“Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: 1. The Play of Creation”

Peterson, Eugene

Perspectives, June/July 2000

pp. 6 - 10

Creation is full of wondrous particularities, full of life itself in all its abundance and variety. How good it is to have someone to thank P. 6: “This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequacy within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming giftedness of life.” Lots of interest these days (think Marin County) in “creation spirituality.” It’s clean and uncomplicated, with its beautiful beaches, sunsets, forests, body massage, emotional states, aesthetic titillation–with none of the mess of history or theology. But to believe in creation, “we accept and enter into and submit to what God does–what God made and makes.” We follow suit when we conceive and beget. Lots of gospel in the “begats.” Birth–any birth–is our primary access to the creation work of God the Father. We prefer to think of creation in terms of great mountains, rolling seas, etc., but not so much in terms of babies. And surely God has a feeling for the more sublime things of life. But here is God in a manger. And almost at once the friends of Christianity began to smooth things out in gnostic accounts, “boutique spirituality” without the hard edge of reality. No crude flesh and blood for God. For him and for us (p. 8) “the material, the physical, the body–history and geography and weather–is temporary scaffolding; the sooner we learn to get along without it, the better. Gnosticism is dangerous: it implies that material things–inconvenient mountains, rivers, animals, etc. that do not inspire lofty thoughts may be gotten rid of. Smelly people too. In fact, anything that doesn’t belong to my own spiritual aristocracy. Gnosticism: “spirituality without the inconvenience of creation.” How do we show that we honor creation? P. 9: “ Keep the Sabbath. This is a way of knowing, of learning, the God-reality in which we have been placed. The key is to not do anything. Stop. Quit. Take a break. Shabbat has no content. That’s its charm. It means ‘Whatever you are doing, Stop it. Whatever you are saying, Shut up. Sit down and take a look around you. Don’t do anything. Don’t say anything. Fold your hands. Take a deep breath.’” There are two reasons given for us to follow suit. In Exodus: this is the way God did things in creating the world–a theological reason. In Deuteronomy, the reason is you were slaves once, when it was all work. Now don’t perpetuate this. Give everybody a break. It’s a social justice rationale. The main idea in Sabbath is to “interfere with our own work, to interrupt our own work–which is always in the context of God’s work–to get our bearings all over again, to make our in-flight corrections.” I.e., to attend to God’s work. Else we get self-absorbed. We forget God and God’s work. We run around fascinated by our own stuff. P. 9: “All our ancestors agree that without silence and stillness there is no spirituality, no God-attentive, God-responsive life.”