Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 15:1-17) transports me to a centering prayer circle I was recently a part of at a church retreat. I was first introduced to centering prayer in college, and have found it to be a good practice throughout the years. This particular centering prayer took place early in the morning, with a dozen or so people sitting around a circle. Centering prayer is essentially a discipline of silence, a time to listen for the voice of God, a time to let go of the thoughts and anxieties cluttering our minds. For twenty minutes, we sat in silence. It is a hard discipline; thoughts and anxieties are not easily dismissed. There are moments, though, of complete surrender, when the body and the spirit and the soul discover and enjoy that essential unity with God in the present moment. The prayer concluded with a chant, which the group sang three times: Remain in the company of God this day, remain in the company of God. Remain in the company of God this day, remain, remain, remain. Our circle included a few Baptists, a member of the United Church of Christ, a Zen Buddhist, a Christian anarchist, and an agnostic. What bound us together was a common love, a common experience of divine love, which I name as the spirit of Jesus. Remaining in the company of God meant, at least for me, remaining in the company of this love, a love that bears fruit. I bear witness to the abundant fruit borne by people in this particular circle. One bears the fruit of love with people suffering from mental and emotional stress and strain. Another bears the fruit of love as she works with a special needs child. Another bears the fruit of love through work with people suffering from AIDS. Another bears the fruit of love as she helps the homeless find shelter. Another bears the fruit of love by bringing mercy inside the walls of a maximum security prison. They are in the company of God. They are bearing fruit. They are filled with love.
Jesus, toward the end of his time with his disciples, used the imagery of a vine and its branches to describe his relationship with his disciples. It was a visual way to describe what it meant for them to abide in him. Abiding in Jesus meant having a connection with the essential fabric, the DNA, of his being, which was love. Jesus didn’t find it necessary to leave his friends with a set of belief statements to memorize or a set of creeds to recite or a doctrinal treatise to plow through. No, his parting words were simple. Abide in me. . . Love one another. Abiding – staying connected, would lead to bearing fruit – loving. So simple.
Of course, abiding and loving are about as simple as staying silent for twenty minutes and letting go of the thoughts and anxieties cluttering our minds. Which is to say, it’s not always so simple. And that is why it is a discipline; it is why we are called disciples. We are people of a discipline. For me, I am finding it more and more important to create space and time for the discipline of silence and surrender, to get out of my head, to let go, so that I can then remain in the company of God. So that I can love. So that I can abide. So that I might bear fruit. Without that centering prayer, I tend to find ways to do it on my own, to over-think, to be caught up in senseless strife. All the while, there are people out there needing love. There are people suffering from mental and emotional stress. There are people suffering from AIDS. There are special needs children. There are people searching for a home. There are people condemned to life sentences. They are the company of God. Remain, remain, remain.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.