On Saturday at Borders, I picked up a copy of Eugene Peterson’s first book in his ‘Spiritual Theology’ series (I am a little late in finding books most others have been reading for some time). It’s called Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Pages. I have determined to read this book devotionally, as I have been reading many books lately ‘for information only’ (I am not denying that any theological books could be read devotionally, only that they haven’t been predisposed for me to do so). I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday that I have a tendency to keep the Bible at arms length, studying it from afar rather than letting it work within me. As I read the intro to Peterson’s book, I thought this might be written in such a way that it will allow me to be predisposed to reading it in a way for it work in me. I find I have to put out of my mind questions like ‘How will this work in a sermon?’ or ‘How could my churches hear this?’
In the first section, Peterson says that he want to ‘clear the playing field’ of the clutter that we often get from the world’s notions of ‘spirituality’. He does this in a number of ways, but what has stood out to me this morning as I read it, is his use of Genesis 1 and the Spirit’s activity in creation. He wants to say that it goes further than just what happened once at the beginning of time, but continues throughout all of history. He points out that the verb ‘to create’ is used more in Isaiah than it is in the creation narrative:
The Spirit of God created life out of nothing in the Babylon of the sixth century B.C. just as he had done in the formless void when the ‘darkness was upon the face of the deep’. Through the text of Isaiah the Creator Spirit is seen as creating both a structure to live in and human lives adequate for living in it now. ‘Create’ is not confined to what the Spirit did; it is what the Spirit does. Creation is not an impersonal environment, it is a personal home – this is where we live. The superb accomplishment of Isaiah of the exile was to bring every detail of the Genesis beginnings into this present in which we feel so uncreated, so unfortunately unfitted for the world in which we find ourselves. The work of the Spirit’s creation no longer is confined to asking the questions ‘When did this take place? How did this happen’ We are now asking ‘How can I get in on this? Where is my place in this?’ And praying, ‘Create in me…’ (Ps 51.10). (pp. 22-23, emphasis original).
On some level, I guess I knew that. Then again, I don’t know. I was struck by the way Peterson compared the original creation out of nothing to the plight of those in exile. They had nothing, and God created for them a way of life in exile – and created them as people who would be able to live that life. Speaking as if he read my mind, Peterson wrote that we feel so uncreated and unfitted. My response is that I often want God to make my life more bearable. I don’t look for God to create my environment to be a place of opportunity in which his grace can come alive – and I don’t look for God to create me to be a person who can live in that place and be a place where his grace comes alive. I don’t say this to put myself down, but my thinking had never really seen the creative Spirit of God to work in this way – to imagine that where I am now (or wherever I am) as ‘home’.
I also read in this (and this has been the them of short bit I have read in Peterson’s book so far) that the Spirit’s work is just that – the Spirit’s work. The Spirit has not worked creation only thus far and it is up to me to do the rest. The Spirit, as seen in Psalm 51, still creates in me (and around me).