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:

Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow...
-Matthew 6:34
Living in this particular time in history is a worrisome experience. We worry about our world. We worry about climate change and how America is perceived by other countries. We worry about what is happening in Washington and if our broken government will ever heal itself.

On a more personal level, we worry about our children or our parents and if we have the strength to meet the challenges which we face providing for their care. We worry about our bills and our health and the many other things that pop up each day that need our attention. It is a worrisome time.

The English term, "worry" comes from an old German word meaning to strangle or choke. That is what worry does...It is a kind of strangulation, which probably causes more mental, spiritual, and physical afflictions than any other single cause. Someone has said, "Worry is a thin stream of fear that trickles through the mind, which, if encouraged, will cut a channel so wide that all other thoughts will be drained out."

In his book, The Soul of America, John Meacham shares a quotation from George Eliot, which I have shared many times throughout this pandemic: "We are doing the best that we can through dim lights and tangled circumstances." The Apostle Paul was also right when he said to the Corinthians, "We see through a glass darkly." Finding the true and real in life requires that we free our minds from worry, but we should not free our minds or our hearts from concern.

What worries you about the times in which we are living?
Beloved, let us love one another...
-1st John 4:7
My mother died of complications due to Alzheimer's disease. I grew up knowing a different mother--A mother of sharp mind and quick wit. She was a woman who took great pride in her family. Toward the end of her life, she did not know me, and she lived her life in a limbo of passing moments. If it were not for my faith, I am not sure that I could have turned my focus from all of the negatives of my mother's condition, to experiencing the positive. Slowly, I began to notice that she could still share certain gifts that were spiritually renewing.

First, is the gift of grief. As with any loss that has connected us with one another, grief is a natural response. During my visits with my mother, I grieved the continuous cycle of memory and function loss.

Second is the gift of laughter. Although clueless about the reason for the laughter, mom could still smile even with her decreased mental capacity. Her mere presence would evoke fun, family memories and lots of laughter.

Third is the gift of gratitude. I became grateful for the experience of spiritual connection that I felt as I sensed her confusion. The loss of memory stripped us of so many connections, but I was grateful for the deeper spiritual connection which her loss stirred within me.

Fourth is the gift of forgiveness and repentance. The slow progression of mom's illness provided time for forgiveness and repentance.

Fifth is the gift of love. My mother's illness could take away many things, but it could never destroy love.

How did your mother influence you spiritually?
Then Jesus told his disciples..."For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it..."
-Matthew 16:25
As Quakers who emerged out of the Puritan/Christian tradition, it is important for us to ask, "Who was this man Jesus, and what is the nature of the God that he worshipped?" "Who was this man, who so upset the Roman Empire that they killed him?" He was no imperial Caesar, and no respected philosopher, and yet his followers sensed something very special about him...about the way he lived, about the way that he interacted with others, about the way he challenged the authorities, and about his understanding of God.

What did Jesus believe about God? Jesus understood God to be present in the here and now, not a distant reality. He did not experience God as a power operating in the world apart from humans. God did not stop the world for Jesus. Jesus understood that there were many things that he could not do. There was pain that he could not stop and there were powers in the world that would eventually overwhelm him. And, the basic reality that Jesus experienced as God had the character of love.

The radical love that Jesus associated with the Living God led him to do things for justice and humanity that were risky and challenged the social structure of his society. He intimately experienced a transcendent reality that we call God. Its basic nature is love. This is the kind of love that beckons us to live better than we live. Jesus offers his followers the hope that this is not as good as it gets. Life can be richer, and human life can be more meaningful.

How is the radical love of the transcendent reality we call God made manifest in your life?
After he had ended all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum...
-Luke 7:1
Capernaum is a small town on the Sea of Galilee, with a reputation for being a hot spot for healings. It was here that Jesus performed many miracles and healings, including, in the story just read, the healing of the Centurion's slave. The need of the slave galvanizes a community to work on his behalf for his healing. Jews and Gentiles, political, military, and religious powers collaborate to seek the health of the least of these, the slave. The slave was healed, but the real miracle of this story is the miracle of a supportive community that will do anything in its power to help the powerless, to help the voiceless, and to help the victim.

Rather than isolating and just tolerating the sick, the poor, the helpless, and the expendables of society who are victimized by an unjust caste system, we need to look to Capernaum as an example, where we surround society's outcasts with our best creative efforts and loving support. In her new book, Caste, Isabel Wilkerson writes: "With our current ruptures, it is not enough to not be racist or sexist. Our times call for being pro-African-American, pro-woman, pro-Latino, pro-Asian, pro-indigenous, pro-humanity in all its manifestations...None of us chose the circumstances of our birth. We had nothing to with having been born into privilege or under stigma. We have everything to do with what we do with our God-given talents and how we treat others in our species from this day forward."

Jesus challenges us to envision a community of diversity and inclusivity where all persons are loved and accepted. What we may find in accepting this challenge is new life for us. We may find our own healing...

Do you believe that America can become a beloved community of healing? How do we begin such a transformation?