Centering Down

Centering 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:

When Jim originally asked me to bring the message today, I thought the 1652 group would still be in England, following in the footsteps of George Fox and the early Quakers.

So my thinking was that we would also follow in Fox’s footsteps, from his journals. Turns out they got home last night, but are probably too jet-lagged to be here today.

On our website we quote Fox saying, “...walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone.” It is also common to hear Quakers refer to “the Light within.”

What do we mean by this language? What is “that of God in everyone” or “the Light within”?

~ Jeff Arnold
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.
-First Thessalonians 5:11
On each New Member Sunday or First Day, I like to speak about one of our Quaker Testimonies, the Testimony on Community. As most of you know, this is a favorite theme of mine, and one that needs our constant attention. What does it mean to be a beloved community after the manner of Friends?

Community is formed when we gather together and feel the power of a Spirit beyond our finitude...When we experience the Living God together in a gathered meeting. Secondly, community is formed within our Meeting when we support one another through the pain we all experience. When we cry with one another and when we feel one another's suffering, intimacy develops and community is formed.

Third, community is formed when we consciously work to encourage one another and build one another up. Within a beloved community there is no room for hurtful criticism. A good query to ask before we speak is, "Will what I say be harmful and wound the hearts of others?"

Fourth, community is formed when we live in a spirit of expectant hope. Hope is central to our life together...Hope that we can end injustice...Hope that we can stop global warming, and hope that we can find peace in a world filled with war.

Fifth, community is formed when we find reassurance in one another that for all of our shortcomings we are still loved unconditionally by our fellow spiritual pilgrims.

We are an imperfect people banding together in an imperfect way to create an imperfect institution. It is here, however, where love should always be central to who we are and what we share.

Are you able to love one another unconditionally?
And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.
-Luke 24:30-31
This is the day that Western Christians are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Quakers have always emphasized that every day is Easter, or that Christ is always being resurrected anew within our hearts. In our earliest years we did not celebrate the resurrection only once a year...For early Friends, and for many Friends today, it is a continuous celebration.

In recent years, Quakers, for the most part, have recognized that it is alright to be reminded of this event in the form of a holiday. And so today we are reminded about the most important day in the Christian calendar.

There are different ways to look at the resurrection. We can insist it did not happen, or we can insist it did happen. A third way is what I would call the Quaker way. This way emphasizes keeping an open mind and an open heart. We can believe in miracles and we can believe in science. We can be open to a resurrection experience in our hearts, and we can be open to how the Gospels portray the resurrection of Jesus, asking questions and processing the scholarship available to us. These things are not mutually exclusive.

In processing all of the resurrection possibilities or impossibilities, there is one thing that cannot be disputed: All of the Gospels assert that something happened following the crucifixion. This something forced those early followers of Jesus to entertain the possibility that the ultimate barrier that all humans face, our mortality, had somehow been breached. Whatever the Easter moment was, it had a profound effect upon the disciples, which altered their behavior and their understanding of God. From this point on they were changed persons, putting their lives in constant danger as they lived out their faith. Why? They tell us it was solely because Jesus arose from the dead.

What is your understanding of the resurrection event?
He set his face to go to Jerusalem.
-Luke 9:51
Our Christian tradition teaches us that today is the day that we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. For the author of Matthew's Gospel, this act is the tipping point for the Roman authorities and their collaborating Jewish leaders, which will eventually lead to Jesus' demise less than a week later. We are all familiar with the story, where Jesus sends two disciples to get him a donkey to ride into the city. All of the pictures in our minds show Jesus sitting atop this little animal, with people filled with hope that their Messiah had come, laying palm branches and garments in front of him, shouting Hosanna, and waving at him from the windows of their homes. We know the story.

On the other side of Jerusalem on that same day, another parade was taking place. Entering the city gate, Pontius Pilate arrived in the ancient city to show his power and to keep order during the season of Passover. He was the personification of Roman power.

Imagine the imperial procession's arrival in the city...a visual extravaganza of imperial authority. Pilate's procession embodied the power of the Roman Empire. Jesus' procession embodied an alternative vision, the empire of God. Here you have two competing images of what power looks like.

As represented by that triumphal entry, we worship a God on the move, a God of process and journey. Jesus on the move, and his representation of the empire of God means that we are called to live a new way, a way that challenges the principalities and powers by which the world is governed. As Christians and Quakers we believe that this new way challenges those things our culture takes for granted, and are counter to the culture that Jesus represents. This new way incorporates the Testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship of the earth, and that as followers of Jesus, we are called to invite others to this new way of life.

What would have been your reaction to Jesus' triumphal entry?