Jesus pleads, "It shall not be so among you." Here are some important queries:

Are we so intent upon reaching some destination, attaining some goal, that we fail to see those around us?...That we fail to care for and honor those around us?
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
-Romans 12:12
Last weekend, Brent Bill's emphasis on "hope" in this "dangerous time," has led me to continue with that theme this morning.

Writing to the early Christians in the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul seeks to encourage them and advise them. In the midst of his advice he says, "Rejoice in your hope..." This is an encouraging word for a group of Christians who were constantly under attack from the powers that be.

Early Friends were not unacquainted with the kind of abuse experienced by the early Christians. In the little community of Evesham, England, my distant cousin, Margaret Newby was sharing her Quaker faith with all who would listen, when someone suggested that if she were allowed to continue, she would "destroy the whole town." The mayor of Evesham had Ms. Newby put in the stocks, after which she fell sick from exposure and died. The hope that they had in their Quaker faith led many early Friends to become martyrs for what they believed.

We all know that we can use some hope right now...the tribalism in politics, the racism and discrimination against the LGBTQ community...the constant stoking of our divisions by political leaders who do not care about whether our democracy survives or dies. We need some hope.

From his prison cell, our founder George Fox shared his hope when he wrote, "Sing and rejoice ye children of the day and light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt..."

In what ways do you nurture hope within yourself and within others?
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.
-George Fox
"With spiritual grounding and trust in that which is eternal, hope is not a silly, foolish notion. Rather it is a realistic, eyes wide open view to the facts of injustice and want in this world sort of hope that calls us to healing, courageous, and compassionate work and witness. It's a hope that helps us remember those who worked for these same things in generations past. With Divine assistance, they brought about many improvements in people's lives and society at large. So shall we.

"We are not alone but surrounded by the Spirit of God and our past co-workers' witness and empowered by their vision and hope. We may not achieve all our goals. Realistically, we know we won't. But still, with Divine assistance, we can together make a very real difference in our hurting, suffering world."

-J. Brent Bill, Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times

Where and in what do you find your hope?
Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
-Matthew 18:20
All of us are on a spiritual journey. Such a journey is a process that take a lifetime through which to work. We are all at various places along this journey, but we have all found a spiritual home here at Cincinnati Meeting, where we are free to search, regardless of where we are spiritually.

There are four questions that have been helpful along my own journey. They are questions that are not original with me, but have been asked over the centuries of human life on this earth.

The first question is this: "How can I come to know with some certainty the meaning of human existence?" Or, "How do I find out who I am?" This question focuses on the process of revelation. In the words of George Fox, "You will say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say?" What is your experience?

A second question along our journeys of search is this: "What is the nature of that ultimate reality that sets limits and possibilities on my human existence?" As persons of faith, our response is "God," whose nature, we believe is love. This question is inseparable from the third question in our search, which is, "Where in human historical experience can one turn to get help in deciding what is the meaning of human existence and the nature of ultimate reality?" For Christians, our response is Jesus Christ.

Finally we ask, "In what historical community is the meaning and purpose of human existence understood and its fulfillment nurtured?" Our response is the church, or for 350 years, such a beloved community is the Quaker Meeting.

Where are you along your journey of search?