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:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.”
-John 6:35
Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus uses signs… “I am the living water,” “I am the vine,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” “I am the good shepherd.” All signs, and it is only in John that we have all of these “I am” sayings. And now Jesus says, “I am the bread.” Bread, for Jesus, is a sign…It points to the very heart of God.

There is a deep hunger in the world and in our lives—There is a hunger for food, and for hope. There is a hunger for the release from worry. There is hunger for justice and righteousness, for love and companionship. And into this hungry world, Jesus says, “I am the bread.”

A couple of years ago I met Anne Lamott at a writing conference in Princeton, New Jersey. I have always been a big fan of her writing talent. In her book, Traveling Mercies, she tells the story of her own hunger. It is a powerful story of alcohol and addiction, of her incredible talent as a writer, of her immense emptiness and loneliness, and finally the discovery of being pursued by God. She describes her experience of being pursued by God as being followed by a stray kitten, on which she continuously shut the door each time she reached home. Finally, one day, she said, “I opened the door to my houseboat, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, ‘I quit.’ I took a deep breath and said out loud, ‘All right. You can come in.’”

Opening that door and letting that little kitten (God) into our lives can be one of the most difficult and vulnerable things that we do. In the silent expectancy of our Meeting for Worship, may we open our hearts to the Spirit of God.

What is the deep hunger in your life?
Centering Down, January 19, 2020 We have lost that basic sense of trust and confidence in everything.
-Professor Laura Hansen
A week ago, last Thursday, the Daytime Spirituality Group met, and we focused on the topic of “Trust.” There was a general lament in the group that we have become so “tribalized,” a word I made up, that we cannot trust anyone beyond our small cadre of friends. This same concern was echoed in the Centering Down discussion a week ago. With this concern becoming the dominant theme in at least two discussions in two groups within the last two weeks, I have felt led to talk about the issue of “Trust.” We can’t trust the President…We can’t trust the Congress…We can’t trust the person selling us a car, and we certainly can’t trust our stockbroker, or even the guy who sells us a tried and true way to get rid of squirrels in an attic in Oriental, North Carolina!

Professor Laura Hansen has written, “We have lost our gods. We lost faith in the media…Do you remember Walter Cronkite? We lost it in our culture: You can’t point to a movie star who might inspire us…We lost it in our politics, and we have lost that basic sense of trust and confidence in everything.” So, where can we find trust?

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born into a culture of distrust, much like ours, and he gave people hope. Blessed are the poor…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek…, etc. Jesus believed that life can be richer and that people who had lost their faith in all the worldly institutions around them, can find hope in a transcendent reality that is transforming. Today, we need the kind of hope that Jesus can offer, and we need a beloved community of faith like Cincinnati Meeting where we can experience an anchor of trust amidst a swirling sea of mistrust.

In what can you trust?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…
-Robert Frost
One of my favorite poems is written by Robert Frost, titled, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” A week or so ago, a Facebook friend posted this poem, and I was reminded of just how beautiful it is.

The words, “promises to keep,” remind me of the words that Jesus quoted from Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue. Jesus is the fulfillment of one promise, and the keeper of many others, beginning with the words he read from Isaiah. He brings good news to the poor—those living with hunger—those exposed to the elements—those who watch their children sink into malnourishment with no chance of the education for which their minds are capable—those who suffer for want of cheap medications that can treat their pain, who sleep on grates and under bridges, and who find food in dumpsters.

Jesus went about his known world, seeking to fulfill his promises. But how about us? How about the promises that we make, both to ourselves and to others? It is important for each of us to ask, “What is the promise that God has placed inside me?” Perhaps you are a person in whom God has placed the promise of intellect? Perhaps God has placed in you the promise of empathy? Does the suffering of the world touch your heart?

All of us are promises. As we begin this new year, may we start to fulfill the promises that are within us. For we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep…and miles to go before we sleep.

What is the promise within you that needs fulfilling?
Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No…
-Luke 13: 2-3
Someone tells Jesus that some people from Galilee were at worship, making their sacrificial offerings to God, when suddenly Pilate’s soldiers show up and slaughter them. Then one among the crowd must have wondered aloud what the Galileans had done to deserve such a thing, and this is what bothers Jesus.

Jesus basically says, “Deserve? Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than any other Galileans, and that is why this happened to them? Do you believe that God was somehow punishing them because they deserved this?”

Jesus is speaking to people who seem to believe that it is God’s job to punish evil and reward good, to make sure the cosmic checkbook balances. Bad things should happen to bad people, and good things should happen to good people. True to our experience, however, the God we worship makes the sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.

It is hard enough for us to understand the messy mysteries of cause and effect that we encounter each day, but when it comes to terrible suffering, the ocean is large, and our net of meaning is so small.

We live in a broken world where suffering is a part of life, and it does not make sense. It happens, and we may be surprised by it. In our surprise and shock, however, we have one another for support, and we will find the heart of God, broken with ours, ready to move us through it.

How have you experienced God during your times of suffering?