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.
-1st 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 persons think can we begin to understand why persons act the way they do.

Trying to understand what Jesus knew is important for all who try to follow his loving example. “What did Jesus believe about God?” And secondly, “What did he believe 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. Jesus believed that the Kingdom of God is within us, and that Kingdom begins and ends with love. He 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 the love of one another. Love, care, mutual nurture of one another, mercy, redemption of the lost—these were the values Jesus claimed as ultimate values, and that authentic community must be grounded in these values.

This is what I believe Jesus thought about God and about human community. He offered us the hope that this is not as good as it gets, and that human existence can become richer and more meaningful.

How do we implement such a vision?
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.z
-Romans 8:38-39
Gilda Radner, of Saturday Night Live fame, who died at the age of 42 of ovarian cancer, wrote this about her autobiography, “Like my life, this book is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next…Delicious ambiguity.”

I know about ambiguity experientially. I wrote a book about it. During a difficult period, my life became chaotic and ambiguous. As I worked through the new realities of the life that was confronting me, I learned that ambiguity is not automatically delicious. There are ways, however, that will help to make it so.

The first way to help make the ambiguities of life delicious is forgiveness. The longer I live, the more I am learning about the importance of forgiveness if one is to be spiritually healthy.

A second way in which we can make our ambiguity delicious is by practicing repentance. We all need to repent for certain past behaviors.

A third way is the practice of gratitude. A good friend of mine has said, “The most transformational thing we can do in our lives is to nurture gratitude.”

Finally, if we want to make the ambiguity of our lives delicious, we need one another…We need spiritual friendships within the community of faith.

How have the ambiguities of your life moved you spiritually?
So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.
-2nd Corinthians 4:16
We are living in a time of transition and change, when everything is open to question. In short, the well-defined patterns of life which have sustained generations, no longer hold the meaning that they once did.

The change and transition that we are experiencing, is issuing in new spiritual possibilities. Millions of pilgrims have set out on an inward spiritual quest which, they hope, will help to define their lives and give them new meaning. Seekers are hoping to find inner peace amidst the conflict and anxiety that fills their lives; a new hope amidst despair, clarity amidst the confusion of media messages, and a passion for life which will sustain them in all that they do.

As the new spiritual inner quest emerges out of the chaos in which so many are living, certain basic themes are becoming prevalent. Here are three:

1. The quest for a personal relationship with God in the immediate present. There is a spiritual hunger today for an experience with a God who is personal, not remote; who moves us emotionally, not merely intellectually.

2. The quest for simplicity. The material and spiritual clutter which has encumbered so many, is being replaced with an emphasis on simple living, and this emphasis is intensified when one’s world view is expanded.

3. The quest for justice. One cannot have a transformational experience with God and simplify one’s life, and not have it issue in an all-encompassing concern for justice in the world.

Have you felt your “inner nature” being renewed?
For now, we see in a mirror dimly…
-1st Corinthians 13:12
Humility. It is a spiritual quality that we could use more of these days. We are living in a time when too many people seem more and more certain of their opinions and beliefs, with precious little room in their minds and conversation for doubt. Raising questions, looking at possible exceptions or maintaining a healthy level of doubt toward one’s assumptions, are rarely evident in today’s public discourse.

Why is there an ever-increasing cacophony of certitudes that paralyze discourse? Why have so many of our minds and hearts closed to any challenge put forth by those who disagree with our beliefs?

I suggest that one reason is our discomfort with mystery. Such discomfort has many origins, from the rapid change that we experience every day, thus increasing our hunger for certainty, to the lack of time for reflective thought when we can muse, simmer, question our stated beliefs. It seems to me that if we are to know Truth, we should be comfortable in the mystery that surrounds us.

I believe that another reason for today’s cacophony of certitudes may be a focus on individualism, that overshadows the importance of a diverse community that lovingly challenges our certitudes. We are a nation of individuals. There is little within our national tradition that emphasizes community. And yet we need each other to help check and balance the certitudes we express.

How open are you to having your beliefs/certitudes questioned?