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:

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.
-Luke 16:10
The scripture passage from Luke 16 is about being faithful in little things and little events. It is no secret to any of us that we are living in a society with apparently insurmountable problems...the racism and the pervasive violence within many police departments that believe they can beat someone to death with impunity...the lies and loss of trust in the truth that fuel conspiracy theories, and the "Big Lie" which continues to threaten our democracy. If we take these societal problems seriously, as we should, it is easy to throw one's arms up and say, "What's the use?!"

We may not be able to solve all of the world's problems, but we can be faithful in a very little.

In brief, I suggest that there are 3 facets of life in which this lesson from Luke may apply: 1. in our families, 2. in our society, and 3. with our God.

1. In our families: Psychiatrists will tell you that the little events in the family experience are often the crucial experiences which are really remembered, and which affect our behavior positively or negatively.

2. In our society: We can contribute to the local food bank, the AFSC and FCNL. We can all work for a society that is more just.

3. With our God: I am more and more convinced that if we cannot experience God in the little moments, we will be blind to God in the great moments.

How are you being faithful in the little events of your life?

Within the silences of the souls of persons, an eternal drama is ever being enacted.
-Thomas Kelly
The eternal drama about which Kelly refers is being played out within each of us. We all have spiritual issues that we are working on that will help us grow spiritually. Again, in the words of Kelly, "On the outcome of this inner drama, rests, ultimately, the outer pageant of history." What we experience within, will find expression in the wider world in which we live.

What are some of the marks of this inner drama? We will all have our various issues...power and control, mystery and belief, thinking and feeling, to name a few. For me, the issue of restlessness and contentment is a dyad that I have been moving between throughout my life, and has played a major role in my spiritual development.

For the most part I do not choose to be restless. Experientially, I know that restlessness will come as a by-product of pain and struggle. In the movie, Shadowlands, Jack (the author C.S. Lewis, played by Anthony Hopkins) and Joy (Lewis's wife played by Debra Winger) are walking in the Golden Valley in England. Joy has cancer but is temporarily in remission. She tells Jack, "We must talk about it, about my dying." Jack is reluctant to talk about her death during such a wonderful walk. But Joy insists, "We must talk about it, Jack. You see, the pain then is a part of the happiness now. That is the deal." Throughout my life I have learned to be thankful to God for both the pain and restlessness, as well as the times of contentment when I can live out the lessons learned during these restless experiences of pain and struggle.

What are the spiritual issues of your inner drama?

"Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
-Luke 10: 36-37
Mercy can be defined as, "Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm." In the story that we know as The Good Samaritan, the lawyer receives a lesson from Jesus on mercy. After asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asks him, "What is written in the law?" The lawyer recites the greatest commandment. Jesus affirmed that he was right. And then the lawyer asks, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus responds by telling the story about The Good Samaritan, and encouraging the lawyer to go and follow the example of the Samaritan.

The experience of mercy...giving or receiving--is one of the ways, and I would claim the most important way, that helps us grow spiritually. Anne Lamott writes, "Just to hear the words mercy or merciful can transform the whole day...Something lights up in me. We know that mercy is always our salvation...But I wish it was something else. I wish it was being able to figure things out, at which I am very good, or to assign blame, at which I am better...But no, hope of renewal and restoration is found in the merciful fibrillating heart of the world."

There are times when those things that separate us in this world...the tribalism, the distrust, the fear, etc. have made it difficult to even recognize mercy. The world of vengeance can be very convincing. But then, in the words of Anne Lamott, "I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, (mercy) and the world is too."

When have you experienced the gift of mercy?

Blessed be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction...
-II Corinthians 1:3-4
Throughout my life I have experienced sadness and grief. I am not alone in the grief that I have experienced. Each of us sits beside his or her own pool of tears. There are two questions that each of us who have been through these times of loss should consider: 1. What can I learn from the experience of pain? and 2. How does my faith sustain me?

A broken heart is not something to be desired. It causes terrible pain. But a broken heart also becomes a softer heart, more aware of the pain of others. Professor Kimberly Patton of Harvard has said, "It is highly likely that during such broken-hearted, disorienting times, illusions will shatter; old ideas and attachments will be burned up; old ways of being will dissolve; and the one thing or person or way of life that we thought we could not live without will be taken from us. These are times when we will learn compassion...times when the unbearably wounded will themselves emerge as healers."

As we reflect on these times of brokenness, "How does our faith sustain us?" Our faith teaches us that we have one another for support, and this support is centered in the One whom the Apostle Paul called, "The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction."

Life is difficult. We have, however, one another for support, and faith in the God of love to comfort us. We worship one who said, "I have overcome the world. " In this affirmation we place our faith and have our hope.

What spiritual lessons have you learned from your pain?