Back to the beginning. Starting all over. Down to the basics. Square One is all of those things. I’m guessing that’s what it’s going to be like for us when… when we can gather again to worship together… when we can sit down in restaurants together again… when children will again pile into classrooms and onto playing fields together. As of today, we don’t know when that will be. But it is a hope that it will be again one day.
Square One is also how Eugene Peterson describes the life of faith. In a collection of his writings entitled Subversive Spirituality he claims we must never lose sight of “Square One: God said.” Yes, we sometimes call the Bible God’s Word. And Peterson affirms that “Holy Scripture [is] the text for Christian spirituality.” But Peterson insists that God is still speaking. And that we do well to be listening. He is very specific about the effects of God’s speaking:
When God speaks it is not in explanation of all the things that we have not been able to find answers to from our parents or in books or from reading tea leaves. God’s Word is not, in essence, information or gossip or explanation. God’s Word makes things happen – he makes something happen in us.”
Basically, then, when we go to Square One, when we sit with Holy Scripture, when we listen for a Word from the Lord, we’ll be changed, touched, inspired, healed, stirred… get the idea? If we’ve had the assumption that faith was a noun, a something we have, Peterson suggests we’ve been mistaken. Certainly we will find comfort in Scripture. But we’ll also feel some nudging, prodding even. God’s Word spurs us to an active believing, trusting, hoping, loving, praying. Lots of -ing words. If we’ve been feeling like we’re on a vacation lately, just hanging out, pretty passive – even lazy – because we haven’t been engaged in usual routines, Peterson would urge us to get busy. Go back to “Square One: God said” and listen. And adore the God who is still speaking.
I remember when my great-grandfather was alive and living in a nursing home. We’d visit and I would hear the staff say things like “He can still tie his shoes!” “He can still feed himself!” like these were great celebrations. I was struck by how their comments could have been said about a child. Back to the basics. Starting all over. The simple things. Square One. Peterson says that’s the way it always is for us in the life of faith: “We are always beginners. We become as little children.”
And then Peterson says the most amazing things:
I want to simplify your lives. When others are telling you to read more, I want to tell you to read less; when others are telling you to do more, I want to tell you to do less. The world does not need more of you; it needs more of God. Your friends do not need more of you; they need more of God. And you don’t need more of you; you need more of God. The Christian life consists in what God says to us, not what we say about God. We also, of course, do things and say things, but if we do not return to Square One each time we act, each time we speak, beginning from God and God’s Word, we will soon be found to be practicing a spirituality that has little or nothing to do with God.”
Square One. Let’s meet there, shall we?