In an essay entitled “Square One” Eugene Peterson states the basic theme of Biblical spirituality. “Our central task is to live in response to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.” To put that in more familiar language to Protestant church people “we are saved by grace through faith.” We are taught that faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ secures an eternal future for us. We also understand in Paul’s classic phrase “the just shall live by faith.” Faith is the human response to the gospel message that releases God’s power and reveals God’s purposes in everyday life. John wrote, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)
Peterson calls this place of human response to God’s action “square one.” I believe this is the place the apostles found themselves after the resurrection. They were stripped of all certainties and habits, but they had Jesus and the Holy Spirit to guide them, into for what was for them, an unknown future. We know the pre-resurrection world; eat drink and be merry, might makes right, death is the last word. The post-resurrection world proved death isn’t the last word, might can be frustrated, even merriment gets redefined.
After accepting the theological idea of a life abandoned to faith in God’s action, we humans have a tendency to subvert God’s plan. Most of us are familiar with the process. As we learn about God we are not surprised to find that God is an infinite God. We find in any number of circumstances that God is infinite and that we are finite. Once in a while some pastor might remind us “the gospel isn’t about you.” It is about a much larger plan and purpose.
Our egos do not seem content with that arrangement. We are willing to concede that God is infinite but not quite willing to concede that I might occupy some place of importance in the process of God’s plan. After all, doesn’t the Bible talk about how God loves me? We are used to human love. Our corrupted love uses relationship to get what we want. In more ways than we care to admit, we use these human strategies to use God for our own purposes. What could be better than using infinite for our finite purposes?
We find the world in a mess and we would like to use God to fix the world. Peterson writes, “given our ancient predisposition for reducing every scrap of divine revelation that we come across into a piece of moral/spiritual technology that we can use to get on in the world, and eventually get on without God, a daily return to the condition of not knowing and non-achievement is required.” “Not knowing and non-achievement” is a place of absolute dependence on God. It is “square one.”
Without doubt God has brought the church and our world back to “square one.” The two things we all want to know is (1) when will the threat of the corona virus end? (2) what technology is available to save us? We do not have those answers. We are in a place of “not knowing” and “non-achievement.” We are all at “square one.” People who are out of touch with Christian spirituality are at a loss. Not knowing and being unable to manipulate will drive some people to madness. Others will pretend to know, pretend to control, blame others for failures and then go mad.
The way of Christian spirituality, the way of faith has more to it then “letting go and letting God.” Peterson says that Christian responsiveness to God’s action requires worship and listening to the Word of God. In worship we come before the Infinite One who has come into our world, the Word Made Flesh. I do not think the disciples fully grasped who Jesus was and his purposes after the resurrection. I do believe they were convinced of his infinite goodness and wisdom. They worshiped. They listened. They listened to the Scriptures they inherited, they listened to the Holy Spirit and wrote another inspired Testament.
Christians during this post-Easter season have the opportunity to reflect on the wonders of redemption through a Roman cross and the defeat of death through an empty tomb. God’s plan of salvation certainly speaks to our reason but also soars beyond our capacity to fully grasp. This is an invitation to worship. In this post-Easter season the Holy Spirit still speaks to guide, convict, to comfort. We have the inspired word of God.
So we are back at “square one,” the place of faith in the face of uncertainty. Christians are in a unique place to speak into our frightened world. We remember the parting words of Jesus. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”