Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
Christian spirituality means living in the mature wholeness of the gospel. It means taking all the elements of your life – children, spouse, job, weather, possessions, relationships – and experiencing them as an act of faith. God wants all the material of our lives. (What I mean by that is) that I’m responsible for paying attention to the Word of God right here in this locale. The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it. Eugene Peterson (from Rodney Clapp’s Introduction to The Contemplative Pastor p.12)
My mentor, John Wimber, would often comment on his desire for maturity in his spirituality this way:
“I want to grow up before I grow old.”
As I see it, Eugene Peterson and John Wimber were on the same page when it comes to defining maturity in the Christian faith. Both men seem to understand that the key to life with God in this lifetime is our ability to find Him and experience Him in every aspect of our lives.
In truth, God does not live and move only in the margins of our lives, nor is He restricted to the boxes or compartments that we choose to label as ‘religious.’ Instead, God is actively involved in every element of our lives; the good, the bad, and the ugly. And not only is He there, but He has also been working in each of these areas of our life, long before we ever even realized it. The key, then, to ‘growing up’ in the things of God is to recognize, as Peterson states, that God is everywhere, waiting for us to join Him wherever He is already working. Unfortunately, so many of us Christians have this whole process turned around and rather than taking the necessary time it takes to see where God is already working, we go off on our own initiative, do our own thing, and when it doesn’t work out too well, we find ourselves begging God to come join our party. To be quite blunt, pastors are, quite possibly, the worst offenders at this sad human trait of self-initiation and fleshly empowerment.
Peterson addresses this problem when he says that it’s our responsibility “for paying attention to the Word of God right here in this locale.” In other words, Jesus, God’s living “logos” (i.e. the living and breathing Word of God) is working across the spectrum of our lives. He is in our family life. He is in our workplace. He is in our relationships. He is in the air we breathe, the trees, the grass, and birds we ignore. He is there in our bad days. He’s there in our good ones. He is even there in the mediocre and muddy mire. So the question then is not “is God there?” but “what is God doing there?” And as soon as we turn our attention to that question, we’ve now turned a corner in our desire to live “in the mature wholeness of the gospel.” Once we turn from our self-centeredness, where we expect God to come to us every time we call, to a lifestyle that believes that God is already there waiting for me to join Him where He is already working, we are now on the verge of walking in the power and presence of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus of Nazareth, you see, modeled this lifestyle every day of His three-year ministry. On one occasion, some of His detractors were questioning His authority in what He was doing. As I see it, in His response to these men, (see John 5: 16-20) Jesus opens up the door of God’s wisdom and maturity, letting us mortals see for the first time the inner workings of a human life lived in the ‘mature wholeness of the gospel.’
“My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working…very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, and He will show Him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.” NIV
Unfortunately, many credit this lifestyle Jesus speaks of as one that is unique to the divine nature of God. In other words, Jesus could say that ‘He only does the things He sees the Father doing’ because of His divine nature. But I believe both John Wimber and Eugene Peterson would be quick to point out that this line of thinking is absurd. As a matter of fact, I think it’s when average flesh-and-blood folks like you and me step into this lifestyle of Kingdom living Jesus speaks of in John 5, that the world truly begins to take note that this Jesus of Nazareth is the real deal! You see when you and I choose to live a life of ‘mature wholeness of the gospel,’ it’s then the really cool God-stuff begins to happen. It’s then when we get the joy and excitement of joining God where He is already working rather than trying to make a way on our own. And just as Jesus experienced it here on earth as He traveled around His home turf, whenever we join our Heavenly Father in the work He is already doing, the results are nothing short of miraculous.
My prayer: Lord, forgive me when I stand off by myself and insist that You come step into my little world and participate with my activities. Spirit, open my eyes to the God-activity that is percolating all around me. And then, Lord, kick me in the butt, if necessary, so that I move out of my selfish little corner and go join You where You are already working. Let it be for us as it was for Christ. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What might “living in the mature wholeness of the Gospel” look like for me today? What important God-activity have I missed today by focusing exclusively on my own stuff, while remaining oblivious to things that God is doing around me?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?
Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.
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